‘Tis the season to shop, here in the US. Christmas decorations went up a few weeks ago at the malls. And on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, two days before Black Friday, we opened the newspaper to stacks of ads — so many ads that it made the already-anemic paper look almost nonexistent. The heavy plastic bag that would once have indicated a thick and juicy Sunday paper was instead a big bolus of advertising.
Ads for electronics, sports equipment, clothing, furniture, household plastic crap — Matt says a lot of it was not even worth looking at. But look we did.
And one thing in particular stuck in my craw: an ad for a jacket from a department store selling a “doorbuster” deal. Normally $200, the coat was on sale for $30.
I suppose that is alluring. Maybe I am odd for not thinking so. But I couldn’t stop thinking about who made the coat, how much the raw materials were worth, and how many people would buy them without needing new coats because of the “screamin’ deal.” Matt said they should just mark the coats down to zero, and give them away to homeless people (though that wouldn’t help their bottom line, or get people into the store — free doesn’t lead people to spend, but they need to feel they are getting a good deal). I wish I had the money to go downtown and invite a bunch of folks to buy coats.
I, of course, am a complete hypocrite. We headed to the outlet mall this morning on the day after Black Friday. The parking lot was packed (and even so, the mall felt empty — each store we entered had 2-5 clerks on hand, but perhaps only a few customers, or none). Matt and I bought shoes. I even bought three pairs, because they were on such a deep discount, I felt entitled. And yet, how much were the materials? Who made them? How are they made and how long will they last me in the end? Are they such a good deal?
I profess to want to pay full price, for long-lasting, good quality items. But I don’t. The shoes being sold in the outlet mall here in California are cheaper than the same thing in Sweden — so where are we paying the real cost/price for the items? Should I be buying in Sweden, or are their prices inflated because people are willing to pay? Which cost is the real cost? Swedes plan shopping trips to New York City. Matt says he has seen ads in the newspaper in Stockholm for holiday shopping getaways in the US.
As I write this, I am sitting in traffic on a California freeway trying to get to the airport. (Matt is driving.) A nearly empty Amtrak train passed us by. Gas is cheap here, which makes everything else seem cheap too, but it is making our lives expensive somehow.
***A further aside on advertising: why do ad people try to make kids look like adults? It is so freaky. I am finally old enough that I can see how young the women models are for women’s clothes immediately. And finally I saw a regular woman’s body in the ads here — for a plus-sized bra. Yikes. Also, and this is worth another post entirely during the week that saw a decision on the events in Ferguson, I wonder about the diversity so beautifully portrayed in the ad pages — does it help white people think we are an equal society? But this is too facile an observation, and one I will have to think about more.
Last thought: six pages of watch ads in a world where everyone uses their phones to tell time.