Thursday, June 25, 2015

Buy! Buy! Buy! The War Cry of the Consumer Society

Buy! Buy! BUY! That's the theme on HSN, the Home Shopping Network, today. For those few people (and I'm sure it's very few) who are not familiar with HSN, it's one of the two major television and on-line selling networks. They do nothing on these networks except Sell! Sell! Sell! That's all they do 24/7/365. How do I know? My friend, where my eastern base camp is located in West Virginia is, I'll use the term, semi-addicted. Either HSN or QVC, the second major selling network, are on her television much of the waking hours of her day.

What Do They Sell?

Everything (just about)! The primary target audience is women. Does that surprise you? In the 1st World, developed, nations headed by the U.S. and western Europe, most women seem to be groomed from infancy through adulthood to "shop til you drop."

Go to any major (or even discount) department store and do a visual measurement of the square footage allocated to women's clothes, shoes, cosmetics/toiletries, household furnishings, the kitchen and bathroom. Compare that with the amount of space allocated to men's clothing, shoes, tools/hardware, automotive things (you won't find either of those two categories in high end department stores) and sporting goods. Typically it will be 2:1 to 3:1 in favor of the women. The second largest space is often the children's department including clothes, shoes, toys and games.

Here are a few simple examples. Compare the women's underwear/lingerie section to the men's. Compare the women's bathing suit section to the men's. Compare the women's toiletries including make-up and anti-aging, wrinkle removing agents to men's. Need I go on?

Selling Pencils

I once listened to an interview with a former home shopping network host. I don't recall which of the two major networks he said he worked for. During the dialogue the former host said he went for an audition for a host job on the particular network he ended up employed by. For his audition, the interviewer (probably a program producer) handed him a standard, #2, yellow pencil with the typical pink eraser on the one end. He was then told to talk about the features and benefits of that pencil for ten minutes, non-stop, without being redundant.

If you have never, but have the gumption to watch one of these networks, you will notice a few interesting things. Everyone of the hosts is very personable and becomes intimate (not that way) with viewers on as personal a level as possible. It's like she (mainly) or he has been your friend since childhood. You'd feel comfortable revealing your most intimate secrets to them. Second, they talk incessantly. I mean, I don't think they breathe sometimes. They go on and on and on and on and on. Third, they use the word "only" very freely when referring to the prices. It may be the second most powerful marketing word next to "free."

They have absolutely no problem minimizing the value of money. "This little fanny pack is only a little $20.00 bill." "At less than $30.00 (actually $29.95), you'll love this top (blouse) and you'll want to have it in at least black and one or two other colors because it will be useful with so many different outfits."

Frankly, the home shopping networks and the (what now seems like, almost monthly) constant pledge drives by public TV and public radio stations are, to me, the most annoying uses of mass media (TV and radio). Don't get me wrong, I like both public TV and radio. But, the over priced "gifts" and the constant interruptions of the programs to listen to a 20 minute infomercial begging session drive me away from the stations. There is no begging on the shopping channels. It's just incessant babble and semi-high pressure sales methodology. If the viewers are addicted enough, a significant number of them will breakdown and buy something they really don't need and often don't really want.

It's kind of like the yard/garage/moving sale buyer mentality. I see this when I wander through those sales with my friend. I witnessed it first hand when people came to my nearly two month long moving sale toward the end of 2008. People will buy things they really don't need and weren't looking for. It's like they feel some form of guilt or obligation to buy something because they came and looked. I found this interesting at my sale. People bought some of the most inane items. I don't know why I even had the stuff or where it came from. They bypassed the really good, useful stuff. I guess they don't want to spend that much money (many won't try making an offer). So, they'll take some piece of crap home adding it to their collection of "useless stuff."

Cosmetics, Anti-aging/Wrinkle Removing Creams, Jewelry, Purses, Belts, Shoes, Kitchen Appliances, Cookware, Kitchen Aids, Computers, Laptops, Tablets (iPads), Large, Flat Screen, 3D, High Definition Televisions, Bose Wave Radios, Etc., Etc.

This is only a small list of the most popular items sold on shopping channels day in and day out, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Yes! We are talking about multi-billion dollar businesses and they don't even have retail stores and warehouses all over the U.S. with the massive overhead. How much or how many of any of these things does anyone need? Way! Way less than they buy from these shopping channels.

There is one, cute, pudgy German celebrity chef who has numerous restaurants. He's on one of the networks several times a year. He and the incessantly chattering host sell his own branded kitchen appliances, food preparation aids and accessory items most of us have done without and still eat good tasting, healthy and substantial food. I dare say he makes what Bill and Hillary Clinton make from their outrageously, over priced speaking engagements pale in comparison. I saw over $4,000,000.00 in sales in one day for a single item. He was selling multiple items for three days. Most of us could retire early and live a luxurious lifestyle off what he personally clears from one of his three day appearances.

How much jewelry does any woman need? Why are we, especially women, so afraid of growing old? Women will pay hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars each year buying way overpriced creams and goop to make them look younger. Here's a clue, YOU'RE NOT YOUNGER! If you're 50, you're 50. If you're 75, you're 75. Deal with it. It's reality.

The same applies to make-up. It's interesting. Men don't wear make-up, yet women are attracted to them. Women, hide behind a mask of goop. Is it because they might be afraid to be seen as who they really are. This seems to go along with the old phrase, "the honeymoon is over." That's when the mask comes off. I hate to say it, but we men, probably play a bigger part in this than we realize. We don't want the women in our lives to change. We want them to remain like they were when we met them.

Of course, I'm expressing personal views and opinions. Personally, the women who attract me the most are the ones who wear the least amount of make up and allow their true selves to show. When a woman is all made up, sure, she looks nice, maybe almost perfect. But, guess what? I've figured it out, she's wearing a mask. Who is really behind that mask? That's who I really want to know.

It's like some of the scanty clothes women wear these days. Itty bitty bikinis, skin tight pants or shorts, very revealing tops. They say it's the mystique, leaving something to the imagination. The other interesting thing is, the less cloth and the more exposed skin there is, the more expensive the items of clothing seem to be.

But, that's okay. This is a game that's been played by "proper, civilized societies" for centuries. It just seems like an awfully expensive game, with the cost of women's clothes, make up and jewelry, to put on a mask and hide the real person. I guess as a person who has finally discovered the error in his ways, I see things through my own simplistic viewer. I don't need filters or masks for me to be attracted to someone of the opposite gender. I'm more attracted to a woman who is as confident and comfortable in her skin in a pair of jeans and tee shirt, or shorts or simple skirt or dress, clean and (simply) groomed. Then I can focus on who she actually is rather than who she wants me to think she is.

Of course, if women (mainly), but certainly there are plenty of men who hide behind masks and facades, too, would turn off the shopping channels (as one source of expending endless amounts of money on fantasy lives), our economy would slide down the drain. We are a society that exists mainly to consume stuff, all kinds of stuff and in huge quantities, often without rhyme or reason for any of it.

From a time 400 to 250 years ago we were a very simple, self-reliant society. We've evolved to become the largest consuming nation in the world. Good? Bad? That judgment is above my pay grade. I just know where my values are and what I like and need. Regardless of what I say or think, the HSNs, QVCs, Amazons, Walmarts, Macys, Kohls, Buy.coms, etc. will continue with their "war cry" "Buy! Buy! BUY!"    


Rob said...

Wow, that was a lot of words to talk about people likening to buy stuff!

rob koons said...

There needs so much more written so Americans can see through there blindness snd realize that the Large Corp. And the Super Rich have created a system where they will continue to amass great wealth while the rest of Americans spend spend spend making the rich even richer. We hear the economy has recovered yet the vast majority of people I know and see are doing worse then before last collapse and they have little hope of it getting much better. The 80 percent have become pawns for the 20. Well I refuse to play and choose to go my own way.

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

So it was, Rob.

But, it's not so much about people liking to buy stuff. it's about a society that promotes an insidious form of personal enslavement. The freedom in our society is that of making a certain number and certain kinds of choices. That's on the positive side. The negative part of the equation is that more today than ever before, due to the technology we all acknowledge has made our lives better (I'm right there at the from of the line in that department), we are under a constant attack and bombardment of messages to indoctrinate the masses that more is better, spending and, more often than not, getting into various degrees of long term debt is good if you have all the "stuff." It promotes a philosophy that "he/she who dies with all the toys, wins." Unfortunately, it's mainly targeted at the 80% to 90% of the population who are not and likely never will be financially free. And the next segment counting the top 9 to 19% push the envelope that really motivates the 80 to 90% to want what the elite upper middle class have. The top 1% doesn't even relate to the rest of the society. They live in a world of their own that we can't begin to relate to or be part of - like Bill Gate's home/compound in the Seattle area at 66,000 square feet and appraised at about $147 million. It's beyond the comprehension of owners of the largest McMansions. All of this is what's keeping our economy going. But, it's also what holds so many people back from realizing what real personal freedom is about and the true happiness that usually accompanies it. Like I said, we are free to choose and because of the constant indoctrination the vast number of people in our society choose personal enslavement and don't even realize it. I don't see it changing anytime during my lifetime and my wee small voice can't overcome the ongoing Buy! Buy! Buy! of the marketing giants for anyone, but myself.

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

Interesting, comments from two different Robs.

Rob Koons, you and I may share a deeper understanding of the issue and reality. Both being entrepreneurs and being part of the marketing fray, we experienced the realities of the "so-called" system. To survive and have our businesses thrive, we had to be among those with the Sell! Sell! Sell! mentality. We needed to identify the people who could and would make the decisions to Buy! Buy! Buy! Frankly, it seemed very normal and natural to me through all those years. But, even as a small business, I was squeezed and controlled by the mega national corporations and the ever present specter of one level or another of government controls. As part of the "system" I also made the lifestyle choices that provided the facade of "freedom" and "happiness." In fact, I was neither. I just worked long, hard hours and was enslaved in a prison of my own making. Of course, I didn't realize it while I was in it. It took decades to become older and wiser (at least wise enough to realize that I was actually one of the pawns working for "The Man"). No one on this Earth is ever truly free. But, gaining some understanding of ideas the great philosophers over centuries and millennia knew way back gave me a new perspective. Wish I'd have figured it out decades ago. Life would have been quite different.