Forced to Consume?
I am at home and sit on the couch and read a fashion magazine. I look at the hallway and see a few shopping bags. I try to member what I have bought. And finally it all came to my mind. There are those lovely Calvin Klein high heels which I bought a few days ago and there are also some blouses from h&m that I have forgotten. I realize that goods that I have just bought are still in their original packages. It means that I really don’t need these products but I like to buy it, it somehow makes me feel independent and free.
So I start thinking about the reasons why I spend my money on unnecessary products. Maybe this is the good time to stop for a while and really start thinking the way I behave and why.
I start to consider my personal consumer habits from searching for rational reasons. You are able to find many of theories and consumer research but I will only tells you about the matters which I find important when object is me and my way to act.
First of all; We live in a throwaway society. Our economic works by spending. If I consume and put my money in the system I create new jobs and make a firm’s investment opportunity possible. It’s the same thing when the business cycle is in downturn, the government starts making more investments for example through a building project. So I am kind of doing the same when I buy something at a store. I don’t think that any economist would say that my shopping is making any harm.
Also an even important thing is that what I buy and where I buy describes who I am. The World is making us people, who categorizes and describes ourselves through product and services, even if you wanted that or not.
I give you an example. If I go to a bar on a Sunday afternoon I don’t expect to meet any family there. But if go to a shopping center I bet that there are plenty of families. You have to go to certain places or use certain services to get the chance to meet people you want. And when you meet this person who is a similar consumer to you, what is the best opening for conversation; by telling her or him about some latest acquisition you have made. (olimme kuluttajia, Mokka & Neuvonen, tammi 2009)
So now I can think that “okay, I am not a selfish or a bad person because of my passion for shopping. I have been conditioned to consume.
But still I feel guilty. “Knowledge is an intellectual and emotional power.” There are economic forces all around you. Right now, you have either too much or too little concern about these forces. When you should worry about them” (evereyday economics, Lawrence H. Officer)
When I start studying which factors are behind our consumer habits I also become aware of the impacts. It is a fact that our materialistic lifestyle is the biggest reason for our sociological problems. The way we work and consume bring obesity, industrial malaise and the climate change. This things are seen separate from an individual but are results from the same factor.
What I mean when I mention problems of working life. An average family in 2009 was doing over 500 job hours more than in 1979. At the same time over 40 per cent of American household were spending more than they earned. So we can discover that we work sometimes too much just to make our uncontrollable consuming possible.
This global warming is something everyone knows but still only few people care. It is a terrible truth that the planet capacity is limited and our way to buying, littering and using energy have to change. The importance of the material and the country of manufacture of a product you choose reach wholly new perspectives. I must as a consumer be responsible for all this and really start acting.
Maybe I can not chance the feeling I get when I go shopping but I can be conscious of the reasons for that and use that knowledge for acting some in another way. I wanted to understand the world better and want to make the best decisions in my daily live.
So after all this speculation my suggestion is that we need all grow up as consumers and start to make better choices.
Mokka, Roope & Neuvonen, Aleksi 2009. Olimme kuluttajia. Tammi Oy, Porvoo
Lawrence H. Officer 2009. Everyday economics. Palgrave Macmillan, New York