Friday, December 9, 2011

Conspicuous Consumption

I had the opportunity to witness blatant conspicuous consumption first hand last week.

I have a friend, let's call him John. He has always been a fan of Apple products but not so much reaching "fanboy" status. i.e. buying anything that had the logo on it. He had an iMac and an iPhone and that's about as far as it went.

Until he started his new job. John had been unemployed for about three months, so understandably money was tight. He had started this job with the expectation that he wouldn't get paid for three weeks after he started. On his first day at the photography company, he saw that everyone in the office had multiple, high end electronics. He told me that they did give him weird looks for not having an arsenal of gadgets, which in turn made him feel uncomfortable. I told him that didn't matter as long as he had the necessary tools to do the job.

Fast forward a week, mind you, he didn't get paid yet and the only thing sustaining him was a credit card at this moment. I go to his house and he proudly displays a brand new iPad 2. The 800 dollar version. I asked what his reasoning was for purchasing it. He flat out told me he didn't have any idea, but that it would make him feel accepted at work. I told him to return it.

John used money he didn't have, to purchase something he didn't need, to be accepted by people he didn't like (necessarily). He wanted to be seen as someone who's "with it" by his coworkers.

I kept the receipt for him in case he changed his mind.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Dinner in a Box

I can't help but notice the increased crowdedness of stores around the Holiday season. This is to be expected as masses of consumers rush to complete their gift shopping, decoration shopping, and other holiday related shopping. Christmas has oddly become something of which shopping is a symbol and an indicator. With complete logic to back up the observance of increased customer volume in stores as a result of the Holidays, there are still some things that I do not quite understand. I was reminded of this during a recent shopping experience.

Today, I went to Walmart to buy frozen meals and ultimately prevent starving during finals week. What I experienced was mass hysteria in the frozen meal section of Walmart. What I don't understand is why this too is a product of which consumption is increased during the Holiday season. Ok, so it is understandable that the grocery store as a whole would have more shoppers to prepare for Holiday meals and visits from family. I don't know about you, but when I think of Christmas and family holiday meals, I typically do not picture sitting down to a frozen meal in a plastic tray which I prepared myself in the microwave. My inference from this is that consumers are just starting to attribute shopping of all sorts to the Christmas season. This is dangerous. Remember that one guy? Jesus?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday deals and hysteria

As Black Friday approached, I could sense myself growing a bit excited as I thought about the chaos that was about to ensue. I don't like to get into the commericalistic culture America has fallen victim to, but sometimes it is fun to go out on Black Friday and see the insanity, and maybe get something you've been wanting relatively cheaply. I am happy to say that this time, however, I took advantage of the ability to sleep in while on break, instead of getting up at unhuman hours to go out and deal with the mess.

It was interesting to see myself growing a little more anxious as it approached, knowing that Black Friday would have these huge deals (I was more interested in all the music store deals), and then there would be the Saturday and Sunday deals, which aren't as good, but still nice, then Cyber Monday. All the commericals were hyping it up and drawing into this culture and trying to arouse this interest of everyone to get them to come out. I liked seeing how easily I tend to fall into the excitement and to be a part of it like everyone else, but with the knowledge I have from my business classes, and Consumer Behavior especially, I rationalized myself out of going.

Now, I will admit, I did take part of Cyber Monday and took advantage of some of the coupons Guitar Center emailed me as a part of it so I could get some gear before my band hits the road christmas break . . . . . . (shameless plug). But I still had to fight off my impulsive buying tendancies. I spoke of this the last time I blogged, how when I go to a guitar store or music store I tend to want to buy at least something. We just finished talking about compulsive buying in class, and while I don't think I am a compulsive buying totally, I definitely fall victim to that at the guitar store. Rationalizing is something I am very good at in these situations. I always tend to find a way for it to make sense for me to buy what I'm about to buy. And even though I almost had talked myself out of buying gear on Cyber Monday, the coupons Guitar Center sent me pushed me over the edge. I bought something I felt I could have waited to buy until later, especially because I have to be careful about how much I spend right now not having a job. There were a few things I figured made more sense to get first, but the savings were going to outweigh any potential liabilites. The other things I wanted weren't there anyway, so I talked myself into by not wanting to waste the coupon. Point being . . . it's funny to watch myself wrestle around with decisions now that I know better why I'm doing it.