Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Just what are they selling and what are we buying?

A recent trip to the grocery store overwhelmed me with the volume of cheap trinkets celebrating Easter up for purchase.

Staring down the rows of cellophane-wrapped plastic baskets brimming with packaged Pez dispensers, bubbles, packaged candies, I had to wonder if the petroleum that went into manufacturing that display was enough to scoot a car across the entire state of Kansas, east to west, and back. I’d wager there is more packaging in those baskets than product. Yep, all that plastic, ink, paper and cardboard to hold a few jelly beans, a small plush toy, marshmallow Peeps and chocolate crème eggs.

What does a purple plush Pez dispenser have to do with rebirth or resurrection? What exactly are they selling?

I thought about this for some time and believe the only real thing being sold is a stock share or two. Really.

Just few decades ago, Easter was a simple wooden basket containing carefully dyed hard-boiled eggs. It was an organic holiday with a family meal, hot-crossed buns and a spring bouquet or corsage.

We don’t formally celebrate Easter but I did go to the local confectioners and bought handmade dark chocolate bunnies and a few other seasonal items. I spent $11 total. Better quality product with minimal packaging compared to the stuff in grocery stores.

Check that, we don’t formally celebrate Easter but I felt compelled to buy something. Anyone else out there feel that way?

Maybe next year, I’ll give the girls seeds for Easter. Seeds are certainly more symbolic. Sugar snap peas straight off the vine are pretty darn sweet. The pea’s we planted are just breaking ground as I write.

So before you go for that impulse buy or a purchase out of compulsion, it might be wise to ask yourself, “Just what is really being sold here?”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

No new clothes for a year? It's not that hard!

I joined The Great American Apparel Diet over six months ago.

What is it?

“We are a group of women and two men who have decided to go on a diet of sorts. A fast really. We are completely eliminating ‘new apparel’ from our diets for one year. Yes, the next time you see us sporting new tags it will be Sept. 2, 2010.”

New bra’s and panties are excluded from the diet. No need to get anything in a wad.

I don’t remember the last new item of clothing purchased for myself. Really. About three years ago, possibly four, I snagged a copper-colored, faux Persian lamb, swing jacket from the Anthropologie sales rack for $78 – a steal. It could have been that jacket. Not really certain. It was a tough call but if I didn’t purchase it, I would regret it like the jacket on sale in the window of a shop in Martha’s Vineyard in 1992. Hey, I may be cheap, but it does mean I don’t have feelings or sense of style. Had I bought that jacket, it’d still be in my wardrobe. It was timeless. And, it was an honest, good deal.

A friend and I were having coffee and talking priorities. She mentioned the cost of airfare for routine family visits and how it’s important in her life. I laughed and noted that her airfare is the cost of some people’s blue jeans. It’s hard to believe, that statement holds truth, even in a recession. But it does.

It’s been interesting reading the posts on this site. The agony some people are truly fighting. Along with the revelations of the newly-found economic freedom and the “was I a fool most my life syndrome” I’ll call retail remorse.

The Thrifty Chicks support this effort and I will meet the goal without challenge. But I will save the celebration for those who truly changed their lives. And maybe someday I’ll figure out how to post on the site. I’ve access. For now, sitting back and reading is enough.

Aside from foundations, what was the last new item of clothing you purchased? How much? Was it truly worth the cost?

If you thrift, what was the last thrift item of clothing you purchased? How much? Was is truly worth the cost?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is it really about nothing?

A comment on the post below has spent me to sit on my soapbox.

Sure our culture have seen a few generations of celebrity rebels who fight against standard protocol because they are wealthy or bored enough to do so. These are the people that ride the waves of shock culture.

I’m not talking about celebrities who use their influence to invest in humanitarian or political causes.

What I’m thinking about is no revelation and perhaps I need to clarity a few points.

There are new elements in American culture that - in the hands of a selfish adolescent, which they are by nature - are abused and out of control. Social media and the Net are marketers’ dreams. They can make tailored, direct deposits into the minds of innocent middle and high school kids. Often, because there is little life experience, these children fall for it, hard.

Parents are forced into a corner when they must provide the Net for school research. Some schools work in Google Docs. And, not allowing your child to text, have an email or Facebook account literally isolates them from their friends. A parent might refrain from one or two. Be assured, parents must heavily monitor all social media with time and scrutiny. There’s too much exposure and too much Snake Oil.

In the '40s my great grandfather worked for the Pulitzer newspapers promoting advertising. After working around the country, he finally settled at The Saint Louis Post Dispatch. I once read the script to one of his talks to a retail group. It was remarkable and clear my grandfather had to sell the notion of advertising as a worthwhile expense. Based on what he penned, it was most evident that he was battling the argument, “Why advertise? I already have enough customers and am fine.” This Zen-like state is rarely found in today’s American business climate. We’ve grown from the desire to meet our needs to just want more.

That was some 70 years ago that advertising venues where still needing to convince businesses there was a benefit in advertising.

Now? We have PR/marketing/advertising campaigns on steroids and very few of these groups have a social conscious. Mostly, it’s about money. If it wasn’t, how else does one explain push-up bikini tops for eight-year-olds, hair extensions for middle school girls, ten-year-olds in thong underwear, and gratuitous cleavage in 7th grade? Yes, children wearing bras that blatantly claim to enlarge the appearance of their budding little chests by three times.

These days? There are more Americans bucking trends because they are following a marketed campaign with no point but to make money. So I ask, are they really bucking a trend or are just falling in with the masses? Do they even know what they’re attempting to buck?

I don’t think it’s anything about individual expression. The people I see in thrift stores, generally have more taste and sense of style than those I see in the mall.

Lady Gaga? She will be replaced by something more shocking than herself. And that person/thing will urge kids to show more skin and drive them further away from the basics of cultural conventions and context.

It’s sad to think that common courtesy and context is losing out to money.