The year’s still young, but I’m putting my money on James Livingston for Bonehead Title of the Year.
Mister Livingston has penned an article for Wired magazine called Against Thrift: Why Consumer Culture Is Good for the Economy, the Environment, and Your Soul.
As titles go, that’s right up there with The Leadership Genius of George W. Bush.
Livingston enjoins his readers to “ignore what the economists, journalists and politicians would have you believe … Go to the mall and knock yourself out.”
Or you could just wait until the Visa or MasterCard bill comes in at the end of the month.
That’ll knock you out.
We live in the age of Homo Consumerensis. Our highest civic calling is to buy crap we don’t need with money we don’t have.
Our day of worship is — well, every day, really — but our High Holy Day is Black Friday, that 24-hour feeding frenzy just before Christmas when shopping malls and big box stores slash their prices and, in anticipation, salivating shoppers mass at the doors like hordes of Visigoths at the gates of Rome.
This past Black Friday a shopper in Los Angeles pepper-sprayed fellow shoppers in order to get at discounted X-box consoles.
A riot broke out and blood was spilled over $2 waffle irons in Little Rock, Arkansas.
And a woman was shot near a Wal-Mart in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as she carried her goodies to her car.
The insanity continued right up until Christmas Eve, when Nike put its latest line of retro basketball shoes on sale. Police had to be called in more than a dozen cities, including Charlotte, North Carolina, where shoppers smashed glass doors to get at the product.
We’re talking about running shoes, folks.
Somebody once said, “The American consumer is not notable for his imagination and does not know what he ‘wants’”. Maybe not — but he wants it now, and money is no object.
Those Nike shoes? Two hundred dollars a pair.
We’re still talking about running shoes, folks.
There are one or two beacons of hope in the blitzkrieg of berserker bargain hunters.
For one thing, the thrift stores are thriving.
People from all walks of life, unmoved by advertising campaigns to buy fifty-dollar T-shirts, 100-dollar purses and, yes, 200-dollar sneakers, are heading down to the thrift shops to get barely-used goods at a fraction of the mall price.
The proceeds from the thrift stores I frequent go to the local hospital and a women’s’ shelter.
Where’s the down side?
Another ray of hope comes from Elvis Costello.
The famed musician (and husband of jazz diva Diana Krall) made the news recently when he publicly urged his fans NOT to buy his latest CD/DVD compilation.
Too expensive, that’s why.
Costello says the price tag of $200 “is either a misprint or satire.”
“All our attempts to have this price revised have been fruitless,” says Costello on his website. “Steal This Record.”
But if you really want to get a very special CD for your sweetie, Elvis has some helpful advice.
“We can whole-heartedly recommend Ambassador of Jazz, says Elvis. “It contains 10 re-mastered albums by one of the most beautiful and loving revolutionaries who ever lived — Louis Armstrong.”
“Frankly,” adds Costello, “the music is vastly superior.”
When’s the last time an advertiser advised you to buy his competitor’s product — because it was better?
Finally — truth in advertising. Good on ya, Elvis — see you down at Value Village.