Attention, Shoppers, There’s
Plenty of Tricks on Aisle Five
Here’s an almost completely useless post for a day like today: shopping tips. We know, we’re not just late, but there’s only one sensible advice to be given to those with cash to spare, the foresight of knowing what to buy and to whom, and most of all, who haven’t already camped for a week outside some unethical retail chain: do not buy anything.
Short of that, we’ll go ahead and be the sour pussies we so enjoy being. Having neither savings nor clue about what people want for the holidays, which still sound very distant, or should, to us, anyway, we wonder who’d be even willing to sleep in the pavement, or risk being trampled, just for the right of purchasing some unbearable junk.
In any case, we’ve compiled a list of reasons why it makes absolutely no sense to go into a shopping spree these days, even if you think you can afford it. It included some complicated charts and a lot of good sense. Unfortunately, we’ve misplaced it. So here are some other tips to read while waiting on the queue to get that cheap blender made by Chinese children you had your eyes on.
THE ADVERTISING FAIRY
Not all tallies are in yet, but it seems that the presidential campaign that’s just ended has cost upwards to $10 billion dollars, give or take a few billionaires who didn’t get their puppets elected, and a bunch of refunds given to donors who didn’t qualify. Most of that staggering sum is believed to have been spent with advertising.
Was it all worth? That’s a question for ages, and it’s bound to ignite another round of spending, this time by the ad industry itself, trying to convince everyone that it was. We’re no political donors, but in a small way, we can have an idea of how this battle is being waged by just asking ourselves: did we buy that brand of toilet paper because of the cute bears or because it was on sale?
That’s what people like Ralph Nader, himself no stranger to both truth in advertising as well as presidential campaigns, have been saying all along. No, it’s not worth to spend so much money in TV ads, because these days most people are driven to buy what’s cheaper and relatively reliable, and hardly pay attention to the advertising campaign about this or that product, they say.
‘Sure the newspaper ads announcing short-term sales for clothes or household goods may get you to the market, along with the supermarket specials for foodstuffs. But generally speaking, you must wonder what the business community gets for its tens of billions of dollars annually pouring out of their advertising budgets,’ wrote Nader in a recent Common Dreams article.
It goes without saying that, behind close GOP doors, amid much soul searching as to why it’s lost the election so spectacularly, perhaps some pretty hard questions are being asked as to what all that ad money actually bought the party. The answer for both questions, by the way, is indeed pretty obvious, but by the looks of it, it may take some time until it dawns on them.
In the meantime, even big corporations seem to have already gotten the memo. Nader mentions General Motors, which has pulled some $10 million in ads from Facebook ‘because they are not effective.’ It even skipped the Super Bowl this year, where ads were going for $4 million per 30 seconds in average, presumably because they simply ‘didn’t sell enough cars.’
The same applies to the pack of coupons you so dutifully have been collecting for this Black Friday, which used to be a staple of Sunday papers, and now only get you to save the few dollars you’ve just spent on the paper itself. In other words, even penny-pinchers know to no longer collect pennies in jars, or accept them as change, nowadays.
BUYERS BEWARE & SQUARE
But you didn’t need us to remind you these wise assumptions, most likely born during the Great Depression. For this is also a time when sellers try all sort of cheap tricks to get you to buy what you don’t need, and consume what you can’t afford. In fact, even retail workers are giving you all the warning signs they can possibly muster, and many are losing their jobs in the process.
You probably heard that Wal-Mart employees had a massive walk out in California and Washington State, and may be follow today by others elsewhere throughout the country. They’re protesting the ‘company’s manipulation of hours and benefits, efforts to try to keep people from working full-time and their discrimination against women and people of color.’
Even more shameful, workers who spoke out about such unfair conditions have been fired too. But we don’t believe that any of our readers will be shopping there anyway, neither today nor ever, if they can help it. But regardless whether the world’s largest retailer will be damned or not, some practices they employ do set industry standards.
A recent Derek Thompson story on The Atlantic doesn’t leave off the hook even companies known for having better labor practices than Wal-Mart, such as Starbucks. And although the trick here is to use math to fool shoppers, there’s still plenty of ways any business can avoid taking advantage of our, granted, natural gullibility when buying stuff.
Thompson discusses a few of such tricks retailers routinely use to lure and make you spend hard-earned currency in goods of dubious value to your life. From counting on the many Math classes you’ve missed at school, to oversell you a cup of coffee, to place you in a situation where you have little chance to avoid buying a golden mousetrap, the game is on, and you usually lose.
So, pay extra attention out there today, because a lot of the industry’s bet is that you’ll do exactly the opposite, not just of being aware, but also of saving yourself some heartburn and anxiety over unpaid bills down the road. Again, nothing that you’d need us to help you out, so don’t let us stop us.
We also feel that we need to share with you our immense humbleness and sense of proportion. For all the nourishment you’ve been getting out of these pages, we must ask you, no, we beg you to exercise the utmost restrain when thinking about us, which you undoubtedly will today: we must have said this before, but it’s never too much to repeat it: no gifts over $5,000 to us, please.