I do. In my wee brain, I can trace the beginning of the end of this ridiculous consumer acquisition Olympics to flat screened televisions. It’s front and centre again this week, because the ads have been tumbling in already.
I’ll never forget an old family friend, her lips pursed together like a prune, storming around her kitchen snarking that today’s young people were so out of line with reality. She was peeved that we (meaning people in their first apartment or home away from their parents) believed they should have a couch or TV. Let me correct that: she was appalled that any of them should believe they deserved to own new stuff – she herself hadn’t had a new living room set until she’d been married 15 years.
I saw her point, to a point. We all had hand-me-downs from each other, until we all made the first foray into Low Quality High Price Shouty Ads Store and got seduced by new and shiny that cost 40 bucks a month.
But this lady was pissy because I mentioned that I’d purchased a microwave. Now, this was the later generation of microwaves, and I think it cost a hundred bucks. Early ones, you may recall, were as big as Oldsmobiles and cost upwards of $700. But I mentioned I’d picked one up. She fumed; I gently reminded her that ‘this’ generation (why is that such a swear word to some?) usually had both people working, and something like a microwave was indispensable to us.
I let it go. I knew what we could afford (very little) and what we actually purchased (very little), so I was good with my decisions. I’ve watched people keep their furniture covered in plastic for forty years to keep it nice. I don’t get that about *that* generation, but whatever.
But one thing’s for certain: electronics have gone from the ‘want’ to the ‘need’ pile in a heartbeat. Multiple gaming systems, computers, TVs, telephones – there’s no such thing as too much.
And that’s the bird that’s come home to roost. We can blame the bankers, we can blame auto makers, we can blame government, we can blame outsourcing, we can blame hedge funds, we can blame the media. But you know what? It’s our fault. Consumers knew better, and failed to do better. Guess what? You can’t spend more than you earn. You can’t. And yet, most of us have. People used to work hard to acquire a life they aspired to. Now, aspiring is enough, and you slap it on a credit card.
To me, flat screened TVs reflect the worst of a generation. Not everyone bought their kid $300 sneakers. Not everyone has a latte maker sitting on their granite countertop, and not everyone bothered with a hot tub. I’m aware that the signal will be changing in February for the older TVs, but this mad replacement started years ago. Remember when we used to wait for something to wear out before we replaced it? How quaint.
But read this: A Wal-Mart employee has been trampled to death in the early morning rush of people trying to shop before they’ve even processed their Thanksgiving turkey. Read the comments from people they’ve interviewed. People unemployed, or broke, making sure they get a new TV. And iPods. Is this for real? They don’t know how they’re going to feed their kids, but they need to make sure they get a deal on a TV? And it’s apparently worth killing a man for?
Another story in the NYT shows a twit of a woman bemoaning that in order to buy her daughter a boatload of crap for Christmas, she’s had to forgo a pair of designer jeans for herself. Get a grip, NYT. Take a look at the pic – a garage already full of last year’s discards, from the looks of it, with more garbage on it’s way down the chimney for little Brittnee.
We’ve spent our way into Stupidville – and it’s obvious many deserve to be there.