We avoid shopping like a plague during Christmas. Why waste time in long queues and in shops that you can hardly move around without stepping on another person and with other humans breathing into your face? In fact, our motto is to shop only if necessary. Necessity and what you think you need should always be in conversation. One commentator re-wrote the 1st line of the 23rd Psalm to read: “God is my shepherd, I will not want more than I need”. Spot on! We also try not to let price nor brand determine where we shop. This is never easy – especially if your credit-ability will determine whether it is the farmer’s market, M&S, Lidl, Waitrose, TESCO, the Pound Shop or Charity Shops.
Businesses would do their utmost to ensure that we worship at their sanctuaries. Why, for instance, would people queue up in the early hours of Boxing Day to stampede for a bargain? And without even batting an eyelid we would end up in debt thinking we have struck a bargain. I wonder if the millions spent their Christmas night just thinking of what they would go for in that stampede rather than enjoying their holidays, their time with family and the celebrations? And businesses continue to invest in studying our habits: so, for instance, because thousands of people are offten disappointed with their Christmas gift there are now companies offering a service to help you exchange these gifts. There is never a shortage of people available to “mint millions” from our insatiable wants. Shopping has become a deadly and costly ritual, in spite of all the new talk about its spirituality.
The situation has become so ridiculous that we are even given tips as to how one should be prepared for the shopping onslaught: ensure that you have a handbag full of water for dehydration; pills for headache and a banana for energy, among other things. And in case you are proper and decent this will not be the place for you, as it will be a “dog eat dog” situation with the need to use your elbow, instead of your feet, to get the bargain items you think you badly need. But be warned depression sets in by mid-January when the credit card statement arrives. This is the bit we are not told!
Businesses, of course, vie for our custom and will go at lengths to pamper us with loyalty cards, points, incentives and bargains. Even disloyal me can fall for the temptation. So like Pavlov’s puppies we salivate to these in fascinating ways. We keep returning, with wagging tails to these new gods who are only after our money and having us hooked to their fancy. What goes unattended is the length to which these new gods will go to keep a tab on us. The gods of businesses have got us well shackled.
Take supermarkets, as one example: they spend millions of pounds studying the psychology of us shoppers, rethinking the layout of their aisles, and where products are best located to get us to spend. And, how about the surveillance gadgets that are used to track the habits of those of us who walk through their doors and along their aisles? Some now adopt the tactic of telling us how much we save at each shopping and if we overspend we are given a voucher for the next time we return. They certainly know how to keep us coming to “screwed over and over again”. We shop excessively – more than we need to, therefore they profit.
Have you ever given thought to why supermarkets know exactly what kind of offers and discounts to send to us? They know what aisle we visit, where we do our pit stops to load up our carts, what range of products we go for. Churches may wish to take a leaf out of supermarkets’ manual to re-read their communities before they become totally obsolete. The moment we pass through the threshold of our nearest supermarket into their holy of holies, supermarkets already know which aisle we would visit, what shelf level we would reach for and will even listen in to our conversations. The latter I do not mind as I am sure they would be turned off by my constant talking back to their tricks, quarrelling about their excessive plastic-wrapping of almost everything, their dodgy tactic of “buy one and get the other at half-price” etc, and my cynical/dubious comments about a host of dodgy pricing and offers.
My new year slogan is: “shop only if necessary and do so locally”.
© jagessar january 2, 2014