Until recently I worked as a Product Demonstrator. Actually over the last year and a half I spent half my time as shift supervisor of a crew doing Product Demonstration.
Our job was to get people to try and buy mostly food products that were often overly processed, full of sodium, high in fats and carbohydrates.
We were a non-union shop. As workers we were exploited. We were held to under 30 hours a week so they would not have to pay benefits because we were considered part timers.
Every day people went out on the floor they were given quotas set by establishing the sales done on the day one week prior and multiplying them by 3.5. If you sold 350% of the previous weeks sales you received points towards a bonus. If you sold less than 200% you got fewer hours. Minimum sales were 20 units. Considering the amount of traffic on a given day these quotas insured bonuses were rare and competition for good products with high sales and low quotas was pretty cut throat.
I say this because the pressure was on us to sell those products no matter how bad they were for you. This meant we had to be liars and look sincere in our lying.
We were/are the lowest rung in the hyper retail hype world.
The labor that creates products is paid as little as possible in order to create surplus value. Yet the surplus value created by the gap between the costs of production and the price the product is sold at is pretty meaningless if no one buys the product.
If people only bought the things they needed or even actually wanted then the high flying world of free market corporatism would end with a resounding crash.
I actually try to buy used when possible. I look at things like cars and ask questions like: Do they get decent mileage and does that corporation actually have at least assembly plants in the US?
One has to ask one very important question though. Why do those who hype products in the media get paid so much while those who make the product and those who work in the store that sell the products earn so little?
Because of this I would never buy a sport shoe (the shoes I mainly wear) that had an athlete’s name on it or that was specifically endorsed by a professional athlete. They already make more money in one year than I will in a life time.
I built our latest computers rather than buying one off the shelf. It cost as much, perhaps even more yet I know what parts are in them and that they have a high enough wattage power supply.
Many magazines and most of television is strictly speaking a media of the spectacle that uses hyper realistic unreal imagery to trick people into thinking the impossible is actual reality. I punches up adrenalin and fear to sell us a police state. It creates a fictitious violent reality that sells fear and image as well as the fiction that you too can be that super ninja action hero. Then it taps into a thought process that has already suspended incredulity to sell you something be it luxury (usually aimed at women) or something that will enhance the inadequate masculinity of the male viewers.
Guns and big gas guzzling cars are but two items. Clothes that cost more than I earned in two weeks come to mind.
I sometimes wonder if the biggest threats from Hippie and from the Eco movements aren’t getting people to question mindless consumption.
Many years ago I was in the Macy’s in San Francisco looking at make-up and a beautiful blond hippie guy whispered to me when he walked by. “Buying make-up won’t give you better orgasms.” I arrogantly shot back, “Buying make up is like an orgasm.” He looked at me and said, “look in the mirror, you are beautiful. You don’t need to hide it behind make-up.”
So much of what we are sold is hype. They create insecurities or fears and then sell you a product that is supposed solve those problems.
Perhaps we would be better off consuming less. Maybe we wouldn’t have the oil spill in the Gulf if we had opted for more fuel efficient cars. Maybe we would have more trains to as well as better public transportation.
I first crossed the US in 1967. Every city was unique. They may have all had McDonalds but they also had stores and businesses that were one of a kind. Now the countryside seems like one big mall with shopping opportunities in stores that are owned by the same companies and look identical every few miles. Heaven forbid, one be overcome with a desire for something that one saw a billboard or heard an ad for and they not be able to immediately purchase it.
It seems as though if we were to stop buying for one day the whole system would go into a tail spin.
Maybe it would take longer. But think about what sort of power we “consumer” should have. If we could only stop fighting among ourselve.
I bet we could get the Japanese government to end the murder of whales if we were to get enough people to stop buying all Japanese products for a couple of months or so.
Want Same Sex Marriage? Target one of the huge corporations and stop buying anything they sell.
Start buying used stuff… The tree is already dead. Used book stores are wonderful magical institutions. Consider buying used instead of new.
Stop using credit cards so often. Say no when someone offers you yet another credit card.
If a union goes out on strike boycott the products of the corporation being struck.
Learn the power of saying, “No Thanks, I’ll pass on that. I don’t need it while you are continuing to do _____…”
Instead invest in and buy things based on value instead of flashy ads and hard sell hyper retail marketing.
Fuck the advertising business and all their lies. Evaluate value not associations with advertising and selling of image.