The five little monkeys and mama buy dresses, pants, hats, shorts, backpacks, and sunglasses, and then they head for the car.
from Five Little Monkeys Go Shopping
written and illustrated by Eileen Christelow
Clarion Books, 2007
I don’t like to shop. Really. I’m not saying that to take the moral high ground, or because I have everything I want or need, or even because I’m not intrigued by new things. I like the smell, the feel, the look of a crisp, new designer bag, shiny bauble, and better mousetrap as much as anyone, but I’m okay with the same old, same old, too.
If I have to shop, I’d rather find my “new” treasure at a re-sale shop, whether it’s a higher-end consignment store or a flea-market. Of course, part of what draws me to those places is knowing I’m helping to keep a few items out of the landfill. Part of it also, is the thrill of the hunt and success at discovering the perfect “whatever.”
Last week I decided to shop for “new” lunch plates. I decided my perfectly serviceable luncheon-ware was sub-par for the group of women I’m hosting next month, so I headed to the indoor flea market to refresh my cupboard. My daughter calls my “new” wares “shabby-chic,” and I’m very OK with that.
And while most of us bundle-up this time of year and travel to physical buildings to sift through bins, racks, and shelves to find the perfect gift, discover the coolest new gadget, or marvel at the newest fashion, more and more shopping is taking place online.
Jeff Bezos started Amazon as an online book store in 1994. He worked from his garage in Washington state, filling orders, packing boxes, and taking them to the post office himself. His advertising was word of mouth and in just his first two months, Amazon did business in all 50 states and over 45 countries. Amazon's sales were $20,000 per week.
In 1997, Barnes & Noble sued Bezos for claiming Amazon was the world’s largest book store. BN said it was not a store at all due to its online format. The suit was settled out of court and two years later Bezos was named Time Magazine’s person of the year for his success in popularizing online shopping. Bezos kept on selling and expanding his wares. On May 15, 2019, an article in Forbes magazine announced Amazon had surpassed Walmart as the world’s largest retailer.
Many people have heard me say that if you can’t find what you’re looking for on Amazon, you probably don’t need it. Even though I try to avoid Amazon for a variety of reasons, for me, at least, that is a true statement.
With Black Friday still ahead of us, I started wondering why people like to shop, new OR used. Here’s some of what I found out.
Whether shopping online or in person, buying stuff gives most people a sense of control. We have vast arrays of items to choose from. We have cash (or credit/debit) at our disposal. By turning our hard-earned “power of the purse” into physical objects to express our individuality, creativity, or practicality, we can choose to follow the crowd, look for the newest trend or strike out with a style all our own. Shopping can be a heady experience.
Shopping online is convenient. Supply chain issues aside, next-day delivery fulfills our predisposition for instant gratification. (Who even thinks of the people who fill those orders, many times at low pay, long hours, and poor working conditions?)
And watching the mail feeds our need to feel special. It’s exciting, the anticipation.
Opening the package when it arrives is like a private birthday party.
All this is NOT to say shopping is bad, or wrong, or even wasteful (time and money, here). It’s overconsumption that’s the problem.
Our society was built on consumerism. Even bartering goods for services involves the goods. New is sometimes necessary. New creates jobs and keeps people all along the supply chain working.
It is a common misperception that the name “Black Friday” was coined because it was the first time in the year that retail markets moved from being “in the red,” (operating at a loss) to being “in the black,” (turning a profit). Not so.
Holiday shopping frenzies aside, the term Black Friday was first used to describe a financial crisis. On September 24, 1869, the US gold market crashed sending the stock market into free-fall. Prior to that particular Friday, two corrupt financiers worked together to buy as much gold as they could to drive up the price as high as it would go. Their plan was to sell the gold at a high profit and crash the market. The conspiracy was uncovered on that dark Friday in September. The stock market did go into free-fall and bankrupted investors from Wall Street barons to farmers. A Black Friday indeed.
Today, retail is relatively healthy. According to a Gallop Poll published last month, even though most people are reluctant to say they will spend more this year, Gallop predicts the average American will spend $932.00 on gifts in 2022, the highest amount since 2006.
New or used, online or in person, long-thought-out or last-minute surprise, shopping for yourself or for another special someone, it’s exhilarating to find the perfect gift. It can even be an unmatched set of luncheon ware to share with a small group of new friends.
-—be curious! (and have fun shopping)