Wednesday, November 21, 2012
This little eeCard seems to sum it up nicely for me. Every year for the last few years, I've been horrified to see people camping out, lining up, trampling and beating each other just to buy STUFF. Stuff that they don't even NEED. Stuff to just take up space in their home. Stuff with no soul, no life.
My senior year of college, I had to take an advanced environmental policy research class. It involved doing research on specific environmental issues and then giving presentations to the rest of the class, including leading a discussion about the issue. The first topic I was assigned was, of all things, consumption and sustainability.
It made me realize just how crazy and unsustainable our way of life is in the U.S. Shopping is considered a recreational sport. We lust and long for the latest electronic gadget, only to cast it aside in a year's time for the next model. We fill our landfills with garbage that will probably be there long after the human race has gone extinct as a species.
And why do we do this again?
A few months ago, I had to upgrade my cell phone. According to Verizon, they no longer offered the plan we had under our contract, and if I wanted to renew my contract and keep my cell service, I had to upgrade to a plan that included an allowance for data usage. I could have kept my old plan - for an additional $75 fee per month, going month to month. Or, I could pay just $30 additional every month for a plan that includes 2G of data usage.
Since my old phone wasn't compatible with a data plan, I had to upgrade to a new smartphone. Which cost me another $30 up front, even though the phone itself was free. I chose an iPhone, mainly just to see what the fuss is all about.
So, it's a nice looking phone. It does things. It's like a mini iPad that I can use to make phone calls and take pictures.
But do I really *need* all that?
Seriously, I could have gotten by with my old phone. I don't *need* to be able to check my email and browse the web whenever I feel like it. In fact, I actually need time AWAY from the computer more than anything these days.
I think a lot of this comes back to the old questions, "Sure, we CAN do these things, but SHOULD we?"
I appreciate how hard the retail business can be. During the 2 years that I owned my shop, my take-home pay from that business was $300 a month, if I was lucky. I finally had to get a second job to supplement that so I could pay bills and not starve, even with Tom working full-time. Then, when I was staying home with Colden and relying on sales from farmer's markets and Etsy for my income, it was always a hard decision to make around the holidays: do I add to the Black Friday madness, or do I encourage people to stay away from the computer, stay away from shopping, and do some reflecting on what they should be thankful for during the holiday weekend?
When I was in high school, I remember going shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. Of course, this was 20+ years ago. There were no huge lines to get into the stores. Sure, the mall was busy, because lots of people and lots of kids were off from work and school, and they figured they would get started on their Christmas shopping. But there were no stampedes, no workers killed or injured because of half-crazed shoppers looking for the best bargains.
Now, with Wal-Mart paying slave wages and forcing their full-time workers to rely on public assistance programs to feed their families, I find it more important than ever for people to stop and think about what they're doing.
What if everyone stopped to think before they crushed an employee to death on Black Friday so that they could score a flat screen t.v.? What if people stopped to think before they ran up their credit cards buying useless stuff that won't enrich their lives? What if people tried to live more thoughtful lives all year long?
Not that I sell a lot of stuff on Etsy and ArtFire, but this year, I will be closing both shops down for the holiday weekend, including Cyber Monday. If someone wants to buy something this weekend, I would encourage them to do so from their favorite locally-owned business. Not a franchise. Not a big box store. Show your favorite Etsy seller some love. Go to your favorite locally-owned cafe or book store, and show them you care by spending your hard-earned money there.
Sure, you're going to probably pay more than if you shop at a big box store. But your return on investment will be priceless.