Monkey See, Monkey Buy

You are a consumer. Just like every other organism, you consume in order to survive. But do you need all the stuff you consume? Do you need the latest flagship phone that costs as much as rent in certain places, from a company that releases 2 phones every year with increasing prices? Do you need that last minute packet of Mentos before you cashed out at the supermarket? How satisfied do you really feel by that purchase?

See, the population in (mainly) first world countries are spending more money now than ever on stuff they don’t really need, objects they think will give them some satisfaction or make their life easier, when all they’re doing is flushing their hard-earned money down the drain. Just to get the shiniest, newest equipment or the latest trendy item that is taking the internet by storm. The money spent on these gadgets doesn’t go to the millions of depressed and suicidal Chinese workers that actually assemble them, but to the very few people that are at the top of the hierarchy. These same people have millions, if not billions, of cash and have not the first clue what to do with all of it. Some use it for good causes, true, but most decline to share their stupendously large amount of green.

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Apart from the fact that society in general is spending more money, large corporations implement tactics that tend to push people to buy their products, in a very subtle manner. One example that you may have encountered in supermarkets without even realising, is the layout. Certain companies such as IKEA study your path through their store from the data they would’ve gathered from Beacon technology, and eventually change the layout to increase the amount of impulse purchases you make on your trip to their store.

So, what is Beacon technology you ask? Beacons are essentially computers, about the size of a Wi-Fi router, that house proximity technology within them. Whenever a person passes within the short distance the Beacon can read from, it will store this data and algorithms will map out the total length of your shopping trip using the data gathered from the multiple Beacons positioned throughout the floor. This technology helps stores like IKEA to push you towards areas of their shops you wouldn’t have gone to before, which means you’ll spend more time and hence be more likely to buy certain products you don’t really need (or want, for that matter).

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This technology is just one method that is helping modern stores to grasp a potential customer’s curiosity, and make them buy things just for the sake of it. This phenomenon, known as the Gruen Effect, was named after the architect Victor Gruen, who lived in the 1900s. He had used lighting to showcase products in store front windows to attract the attention of passers-by, enthralling them like a moth to a lamp.

Apart from this, many companies on Black Friday and Cyber Monday tend to lower prices on desirable items such as electronics. However, they don’t do this just to make you purchase that one product with a drastically reduced price, yet, they hope that while you’re making your way through the shop, you essentially fill up your entire shopping basket brimming with other products. As the CEO of Target said, “The fear here is seeing baskets or carts with one item.”

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This is all very worrying. More and more people are going into credit card debt, with the average American consumer being in $15000 worth of credit card debt. And along with videos on social media platforms such as YouTube pushing for potential customers to purchase more products on such “holidays”, the debt is only increasing.

Of course, this article is just skimming the surface of how marketers make consumers want more. So what can we do to spend less money on things we don’t really need during the holidays and events like Black Friday?

  1. By being more intentional with our purchases, and by doing this, we add value to the materials we buy. As Juliet Shore says extremely well:

    “We are too materialistic in the everyday sense of the word and we are not at all materialistic enough in the true sense of the word…We need to be true materialists like really care about the materiality of goods in the fast fashion we buy and throw out. We don’t care about the actual materiality of the goods, what matters is their symbolic meaning. That’s why we discard them so rapidly, because they lose social value”.

  2. Organising a Secret Santa, as only one present will be given to each person. However, the present will have lots of thought that has been put into its purchase, and it will have value added to it because of that.
  3. Make something instead of buying one. The effort that goes into it also increases its value

“The best deal you’ll ever get this Black Friday is not buying into the hype”.

~ Matt D’Avella

References:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GvvJ5qmumI&t=319s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYKUJgMRQ7A

Written by: Matthew J. Cassar

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