November 13, 2009

The Fear And Panic of Not Having Enough

Look out folks, Extreme Shopping Season (E.S.S.) is about to begin. Black Friday refers to the first Friday after Thanksgiving, and marks the beginning of the retail Christmas season. The term also has origins in that many businesses will begin to turn a profit around this time, and thus are in the black. With all the advertising pumping us up, it is hard not to feel excited. Or is that fear and panic I feel?

Retailers use this time of year to launch major sales, often using deep discounts to lure in shoppers with money to burn, or at least credit cards to melt. Stores often open early, and encourage consumers to line up hours before to build anticipation (fear and panic). Frequently, people are hurt. Occasionally, people are smothered in a chaotic stuffalanche of consumers, shopping lists, and merchandise.

Last year during the E.S.S. event there were both injuries and deaths at retail centers as a result of frantic shoppers lusting for cheaper things. A WallMart greeter in New York was crushed to death when a mob of shoppers broke through the glass doors before the store's scheduled opening at 5:00 am. A pregnant woman in the same incident was injured. Many more minor injuries occur every year while shoppers struggle over rapidly diminishing stacks of popular toys or gadgets of the moment.

Consumer psychologist, Professor Joe Priester of the University of Southern California, commenting on the situation said, "I think it ties into a sort of fear and panic of not having enough."

Enough what? And when do we have enough of whatever it is? When can we stop?

Most of the shopping done during the next few months will be for things no one needs. Things that will break down on cue thanks to planned obsolescence. Things that will generate enormous waste. Things that will create social and environmental harm. But, the corporate world has convinced us that their products will soothe our basic feelings of fear and panic of not having enough, and please don't think about the consequences. Cash or credit?

To help increase your security further, advertisers have infiltrated your favorite social networking sites. They want to make sure you have enough of whatever they sell.

Dan de Grandpre, editor-in-chief of, said retailers are smart to use social networking sites because shoppers probably will stick around as followers of the company even after the sale.

"Twitter and Facebook are now major ways to disseminate information," Grandpre said.

One in five shoppers plans to use the sites in their holiday shopping this season, according to Deloitte Research.

And the fun won't end Nov. 27, traditionally seen as the day that the holiday shopping season launches.

After that, an iPhone application from that now tracks Black Friday deals, for instance, will show sales for the following Monday, now known as Cyber Monday because it's the first weekday after the Thanksgiving weekend and many consumers shop from their desks that day.

I guess I will have to finally give in and join Facebook so I can follow some companies, get in on the fun, and save money on their distractions, and distractions from distraction. On the other hand, with recent economic events perhaps now is a good time to re-evaluate the whole consume-or-die way of life that has pushed us to the brink and made 1% of our population disgustingly rich, while over 1 billion of our human family goes to bed hungry every night.

I look forward to "Buy Nothing Day" on November 27, 2009, although here at Not Buying Anything we try to make every day a buy nothing day. I am prepared to miss the "fun" of fear and panic. I am not afraid. I have enough.

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