Thursday, November 28, 2013

Will Everyone Go Shopping This Year?

This is always the question on Thanksgiving.  Otherwise we'd be inundated with stories of "turkey disasters."  I always hope that people will get sick of being played by retailers trying to entice them into stores with alleged "doorbusters", but the shopping frenzy has gotten worse, not better.  Now stores open on Thanksgiving.  Hey, skip the turkey and all the sides, grab a McBurger and head off to the mall.  (I admit that I am sitting on the sofa, listening to Alice's Restaurant, and smelling turkey in the oven.)  We will not be heading out to the shops after dinner, and not just because my knees are not working today. We're going to watch This is Spinal Tap after dinner because I so love the Stonehenge scene.

And it's not because I hate shopping.  Economists would put me into the profligate category, pursing their lips and shaking their heads gently, using me as an example of what happens when you shop too much and don't build your assets.  But it's because I take capitalism and shopping seriously.  Karl Marx pointed out nigh on 150 years ago that capitalism released the productive forces and, in addition to the dark Satanic mills and fracking, capitalism has enabled us to purchase all sorts of wondrous things, things we'd never be able to do as well at home, no matter what people say about the superiority of the handmade.  The handmade is better if you have access to very good materials and are a skilled craftsperson.  Think Tiffany.  When Tiffany is good, it's very good, although I've seen plenty of awful stuff from Tiffany's, and I've often thought on watching Antiques Roadshow that, if I owned some of the stuff, it would head right out the door to the auction block.

In some cases the handmade is very good, but I'm not willing to pay that much for it. Think couture.  Just don't care enough, and am not interested in wearing hand-stitched pearls on my clothes anyway.  That doesn't mean that I buy my clothes at Target or WalMart.  Even Macy's these days is somewhat lacking.  I'm a neo-hippie with linen overtones, and that stuff doesn't come cheap.  Birkenstock's are more than $100 a pair. Those prices are nothing like couture though.

But before I start posting pictures of my favorite articles of clothing, let's move back to the main point, which is that instead of being offered good products at reasonable prices, Thanksgiving shopping offers us impulse purchases, junk and stuff that you will either give to Goodwill or, in an appalling lack of human solidarity, "re-gift".  Worse, as I noted a couple of years ago, it's as though retailers are trying to see how much they can get away with, and ruining Thanksgiving is at the top of the list.  

Addendum: Lambert, who works with Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism, reports that customers are perceived as cattle, to be run through the stores to the checkout counter like cows to the slaughter.  It's an ugly image, but if you see the pictures of the masses as the stores open, somehow appropriate.

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