Monday, November 1, 2010

Why We Buy What We Buy

"If we want independent retailers to stay in business, we have to patronize them. It's that simple."
From The Mom & Pop Store by Robert Spector

My first month of shopping only in New Westminster is over. What I've learned is that it would likely be possible for me to spend the entire year shopping only at chain stores without ever setting foot in an independent, locally owned business. Of course, that's not what I want to do, but it would be possible. I did go to some independent, locally owned businesses in October, but not nearly as many as I thought I would have by now.

I told the Record I didn't want this to turn into "My Year of Shopping at Wal-Mart." Despite my perception that I don't shop at Wal-Mart much, I went there six times in October, so at least once or twice a week. Part of what I want to do over the course of this year is to change my spending patterns and habits, to re-focus them to more local stores. So, for November, I'm going to go no Wal-Mart. Let's see if I can break my Wal-Mart habit.

I've also been reading a lot about consumer behavior and why we buy what we buy.

Here's my reading list this month, with a brief summary of what I've gleaned from each book so far:
  • Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture – I'm not too far into this one yet, but love this quote: "I do not prize the word 'cheap.' It is not a badge of honor." – U.S. President William McKinley
  • Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are – I haven't got too far into this one yet, but the author talks how pervasive brands are, despite consumers' assertions that we are not affected by marketing. ". . . we can talk all we want about being brandproof, but our behavior tells a different story. This is why I have come around to the view that there is nothing to be gained by simply believing we are immune to brands. But there might be something gained in understanding why we aren't."
  • Spent. Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior – How evolutionary psychology explains what we buy and why we buy it. Essentially, the author's theory is that we buy what we buy to signal fitness (of various types) to others. But as the author explains, evolution has already endowed us with all the equipment we need (both physical and mental) to display fitness and form lasting, meaningful relationships with others without buying a single thing. But we're all caught up in "the fundamental consumerist delusion—that other people care more about the artificial products you display through consumerist spending than about the natural traits you display through normal conversation, cooperation, and cuddling."