So today I went to PodCamp, in Halifax, and it was fascinating. I learned all kinds of interesting things about people who make content, people who sell that content, people who package content, and that there is a job named UX (short for User Experience – the guys* who work to figure out how to make your webbing experience interesting and how to hook up audiences with products – and vice versa). If you live near here and you are involved in technology or computing or content-making, you should go next year.
Also it was free, which is my way to “spend” the day.
Which would be a far more clever segue if I weren’t pointing out to you the fact that I’m using it as a segue into more ranting about our culture of consumerism. I should also have pointed out that the concept I’m about to write about (whilst viewed entirely through my eyes/heard through my ears) is one that Mr. Money Mustache has extremely deftly covered, and I (as always) highly recommend you visit his own rantings. In a not-doing-justice sense, it’s essentially about the fact that most of us do not view our time as being worth anything.
Crafters, Artists, and Artisans of every kind understand this phenomenon well: if they were to truly charge for their time spent + materials, they would price themselves out of customers. Makers-of-things are always donating their love and time. Always. We, the customers, are so habituated to cheapness in quality and price, we recoil at the cost associated with true craftsmanship. We are consuming consumers.
Which brings me nicely around (another segue!) to today’s encounter with the perils of Buy-Nothing Month. The event today was sponsored by various companies which offered discounts on their food items, but there was no full meal involved in the actual event. I brought lunch with me, but I worried that a library would frown upon eating (I seem to have vastly outdated views of libraries: I thought they were about books, quiet, and non-consumption of food). I remembered that I have gift-cards, so I brought them as back-ups.**
As I headed to the coffee shop, it suddenly occurred to me that I was within spitting distance (well, if I were an Olympic spitter; which is probably totally a thing) of The Running Room. I immediately squelched my overwhelming desire to “just have a look.” As I began to praise myself for accomplishing such a herculean task, it suddenly occurred to me that they would certainly stock something that I have very, very much needed for quite some time now: ice grips for running.
Sure enough, they did, and I bought them. Again, the slightly guilty feeling, but I have been without for more than a month of iciness, and frankly, I’m getting rather tired of near-misses.
My brother-in-law is a wise man who has held forth, on more than one occasion, on the perils of a false sense of security. He is of the opinion that helmet-wearing has caused hockey players to be faster and more brutally aggressive because they feel impervious. Although I have not conducted an in-depth analysis to confirm his opinion, I feel quite certain he is correct. So I just thought I would assure you: I am every bit as ridiculously over-cautious and risk averse as always…I just like to know that I’ve done all I could do to avoid being the author of my own misfortune.
It was within this guilt/justification/guilt/rationalization interior monologue that I drove home from PodCamp. For context, you should know that I live approximately 100k from Halifax. Coincidentally enough, the CBC radio program I got to hear in its entirety on my way home was concerned with the withdrawal of Target from Canada. The two live-and-in-person guests were described as “couponers, shoppers, and deal-hunters.”
I’ll be honest, the show was the opposite of interesting to me (today) but one question/answer caused my mouth to fall open in horrified amazement.
When stern-looking-but-really-rather-chipper host Preston asked the two “shopper” guests (who seemingly have real jobs, too) how often they each spent shopping per week, they answered:
“Oh, about 2-3 hours” and “I would say 3-4 hours” (I’m probably not quoting exactly…so please don’t listen to the podcast and then take issue with me).
a. this would be a fantastic form of torture if I’m ever in need of it,
b. are they kidding?
c. is it even possible to have a more expensive hobby?
d. are they kidding?
Preston (host-man) did not even react with surprise, nor did any of the phone-in guests. Am I just so immersed in interrogating our own relationship with consumerism that I find this shocking? Is this only just enough more than the average person to make them “experts” but not “weirdos”? If so, what would qualify one as a shopping addict?*** The mind boggles.
Getting back to Mr. Money Mustache’s article (which I’m sure you immediately cruised over to, read, and then came back here to finish reading) which tossed out the working figure of $25/hour of valuing ones own time would mean that each of these “deal-hunters” is spending between $50 and $200 before they make a single purchase. Every week.
The sound of one hand clapping? That’s me, being gobsmacked.
Day 79 Scorecard: 395 down, 1,430 to go.
* very male-dominated, apparently, as most Internet-y things seem to be.
** even then, I felt too guilty to get anything more than a coffee and a cookie – I ate my sandwich in the coffee-shop-which-shall-remain-nameless, lest I be accused of promoting a non-local, non-Canadian purveyor of coffee.
*** Mike opined that he probably spends a similar amount of time shopping in an average week. He was counting travel time and restaurant eating. I’m quite certain, based on the guests, that they were only counting the time they actually spent in stores, examining items for purchase or comparison. Even given that, after a few questions, he realized that that was decidedly a gross over-estimation of a usual shopping week for him, even when it’s not Buy-Nothing week.