Re: Black Friday

1

Anyone inclined to show up at a store at 4am will be quick to point out that they had to get up early in order to make it there by the doors' opening, or earlier to get into line, and they handle it just fine, so what are you so upset about, and couldn't these workers get a real job if it's so troubling?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:19 PM
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I don't think this is exploitative. It's once a year, at the kick-off of the busy season, that you have a horrible day at work. Possibly you're working on commission and have a great day of work, but that's not the point.

I think exploitative practices must interfere with quality of life, and I think this once a year is sufficiently infrequent.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:23 PM
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I just think it's sort of foul. Who wins?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:25 PM
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The owners of the store, presumably.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:27 PM
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I find the consumerism in this country disgusting by and large, but this one detail doesn't seem unusually crass.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:28 PM
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4: Quite.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:28 PM
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I bet shoppers end up spending more money when they invest more effort into planning and mapping out their Big Shopping Excursion.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:29 PM
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There is nothing---nothing---that would induce me to start shopping at 4:00 AM.

Yesterday I was reading one of those yearly articles about the stampeding masses of shoppers, and I realised that I didn't even recognise the products described as special spiffy super-deals. I'm not proud of that ignorance, really, just sort of baffled by it all. It's not as though I observed "buy nothing day," either.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:30 PM
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I basically enjoy shopping. I get a rush from spending the money, etc, and love my new little item. I put shopping in the same category as drinking or something: fine in moderation.

Obviously I agree that there's gross excess going on. I'm just saying I can relate to the underlying impulse.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:36 PM
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Black Friday makes me hate America.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:36 PM
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Also, Pollack's post below is exactly right. It's I-95, people. The alternate routes either don't get you there, or are just as backed up.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:38 PM
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Also:

That's just what we need in this country: a bunch of people spending the day gorging and drinking, then not getting any sleep so they can stumble to their cars before the sun has even risen to save 50% on tackle boxes and capri pants.

this pisses me off. Circumstances of this particular holiday put way too many specific faces of perfectly lovely people on this mean characterization.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:42 PM
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I'm suffering from cognitive dissonance.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:43 PM
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I really do feel conflicted. I'm just saying, there are very nice people as well as wretched people who get caught up in Black Friday. I think the underlying rule should be "Don't be a wretched person."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:49 PM
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And I'm the arbitrator.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:53 PM
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Don't hate the player; hate the game?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:55 PM
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So it's a kind of folk tradition I'm missing out on?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:57 PM
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Yes. Thank you.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:57 PM
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So it's a kind of folk tradition I'm missing out on?

Well, let's not unduly glamorize it, either.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 12:58 PM
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I enjoy shopping and finding deals, but local news coverage of bleary-eyed citizens bleating about how they're braving the cold for really great deals 'n'at makes me want to hurt people. I'm sure they're mostly very nice. I only hate them that one day.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 1:24 PM
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This photo at Dora’s place.



Posted by: swampcracker | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 1:37 PM
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Civilised countries should have rules against this sort thing.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 1:44 PM
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Oh, big shopping days are kind of fun--they're like festivals. You go, you wander around in the crowd, you enjoy the free-floating adrenalin and odd sense of camaraderie. And of course you ask all the shopkeepers/retail workers how the day is going and make sympathetic noises.

That said, I do refuse to go to the store on major holidays. If I'm out of whipping cream, I'm out of whipping cream--I'm not going to reward Von's for making its workers show up on Thanksgiving.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 1:44 PM
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You know, 4 a.m. is not nearly as early if you were out cold by 6:30 Thanksgiving day what with the drinking and gorging and psychological shutdown induced by family togetherness.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 1:46 PM
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Evidence of lack-of-assimilatedness: I dropped by Sears yesterday around 10am (with two small children in tow) to pick something up, and wondered why the Mall parking lot was so full. Eventually I figured it out. Then while paying for my purchase I said to the guy at the register, "So what time did you open this morning? Eight?" He looked at me like I was insane.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 1:48 PM
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Once in my life I did one of these kind of shopping excursions, a big sale day at Fry's electronics. Fry's is usually full of bargains, but every quarter they go kinds nuts, and you get $299 DVD players for $50, last years videocards for 2/3 off, etc.

One hour into the store, four hours in line to checkout. I presume part of the plan was that as you weaving thru the aisles, well, shoot, you have a grand in your cart and there is a nice coffee grinder for 20 bucks. So the "loss leaders" are incredible.

I am still using that equipment years later and I have spent worse days, but Christ. And that is about the only shopping I ever do. Bought clothes the other week, grabbed the sale stuff at the end of the aisle, checked size and ran. Spent 15 minutes.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 1:48 PM
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I'd thnk those low-wage workers are exactly the sort who want these kinds of sales.

the overall effect is just wasting the poor's time and extracting more of the well-off's consumer surplus.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 1:50 PM
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22: They do.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 1:51 PM
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So does Subcommandante Becks begin the War on Christmas.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 1:51 PM
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"This year's hot toys!" are always just a complete mystery to me. And, thankfully, to PK.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 1:56 PM
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I don't like employers "forcing" their employees to sacrifice federal holiday leave and family time, but likely these employees are getting time and a half/hour. If not, yeah that sucks.

But I get more upset over general workplace conditions and the insufficiency of the federal/state minimum wages to actually work as _living_ wages that occur the rest of the year than waking up for a super early shift.

Low wage work is generally not the job that any of us would want--menial tasks, bad hours, weird shifts, etc. But rather than protest Black Friday (which I do out of laziness so I can't claim some moral superiority for this) I'd funnel my energies toward raising the minimum wages at city, state and federal levels; protesting the blind disregard of OSHA under this administration, and supporting the unions.


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 2:47 PM
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31: Employees that receive such low wages are put in the postition that they look forward to federal holidays and beg to be chosen to work those days because they'll be looking at earning a whopping $12/hour, rather than the $8/hour that they are usually paid. And all they have to sacrifice is sleep and time with their families.

Even at time and a half, it sucks.

Living wages are key, but unless we overhaul the entire neo-liberal death grip that holds north America in its cluches, living wages are not going to become reality. Why? because they will be accompanied by inorganic inflation, which will render the minimum wage unchanged in real eonomic value. Victory will never reside between a rock and a hard place.


Posted by: Scizor Cyster | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 3:13 PM
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4 a.m. is early enough that you can just stay up. Much better than 6 a.m.


Posted by: Lambent Cactus | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 3:23 PM
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This is all predicated on the idea that the workers at these stores have something to be thankful for; this sounds like a problem that solves itself!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 4:04 PM
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4 a.m. is early enough that you can just stay up.

Not if you're going to be working 'til noon.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 4:21 PM
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From NY Times, "Bargains Draw Crowds, but the Thrill is Gone":

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/24/business/24shop.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

At a Wal-Mart outside Nashville, the doors opened at 5 a.m. yesterday, with customers surrounding a wooden pallet piled high with $50 digital picture frames at the front of the store.

Worried that the frames would sell out, Cindy Chavez, 36, braced herself, yelped and tossed her body on top of the pile, much to her fellow shoppers' horror. She emerged from the scrum with six frames.

"I just didn't think I could reach down and bend over and get it," Ms. Chavez explained.

Maybe the coming depression will knock some fucking sense into people.


Posted by: A. Chandler Moisen | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 4:40 PM
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There are some misconceptions - for one, that most retail workers make time-and-a-half. We don't, really, unless we're working *on* a major holiday (Black Friday isn't, and is how many stores get around the holiday squeeze) or are working overtime. I know that my employer doesn't ok overtime, so I can work 13 hours in a row, but not more then 40 in a week.

Besides the fact that I work full time hours without full time bennies (I need to work 40 hours a week for 3 months in a row; a single week at below-29 scheduled hours means I start my count over), I worked Black Friday from 4 AM to 5:30 PM with one break 9 hours into my shift. My pay? Minimum wage, and not being allowed to participate in the sale.

The bonus? Getting to look forward to the biggest shopping season of the year. I don't like the holidays because I spend the whole thing selling items I can't afford to people with more money then me, who then complain to me when their sales experience doesn't go swimmingly and they're minorly inconvienanced.

Black Friday seems like a giant joke to me.


Posted by: Thanatos02 | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 4:40 PM
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Maybe the coming depression will knock some fucking sense into people.

I really hoped that this line was actually in the article, but no, it was just a blockquoting error. Alas.

37: California's overtime rules (time-and-a-half for any hours over 8 in one day OR 40 in a week, plus double time in some situations) are much better on this.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 4:55 PM
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People who start their shopping at 4AM are weak and should be culled from the herd. Last year I left the family thanksgiving at 9PM, made it to the Midnight opening of Grand Outlet Sale Spectacular, and had finished by christmas shopping at 3:30AM. Sure, selection was limited and so everyone received a $20 dollar cashmere V-Neck -- in exactly the sort of atrocious colors one would expect when cashmere sweaters are hocked for 20 bucks --, but whatever.


Posted by: Alfi G | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 5:11 PM
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36. "I just didn't think I could reach down and bend over and get it," Ms. Chavez explained.

I think that if you're in line at Wal-Mart before 5 AM, by definition you've already "gotten it".


Posted by: .Stormcrow@gmail.com | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 5:44 PM
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In the past it's always seemed futile to me to do all that Buy-Nothing-Day stuff--after all, most people who are going to haul themselves to the mall probably need the discount, and they're probably enmeshed enough in the horrible work-consume-sleep-repeat of US life that they really do want/need the things they buy. Socially, it doesn't matter very much if I--by contrast--give oddball presents; I live an oddball life. And I'm of a citified, yuppified background, so most of the presents I'll end up buying don't come from the mall. But that's an accident of fate. The emotional and social needs that make people want to buy and give a sale DVD player are the same as those which lead me to send yuppie baked goods.

And yet I get a dismal sort of feeling from your comment above, Belle Lettre, about working on minimum wage issues and structural change. No one really does that, right? Or almost no one. Because where is the channel? You'd need some clear-cut issue, and a local group with a definite plan, and and and...and no one has those things, and it takes a lot of time. And what exactly do people mean about things like "supporting the unions"? I use this line of reasoning all the time in my own life, and it doesn't seem to mean that I do anything in particular. I guess I maintain some dim kind of hope that by doing the unsatisfactory lifestylist activism of Adbusters (yuck!) and Buy Nothing Day, some energy and connections may be generated and turned into something else. Plus, at least there's a focus/starting point for the discussion rather than an abstraction of an abstraction of a policy position.

We need a collective project, we really do.

Of course, in the best hypocritical fashion, yesterday I bought sushi at the Japanese mall near Schaumberg, Illinois. I'd forgot all about the Black Friday thing.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 7:06 PM
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I knew I shouldn't have read this thread.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 7:17 PM
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36 makes me think of Hindu women jumping onto funeral pyres. Burn on the altar of capitalism!


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 7:24 PM
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c'mon teo, it's a laugh-riot in the consumptive society.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 7:27 PM
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I enjoy shopping and finding deals, but local news coverage of bleary-eyed citizens bleating about how they're braving the cold for really great deals 'n'at makes me want to hurt people.

I guess I don't really want to hurt people. That family I read about, for example, who cooked a turkey dinner in their RV and ate it in the shopping centre parking lot before bedding down for the night?....I figure they're already hurting themselves.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 7:43 PM
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How does this differ from waiting until midnight to begin selling Harry Potter?


Posted by: jim | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 8:37 PM
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From yesterday's paper, a local guy helps the Bay Area hang on to our bragging rights at the edge of the lunatic fringe:

In early 2006, John Perry helped kick off a local group called Compact, whose members' goal was to not buy anything new that year (aside from food, medicine, personal hygiene items and underwear).

Two years on, some of the original dozen or so members have relaxed the buying standards, although they still try to buy as much as they can locally and through secondhand shops. [...] As much as possible, Perry buys sustainably grown, local foods, uses mom-and-pop service providers and buys most of his clothing from thrift stores - including, ahem, underwear.

"Most of my boxers are Banana Republic and I get them at Thrift Town," said Perry, 43. "I trust my washer to clean the clothes I have. ... If I bring home a pair of secondhand boxers from Thrift Town, I know my washing machine is doing the same job."


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 10:30 PM
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Two years on, some of the original dozen or so members have relaxed the buying standards,

They now allow themselves to travel back in time to 2006 and purchase new goods?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 10:32 PM
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aside from food, medicine, personal hygiene items and underwear

Those are some mighty big exceptions. That's most of what I buy in a given year.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 10:32 PM
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48: Well, they do apparently live in the future, so maybe they have the technology.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-24-07 10:33 PM
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41:

I maintain some dim kind of hope that by doing the unsatisfactory lifestylist activism of Adbusters (yuck!)

Frowner, what do you mean by this "yuck"?

I leafed through the latest issue of Adbusters magazine at the train station the other day and was blown away. It was $8.95 for the magazine, though. And I can look at the website.

The lifestyle activism .. well, I'll see if I can determine what you mean. Buy nothing day?

The magazine issue I looked at had some amazing graphic copy, flat statements along the lines of: "All of our interactions are irremediably compromised." Or circumscribed.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:44 AM
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46: Well, all the bookstores where I live that re-opened at midnight exactly (and stayed open for half an hour or so) to sell Harry Potter, were doing so not as "extended opening hours" but as a special midnight event - the store closed at the usual hour, and re-opened at midnight specifically to provide customers (who had pre-ordered and paid in advance) with bagged copies of the latest Harry Potter. If you wanted to buy any other book at midnight, you were out of luck: the cash registers were closed for the night and the store wasn't taking money.

(And, though obviously for some bookstores the staff may have been coerced, the bookstore where I was at midnight was staffed with half a dozen employees who had volunteered for the occasion - they were bookfans who would have stayed up till midnight anyway.)

Staying open till midnight as an ordinary working bookstore, yeah, that would be another thing... though it would probably be easier to get home on public transport at that hour than to work at 3am.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 5:25 AM
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Meh. Plenty of jobs have weird hours. Toll booth collectors, oil rig operators, ER nurses, etc., etc., and no one laments their missing Thanksgiving. As has been said above, the people working the 4am shift are probably psyched to get the extra cash.

Why presume to know what people want better than they do themselves, as demonstrated by the choices they make? Maybe the people working at 4am hate their relatives and are glad to miss Thanksgiving. (e.g., "Sorry, Aunt Ethel, I'd love to come, but I have to get up early for work tomorrow.") Maybe their relatives are dead. Maybe they're naturally early risers. Who knows? Not us, that's for sure.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 5:45 AM
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53: And maybe they want to be fed on turtle soup and venison with a gold spoon.

It's presumptuous to worry about employment standards, of course. Wages, benefits, working conditions...it's just some choices that some people make.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 8:06 AM
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49:I buy the food.

And cd's


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 8:09 AM
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G.B. misses the point that a 4:00 am shopping opening is not really at all like an emergency room. It's really completely dispensable.

There's no reason to assume that everyone who goes to work at 4 am has volunteered, even though we're assured of that. Some people do volunteer for things like that, some are drafted, but they're all making choices at the bottom of the long downward slide which has steadily worsened labor conditions and reduced their options.

The lady Bush admired so much with the three jobs had voluntarily chosen to hold three jobs, but she was also under economic duress.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 8:15 AM
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Why presume to know what people want better than they do themselves, as demonstrated by the choices they make?

The problem is, that for most employees, in many many jobs [low paid and not-so-low-paid], they don't have a choice. You can't read anything about the choices they would or would not make from the fact that they are at work on Thanksgiving.

And the fact that the retailer claims the employees have a choice means shite all.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 8:20 AM
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What the hell is a digital picture frame and is $50 that good a price for one?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 8:44 AM
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59:Just guessing that it is a flat screen with memory and a port.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 8:48 AM
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51: I don't care for Adbusters. I've seen many, many issues since we stock it at the bookstore, so I feel like I'm familiar with the patterns. What I dislike: on a simple level, I dislike the recurring narrative they publish, sometimes fiction, sometimes editorial, sometimes a letter to the editor: the writer describes how he (almost always he; it's a very gendered narrative) was caught up in this tragic, empty lifestyle of acquisition and consumption and thought he was happy but was really miserable inside, and then suddenly he jettisoned all his responsibilities and how leads a life as a sheep-herder, or an activist, or whatever, and now he looks at all those people enmeshed in ordinary American life with a terrible pity. Sometimes they reverse it and print a depressive one about someone who just feels so empty inside but can't manage to throw away their corporate job.

I hate this narrative because it's couched in religious terms (find Jesus! be saved!) and because it's contemptuous. Also because it fetishizes poverty. Also because it's not structural--people consume because they are spiritually empty and when you become spiritually full you stop buying stuff. Now, I'm a bit of a Lacanian lately, so I don't entirely discount that argument, but I think it's a bit politically useless.

Also, they often reserve their greatest scorn for "feminine" consumption--buying things to make you look pretty or normal or whatever. As if (even assuming that make-up and high heels are ipso facto yucky) women only wear them because they're too stupid not to. As if it's a mere gesture of will to fling off the chains that bind us.

Also, an awful lot of their photography fetishizes women while not admitting that's what it's doing. Usually it's uglied-up glamour shots, so that you can ogle the model and also condemn her; sometimes it's gross-out so that you can indulge in your anger at women. Their website does not reflect this, but I've been keeping count and easily six out of ten of their covers are sort of sex-and-hate pictures of young women--smeared, you know, with lipstick because lipstick is gross; or looking vapid while clutching a designer bag or something.

The people I know who read adbusters are mostly professional designers. They read it for ideas.

Slick design is very readily recaptured by capitalism, in my experience. I mean, almost everything can be recaptured by capitalism, but I think it's extremely unwise to rest a lot of the weight of your politics on aesthetics.

Buy Nothing Day? Well, on the day after Thanksgiving one buys nothing, and perhaps goes out to the mall and pickets, or does some other mediagenic activity.


Lifestylism? A term of art dating I believe from the great Bookchin/green anarchist conflict of the mid-nineties. (Remember that? The rivers ran red with blood! A bit like borscht, actually.) You know: how much weight do we put on individual action versus collective action? Do we spend our time working to get people off the grid or organizing so that we can someday move everyone off the grid? Can you insult someone if they shop at Whole Foods instead of a co-op? What about if they shop at Banana Republic, since it's pretty clear that BR uses sweatshops? On the flip side, can you just buy whatever sweatshop crap you want and argue that only systemic change will fix things?

Sometimes it came down to really specific organizing tactics; sometimes it was just a kind of left-culture thing.

The war really changed the activist left, at least around here--for the worse, mostly. It's like we've got the worst of both positions--people buying buttons and patches and doing a lot of sewing and art (fine in themselves, you know) but doing nothing else and just shopping away at Whole Foods or whatever.

It's about bad faith, you know--bad faith is all you have left when good faith becomes impossible. If there isn't anything else going, it's probably better to do the Adbusters stuff than nothing at all.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 8:48 AM
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Slick design is very readily recaptured by capitalism, in my experience.

Or by state-socialism, or by religion or whatever. Think of the work of the various Soviet 'constructivists' on USSR in Construction.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:01 AM
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A digital picture frame is a frame and a screen with a slot for a memory card so it can display your digital pictures. Usually it can be set so it can play through a group of pictures like a slide show. I have no idea how much they should cost.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:11 AM
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Here in the UK prices for digital picture frames start about that level - $50 - 60$ USD (or equivalent).


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:14 AM
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My impression is that Adbusters is what Portfolio Center graduates do while they're waiting to get a job offer from an ad agency. But I'm probably being overly cynical.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:21 AM
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61: I guess as far as the USSR went, in the early period of the revolution many artists and designers were really invested in what was going on; they believed that their designs would forward a radical, egalitarian socialism. (Consider Eisenstein, if we may veer into film. Or consider all those people doing "new" ceramics.) And their designs--amusingly enough--weren't exactly "recaptured" by the USSR; a lot of them were deemed counterrevolutionary and banned, and a lot of them were simply too radical/clunky/severe/experimental to be anything more than unwelcome symbols of the regime. You might argue, in fact, that the Soviet constructivists accidentally succeeded in using design to critique the system. Of course, that doesn't mean it changed anything.

Left designers here often believe that design can provide political critique of capitalist design. They don't want their products to forward the system.

It's a real problem, actually. Left stuff needs design in order to be visible now--just look at those fancy new Verso titles. But we can't just be offering one more product in the marketplace, like it doesn't matter if you buy a political book or a new pair of shoes.

I think it has to be a question of emphasis. Adbusters is very much about aesthetics (the aesthetics of your personal life, the aesthetics of the magazine) as a political gesture; that's what underpins them. And I think aesthetics just can't be the major part of one's politics.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:22 AM
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Isn't that basically then a computer monitor? My parents have their computer cycle through the picture files for a screensaver.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:25 AM
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It's a small, picture-frame-sized baby monitor that doesn't require anything but your flash memory card to display the photos, suitable for putting on your mantelpiece or other usual picture frame spot.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:27 AM
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Oops, I forgot that a "baby monitor" is a thing for monitoring your baby. Well, you know what I mean.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:28 AM
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65: You could just give in (to the extent that life in America isn't already so enmeshed with various forms and modalities of oppression to make nonsense of "give in"). The Dark Side offers a really great rebate program.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:28 AM
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53:

Well, actually, I *do* know. I work, and know a lot of people who work retail and at least where I was, none of us chose to be up a 4 AM and none of us received bonus wages.

We were told that not showing up meant our job was lost. And since I need to eat, and this minimum wage gig is all I have right now, a 4 AM - 5 PM shift was what I worked.

I was the lucky one. I only had to work 13 hours. My supervisor, who had no choice either, worked 19 hours on a split shift. My girlfriend worked 13 hours, woke up the next day and worked 12, and she's got a damaged back. No bonus for her, either.


Posted by: Thanatos02 | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:32 AM
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65 - Have you encountered Bruce Sterling's early Viridian writing? I'd be curious as to what you thought of his consumerist-judo (although his focus was explicitly climate change rather than a critique of capitalism).


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:33 AM
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Sometimes personal consumer action works, like with the grape boycott, or when people quit buying apples treated with alar. These worked, though, because instead of anti-consumerism, they were anti-injustice and anti-unhealthiness, respectively. It's like Bill Clinton used to say, you have to give people something to say 'yes' to. If it's just going to be Yes on No, or yes to Misanthropy (or worse, Misogyny), changing society is going to be a pretty tough go.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:42 AM
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Yes to sleeping in on Friday morning!


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:44 AM
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One really annoying thing about the consumptive society is the degree to which planned obsolescense has been accepted. It often drives empty economic activity and generates waste but doesn't actually do anyone any good. With a lot of consumer goods, we've fallen into roughly three levels off quality: 1) cheap and won't last 2) more expensive, prettier, designed not to last 3) boutique stuff that is relatively very expensive.

Without fetishizing the past, it's still easy to see a ton of products where the consumer (and the land fills) would be better off with something made solidly but not so expensively, even if it is riskier for corporations. Something that would price in the midrange, and last. I've wondered if it is most effective to convince middle & upper middle class (economically) people to value this, to construct a cultural norm that abhors throwing things out every few years the same way we have constructed a norm that values that over the last few decades. Somehow we got away from the idea that we should save up for something good, and keep it, but that is a big component of avoidable waste here, I think.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:02 AM
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Without fetishizing the past, it's still easy to see a ton of products where the consumer (and the land fills) would be better off with something made solidly but not so expensively, even if it is riskier for corporations.

My stock example: my inlaws got a GE toaster oven as a wedding present in 1964. Around 2004 the handle came off. Everything else still worked fine. They tried to get it repaired but no-one has the parts anymore. They bought a replacement toaster oven. Its element burned out within the year.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:07 AM
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Without fetishizing the past, it's still easy to see a ton of products where the consumer (and the land fills) would be better off with something made solidly but not so expensively, even if it is riskier for corporations. Something that would price in the midrange, and last.

It's hard not to fetishize the past, sometimes. I own quite a few old cameras, a lot Soviet made. These are 50 year old mechanical objects with complex moving parts and yet they all work perfectly.* Furthermore, if they malfunction, I could have them repaired [in fact, I could probably repair them myself]. This does not hold true for the bulk of the equivalent consumer goods today.

On the other hand, modern cars are massively more reliable and much cleaner and fuel efficient than they once were, so it's not a total downward slide.

* they are also pretty beautiful objects, which helps with teh fetishism.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:07 AM
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It's Sunday, will.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:11 AM
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77: When he sleeps in, he really sleeps in...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:13 AM
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76: Sure, I'm with you there. But we shouldn't pretend that gains haven't been made, on average, on manufacturing processes, etc. The demand for features etc drives us away from cameras like you describe and towards the latest auto-focus/anti-vibration/high-speed, etc. Doesn't mean they weren't amazing bits of technology.

75: I find this so frustrating some times. I bought a very nice looking, polished stainless whistling kettle less than two years ago. I didn't look at it carefully enough, though, because the whistle part itself was clearly designed to be cheaply pressed together, and fails easily in a way that can't be repaired. Replacement parts? Hah! It's so unnecessary. My grandmother had a nice one that she bought in the 30s, nothing wrong with it today.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:15 AM
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re: 79

Sure, and I own a couple of modern bells-and-whistles cameras [film and digital], too. For a lot of uses you need the bells-and-whistles [or, at least, they do help].

I do wish decent affordable manual focus prime lenses in 'normal' focal lengths were still being made, though. The 40 year old cheap Soviet copy of the Zeiss Sonnar that I have has an amazing look that your standard kit zoom doesn't even approach.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:23 AM
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80: Amen. I bought a digital body that can mount older primes for that reason. One of the downsides of cheap & accurate mass production of lenses is the ubiquitous overly-cheap zoom kit lens these days.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:33 AM
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re: 81

Me too, however, I've discovered, mine doesn't do aperture priority very well with really old primes.* As a result, prices for second-hand KA-mount Pentax lenses [which it will meter with properly] have gone through the roof.

Still, I use old manual primes a fair bit and meter manually.

* the only auto-exposure mode I tend to use.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:45 AM
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My parents' rotary phones have lasted splendidly since the 1970s, when my dad picked them up out of a garbage bin somewhere. They've gone through about ten different push-button phones in the last five years.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:45 AM
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Slick design is very readily recaptured by capitalism, in my experience. I mean, almost everything can be recaptured by capitalism, but I think it's extremely unwise to rest a lot of the weight of your politics on aesthetics.

I agree completely with this criticism of Adbusters. I haven't looked at Adbusters for a couple of years, but the feeling I had looking at Adbusters in the past was "desensitization."

With it's slick design, and clever images it felt to me like it turned "outrage" into just one more image to consume. Perhaps more importantly, it seemed to far from having a positive vision. It had targets, but I never had a sense of an alternative. If it wanted people to replace mindless consumerism with something else, the magazine seemed too well suited for reading alone in your apartment. The knowledge or pleasure that it prommised (in my vague memory) was of being smarter and cleverer in consuming pop culture.

Did anyone here ever read mediamantic?

And I think aesthetics just can't be the major part of one's politics.

I disagree but, at least sometimes, I have a very broad definition of "aesthetics" -- encompasing not just beauty, but a complete image of a "life well lived."

It seems to be that politics in its most basic form is tribalism and you either have to make tribalism work for you (unions?), or you need a vision that goes beyond tribalism, and I think aesthetics are a big part of that.

On the other hand, when I think about the process of how politics actually happen, I become suspicious that any abstract idea can move political change and that, perhaps, is where Frowner is coming from. If the premise of your plan for political change is, like adbuster, to start by giving people something to think about (to "interrogate" in the language of the academy, which seems grotesque now) is there any step 2?


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:47 AM
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Well, there's no quetion but that working retail sucks. Sorry, Thanatos, if you're stuck with it. Maybe 90% of jobs suck, and even though I've liked law, Belle Lettre has a compelling argument for avoiding it her blog.

I'm not sure, Thanatos, what you'd have those of us who do not own retail establishments do. My personal solution: buying very little in the way of goods, and those mostly over the internet, isn't a very good idea for you. If it's just sympathy, you've got that, although there are plenty of people in worse straits. (As I type, I'm listening to the Robbie Robertson song about Leonard Peltier. Makes my problems seem pretty petty).

On the durability point, I don't think there's necessarily a market failure here. As sb says, there are nearly always options to cheap junk, and they cost more. Cuz they're better. On some quality/aesthetic axis(es). As for creating a culture that abhors waste, I'm not sure there's any way to do this other than to have a Depression. In which case, I'd call the cure worse than the disease . . .


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:48 AM
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60: Frowner, I appreciate the time you took to detail your discomfort with adbusters' anti women vibe, I couldn't find the words myself but I think you nailed it.

Well, actually, I *do* know. I work, and know a lot of people who work retail and at least where I was, none of us chose to be up a 4 AM and none of us received bonus wages.

The (tourist) town I live in has an unofficial policy - the tourists tend to be busy between 2 and 5pm, ie not shopping, so all the retailers ask their staff to take 3 unpaid hours off during the day. And no one gets breaks, because hey, you've got 3 hours off. I doesn't do much good to switch employers, they all have figured out that they don't want to pay staff when they don't have to.



Posted by: Penny | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:48 AM
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65: Kierkegaard said something similar, but he didn't have politics in mind.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:52 AM
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so all the retailers ask their staff to take 3 unpaid hours off during the day. And no one gets breaks, because hey, you've got 3 hours off.

Ugggh.

That seems far worse to me than people working horrible hours during the holiday hours. Partially because, as heebie said upthread, it's constant rather than seasonal, and partially because you could imagine it being presented in a way that obscured the raw power politics of it ("And you have time off during the day to run errands" rather than "we can force you to work whatever hours we want, no matter how bad." which it is).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:52 AM
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On some quality/aesthetic axis(es). As for creating a culture that abhors waste, I'm not sure there's any way to do this other than to have a Depression. In which case, I'd call the cure worse than the disease . . .

Worse for a lot of people, better for the planet and for our descendants.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:57 AM
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I'm not sure, Thanatos, what you'd have those of us who do not own retail establishments do.

I can't speak for Thanatos, but B's blog recently linked to a somewhat-related campaign, with some simple tips for people who travel and stay in hotels.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 10:57 AM
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And speaking of Leonard Peltier, I will NEVER forgive Bill Clinton for failing to pardon him. It was the right thing to do, but became all the more so when FBI agents marched on the WH. Everyone knows (and therefore it might even be true) that the FBI leaked like a sieve in the Starr period, and so one is left to wonder whether the Pres was worried about some other shoe. Again, a reason to do it, not to refrain from doing it.


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 11:05 AM
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there are nearly always options to cheap junk, and they cost more. Cuz they're better. On some quality/aesthetic axis(es).

My issue is more that these axis are badly filled out. It's often hard to find something well build and functional, but not particularly fancy or expensive. So you can get cheap ugly and short lived, more expensive and short lived, or very expensive, pretty, and sometimes long lived. This latter is artificially expensive due to boutique production and marketing, not out of fundamental costs, and sometimes still designed to fail.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 11:06 AM
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92 is correct. You cannot get something cheap ugly and long-lived. Unless you get things that are already 30 years old as I am trying to do from my parents and grandparents.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 11:11 AM
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Further to 92: It is darned hard -- especially if you can't easily shop on the Internet -- to find a non-electric phone. Around these parts, that means that when your electricity goes out in a thunderstorm, you have no phone. Very unsettling, and I keep a 1970s-era "Property of Bell Telephone Co." phone for just that reason.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 11:12 AM
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My grandmother's rotary phone is still in her house. My aunt owns the house now, and the pepto-bismol pink phone is still there and still working. They've replaced the fridge, but the old one ran for at least 30 years before dying.

My parents have now been married long enough that stuff they bought when they first married, like refrigerators and washing machines and other large appliances, are showing their age. And I just know the replacements won't last nearly as long, meaning they'll be replacing expensive pieces on a retirement "income."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 11:26 AM
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The "these goddamn newfangled things don't last" sentiment can be carried too far, though. My mother swears that her kitchen counters are made of a kind of linoleum (?) with a hardness, durability, whatever, that is impossible to get today. Unfortunately, these counters are a color of light peachy-orange that is instantly datable to the early fifties. She will decorate her entire kitchen according to this palette for the rest of her life, purely out of stubborn thriftiness.

They've redone all the bedrooms at great expense and they do look very nice, but my mother spends about 70% of her time in the kitchen, which is the heart of the house. You'd think that would be a high priority room...


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 11:34 AM
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91: I find it easy to be disappointed by the failure to exercise the pardon power, and offended when it is exercised to excuse the offenses of the rich and useful, but can't get as worked up about Peltier as you. No President -- not Abraham H. Christ, not Franklin Delano Pericles, not Ronald Wilson Aurelius, certainly not Jubilation T. Cornpone -- is likely to pardon somebody convicted of killing federal agents, however unjustly, except long after the case has passed from living memory (i.e., Jefferson Davis).


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 11:35 AM
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I have not found 94 to be true. We picked one up a couple years ago, most cheap $10 touch tone radio shack phones are non-electric. That is, they don't have a separate power cord, they use electricity but only that supplied through the phone line- if your electric is off but phone is still working, they'll work.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 11:36 AM
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Of all the hypothetical presidents in 97, I like FDP the best.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 11:38 AM
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This thread is hilarious, with the occasional prole popping up to disrupt the bourgeois aestheticism.

If your politics is pretty or self-gratifying or morally comfortable, it means you ain't doing it right.

Property is theft. Revolution now.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 11:52 AM
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Formica, I bet.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 11:53 AM
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97 -- They were considering it, and the situation with the other people involved in the same incident raises more than enough question about the man's guilt. And it's not like he was just locked up a year before, or never served a day, or anything. The sentence could be commuted as a way of cleaning up old business.

Maybe his wife will do better. I'm not very optimistic. Huh, I see now, looking at wikipedia, that David Geffen is ahead of me on that.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:00 PM
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What I find amusing is the stylized reproduction of the old black rotary phone. So retro chic, and "the vintage design conceals a host of conveniences."


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:04 PM
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102: Politicians tell people they are considering many things.

100: Get a haircut, hippie.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:06 PM
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link in 103 fixed.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:09 PM
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Sou biscuit is right in 92.

For a lot of things there just isn't a 'good, functional, long lasting' option any more except if you go 'boutique' and even expensive boutique items can be surprisingly shoddy.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:11 PM
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104.1 -- Yeah, and I have a long list of things for which I do not intend to forgive various politicians.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:14 PM
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The link in 103 shows a failure of imagination.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:18 PM
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108 is bitchin. But no sms!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:21 PM
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Retail proles are supposed to be stealing from their employers, just like I did.

refrigerators and washing machines and other large appliances... I just know the replacements won't last nearly as long

The tradeoff is that old fridges use freon, old washing machines uses huge amounts of water and beat the shit out of clothes, old appliances are generally energy-inefficient, etc. Our (expensive) replacements have likely paid for themselves in reduced utility bills.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:23 PM
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108 would not fit in my bag. On the other hand, could potentially be used as a lethal weapon.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:23 PM
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108 is great. Make also had a post about hooking up an old handset to a cell phone, IIRC.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:25 PM
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110: This is a real trade off. However, even now washing machines in particular in the US tend to be inefficient top-loaders, and it is still hard to find front-loaders. If you do get one it's likely to be a bit more expensive, but should last longer. Better on your clothes, and less (or zero) dryer needed too so that should pay for itself over time.

The older appliances were more expensive, relatively, too. There is no fundamental reason why the new machines couldn't last as long, and cost a bit more than they do now.

The trade offs aren't universal either. Most kitchen mixing machines you can buy now are worse that what was available 30-50 years ago.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:30 PM
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it's likely to be a bit more expensive

I was very frustrated in late 2005 to find that all my Consumer-Reports-ing was for naught, as the best top-loaders were $550-600, and the only front-loaders were $~1100. I just couldn't afford it, even though it was crystal-clear that they were much better. Argh.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:34 PM
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it is still hard to find front-loaders.

This hasn't exactly been my experience, though it's certainly true that top-loaders outnumber the front-loaders. But our local Sears, for example, offers several choices of front-loading machines. We bought the second-cheapest one that was Energy Star rated and are very happy with it.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:34 PM
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the only front-loaders were $~1100

! Yikes. I guess our suburban-Cleveland Sears is more urbane yet democratic than I thought.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:35 PM
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Where are all the people who start work at 5 am going to shop? Hmmm? Who's going to stand up for them?


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:36 PM
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60 & 65 regarding Adbusters:

easily six out of ten of their covers are sort of sex-and-hate pictures of young women--smeared, you know, with lipstick because lipstick is gross; or looking vapid while clutching a designer bag or something.

Taking this randomly as a general assessment of what's wrong with the magazine: yes. On the other hand, on the other hand, surely the idea is to superimpose this over what you see on the cover of your latest glossy mag in the store: sex and hate, right there. Do you want to say that it wrongly vilifies women who participate in this?

Left designers here often believe that design can provide political critique of capitalist design. They don't want their products to forward the system.

It's a real problem, actually. Left stuff needs design in order to be visible now--just look at those fancy new Verso titles. But we can't just be offering one more product in the marketplace, like it doesn't matter if you buy a political book or a new pair of shoes.

I think it has to be a question of emphasis. Adbusters is very much about aesthetics (the aesthetics of your personal life, the aesthetics of the magazine) as a political gesture; that's what underpins them. And I think aesthetics just can't be the major part of one's politics.

I agree. Not the major part of one's politics. Unfortunately, however, the aesthetic driven by mainstream advertising is indeed a major part of many people's lives. There's a cognitive disjunction. Show the advertising for the ugliness that it is, and you've made a bit of progress, if only in terms of making people disgusted with themselves for being seduced by it.

I don't disagree with anything you've said; certainly the glossiness of the magazine threw me, and it undermines itself. Tell me how to get people off this mind-grid, people who are allegedly on the same page sociopolitically, and I'll be more willing to consider the Adbusters magazine to be a failed gesture.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:37 PM
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115: I probably should have added the caveat that it's been a few years since I was involved in a search, so this may be getting better.

I know several European families that have a high spin front loader and no dryer at all, and seem to manage just fine. Probably a lot better for your clothes, but you need somewhere to hang them after for a little bit.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:37 PM
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110: You people are crazy. On the whole, you're more likely to find nice, cheap, and long-lasting today. Things were expensive in yesteryear.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:39 PM
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114: Ouch. Yes, this is the problem. Some places seem to have more selection, so the last time a friend bought one of these it was at 40% premium, not nearly 100% as you note.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:40 PM
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120 is absolutely insane. Things are certainly cheaper. Sometimes dramtically so for what you get (cf automobiles). But planned obscolescence is central to our economy and it is very, very difficult to buy things that last at a reasonable price. Even when there is no fundamental reason behind it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:41 PM
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But planned obscolescence is central to our economy and it is very, very difficult to buy things that last at a reasonable price.

Like what? I change electronics, furniture, tableware, cars, and (usually) even clothes for taste, not need.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:46 PM
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I wonder how much of this "new stuff is crap, old stuff r00ls" is down to selection effect. Sure, by definition anything old that's survived until now is likely to be bomb-proof, but what percentage of the consumer goods produced 50 years ago did that stuff represent?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:48 PM
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Most of us probably sleep on nicer beds than we had when we were younger.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:50 PM
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Then how do you know, tim, if anything actually is long-lasting?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:50 PM
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Like what?

Toaster ovens, as mentioned above. I had a very nice one (I thought) given to me as a gift. When it died after less than three years, I called small-appliance repair shops, the manufacturer, searched the manual, and went online. No such thing as repair. The guy at the shop actually laughed at me. Go buy a new one, he said.

I couldn't believe how guilty I felt that I couldn't come up with any alternate uses for the broken one. And when I went to buy new -- prices from $100-220, depending on how many fancy features. But mostly thin, lightweight metal and all made to be disposable.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:51 PM
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$100 for a toaster oven? My Oster one is fabulous (even used it instead of any other cooking device for several impoverished months) and it wasn't nearly that high. I don't have a microwave, so I depend on my toaster oven a great deal.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:55 PM
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124 is right.

Tip: if you live in or near a metro area, you should be able to shop for appliances in the scratch-and-dent section of several retailers. Most of the time, the scratches and dents are negligible, and you can save big money. We have fancy-schmancy European appliances (Asko) purchased this way, and in addition to their low electricity and water consumption, they're wondrously easy to fix when something goes wrong.

On preview: Witt gets at the real problem, which is the class of relatively inexpensive stuff that's cheaper to replace than to fix.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:55 PM
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Toaster ovens are $100? Good lord! I'd better take care of mine (procured at the Goodwill for $20, if I remember).

Is there really an argument about planned obsolescence?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:56 PM
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123: but that was the point above. We've internalized the idea that we ought to just toss things, which is inherently wasteful. If you choose to try and avoid this, you don't have many options.

Eventually, it'll fall down under it's own weight, but for now we have an economy, and society, largely built on overconsumption.

124: I never said `new stuff is crap, old stuff rools', in fact I was careful to avoid it (see `while avoiding fetishizing the past'). I'm pointing out that durability and longevity are not really a design criteria, in fact it is often the other way around. There is also a difference between `not designed to last', and `designed to fail after 18 months'. Culturally, along with the idea of living in debt, we have absorbed this as normal --- but that was a choice, a shift in values.

This value system is inconsistent with sane environmental and energy policies. It's quite possible to lament that fact without actually pining away for the 1700s or anything. I want all our industrial process knowhow redirected in more sustainable ways, not a return to days of yore.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 12:57 PM
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127: If only your grandmother hadn't left her old, dependable toaster oven to your brother.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:00 PM
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I used to have some 1940s shoes I bought at a vintage sale. They were new (old warehouse stock) and I wore those fuckers into the ground. It took me years, even though I took terrible care of them: I didn't polish them regularly and would wear them for days in a row with no day off to air and recover. I had to have them resoled, of course, but they were built to easily permit that. New shoes that I wear as often as that generally wear out in some nonfixable way in just a season or two.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:02 PM
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Toaster ovens were $100 at Bed Bath & Beyond, or $80 if you had one of the 20% coupons. Probably less if I had hiked (not literally) to the Kmart.

What got me especially angry was being told that the manufacturers are legally allowed to do two different versions of the same product (same model number and everything) and yet make one version more shoddy and lightweight. Walmart then stocks the latter as if it is the very same one as the more expensive place down the street.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:03 PM
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two different versions of the same product (same model number and everything) and yet make one version more shoddy and lightweight.

Just like Chuck Taylors, man. Buyer beware.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:06 PM
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This thread is hilarious, with the occasional prole popping up to disrupt the bourgeois aestheticism.

I loved how it went from caring about the low wage employees to how fast the crap you buy wears out.

US consumer purchases are approximately 70 percent of the US economy - if you don't think you have input into that decision to open at 4am, pay entry level wages and scrimp on benefits, you're wrong.

Friday wasn't a federal holiday, so no overtime or holiday benefits apply - it was straight hourly rate labor. In a right to work state, refusing to work a 4am opening means you voluntarily resigned, so no unemployment while you look for a new job.

What can you do to encourage change? Buy local, buy handmade, search out durable goods, and encourage others to do the same. Communicate with companies that you buy from and tell them you're monitoring how they treat their staff.

Any of those things would help, and pushing it through all of the related communities associated with the site would help even more.


Posted by: tantalus | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:06 PM
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Walmart then stocks the latter as if it is the very same one as the more expensive place down the street.

This is largely the fault of Walmarts pressure on those manufacturers, and the joint lobbying. It really, really shouldn't be legal though.


133: This has largely been the death of shoe repair as an industry. When you get away from technical shoes (i.e. there has clearly been benefits in running shoes, etc) overall day-to-day shoe quality is much lower on average than it used to be, because expectations have changed.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:07 PM
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137b: I know it. I worry because I have never encountered a young cobbler. In ten years, will it be impossible to get shoes repaired at all?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:09 PM
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expectations have changed

People wish to buy the newest, latest style in shoes every so-called season, so the shoes don't need to last. It makes me laugh.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:12 PM
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138: A few years ago I talked to an old european cobbler about this. He had given up looking for an apprentice. He said there was some limited interest, but the way things were going he didn't see a future in it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:14 PM
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I don't know anyone who buys new shoes for every season's styles. Maybe you hang out with wealthy people?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:15 PM
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140 was perhaps ambiguous. The cobbler I talked to was european, but an immigrant who had been in the US for 30 years or so. I don't know what things are like this way in most parts of europe.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:18 PM
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the expectations I was thinking about were less of the `throw it out when I'm bored with it' varied SCMT claimed, or chasing fashion, than with the idea that you buy a pair of shoes and wear them until they break or wear thin in the sole, then you replace them. Many people seem to think getting a year or maybe two out of a pair of shoes is par for the course (probably longer for most women, I'd guess), and that resoling etc. is a thing of the past.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:21 PM
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Shoes (and all clothes), I find, are worth buying in the mid-range prices. Spend too little on shoes and they're basically disposable. Spend too much and they tend to belong to fleeting weird fashions. I have a pair of Steve Maddens I got in 1994 that are still totally comfortable and in great condition, and they're classic enough that they're not unwearably out of fashion, either. I think my mom has adopted them.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:22 PM
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141: I don't know anyone who does that either, but the proliferation of shoe stores and people on the street all wearing the same style of shoe in a given year indicates that many people do do that.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:23 PM
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144: I was complaining the other day of finding a lot of mid-range mens clothing had lousy stitching, etc. Frustrating. Maybe I just don't know where to look, or maybe womens clothing is less like this.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:24 PM
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The fact that people speak in terms of the brand name of their shoes and whether they're out of fashion also indicates that people think in these terms.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:25 PM
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Oh no, women's clothing is very much like this.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:25 PM
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146, 148: And also what Becks was talking about in a post recently -- clothes aren't lined. I have maybe a dozen pairs of pants I can wear to work, and one of them is lined. So I end up having to buy long underwear.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:29 PM
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147: Well, aside from tying ropes to your feet for sandals and sewing your own clothes, it is worth reading a label when you find a piece of clothing you can wear for ten years without it falling apart.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:29 PM
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Oh, I know, I should read the labels more.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:31 PM
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150 also applies to children's clothing and shoes. There's a lot of crap out there, it's worth knowing which brands are more reliable.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:34 PM
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152: I think a piece of it is philosophical too. In the same way that the idea that every child should have his/her own bedroom has become normalized as the middle-class ideal, handmedowns have gotten more stigmatized, I think.

My parents certainly expected to get more than one child's wear out of clothes, but I've heard people express the sentiment that it's not really "clean" or "nice" to have secondhand. Even if it's their own children! Seems extreme.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:38 PM
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153: hence the consumptive society.

We have absorbed, or are in the process of absorbing as a society a set of attitudes towards goods that are completely dependent on externalized costs that don't scale well at all.

but we've got lots of stuff.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 1:42 PM
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My parents did a lot of the hand-me-down thing when we were younger. It seemed to stop around the point when we kids stayed the same size for more than a school year. I'm not sure if it would be violating expectations these days to do handmedowns; there seems to be a lot more aggressive marketing to elementary schoolers.

I have had shoes resoled, and will eventually on two pairs of boots that I have, but by and large, the shoe breaks down to the extent that doing so isn't worthwhile.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 2:05 PM
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I've heard people express the sentiment that it's not really "clean" or "nice" to have secondhand.

Bizarre.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 2:09 PM
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There's a whole hand-me-down network here in the Slope. Sure, there are a few parents who buy designer duds for the kids, but they're sort of shunned. Most of the kids you see around here are not in fashionable clothes the way Manhattan tots are.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 2:10 PM
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156: That's an attitude my college students have, which I think is just a product of going to high school in the aughts. I mentioned to them that all my clothes that day were from secondhand shops, and several of them involuntarily made faces and went, "Ew!" The pendulum will swing again, and is already, I think.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 2:13 PM
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Especially since the kids are related, and might have only worn the item in question a few times before outgrowing it. The longest-lasting handmedowns growing up were always those velvet Christmas dresses. If you were to look at snapshots from my family's Christmases over a fifteen year period, you would see the dresses popping up on daughter after daughter, year after year.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 2:14 PM
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I thought it was cute that Max's younger son was so eager to inherit his older brother's clothes. The older brother would become deeply emotionally attached to, say, a pair of orange pants, and would wear them until they nearly cut off his circulation. Then, one day, I came over and found the little brother, nostrils flared with pride, marching around in the coveted orange pants, rolled at the cuff, while the older brother sulked in the corner in his new Old Navy cargos.

The thing I learned about kids from watching them is that kids invest value in whatever the people around them are most proud of.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 2:21 PM
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I get plenty of pushback from my son on stuff in general, but never any re: hand-me-downs from his sister (non-gendered items, like snowboarding stuff) and now me (skates, gloves). It's totally normal. The hand-me-downs my daughter got from my neice, regularly until she was 10 or so, were high quality French kids clothes. Lesson: encourage siblings to marry rich and have kids first.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 2:23 PM
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The thing I learned about kids from watching them is that kids invest value in whatever the people around them are most proud of.

If you had read any Stendhal, you would already have known that.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 2:25 PM
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[Imagine a tongue-sticking-out emoticon here.]


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 2:27 PM
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We have absorbed, or are in the process of absorbing as a society a set of attitudes towards goods that are completely dependent on externalized costs that don't scale well at all.

This is the crux of the issue. David Shenk states that the average American receives 3,000 marketing messages a day in his book, Data Smog - I suspect the actual number is much higher now.

In any other context, we'd call that brainwashing.


Posted by: tantalus | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 2:44 PM
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164 -- Then one more won't matter: everyone should go buy all the D. Shenk books they can find.

I wouldn't say we're brainwashed, exactly. Many of the messages are at cross-purposes, and most are pretty transparent.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 2:52 PM
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Many of the messages are at cross-purposes, and most are pretty transparent.

I dunno; transparent doesn't mean ineffective. There's been a fair amount of research concluding that free pens and tote bags and memo pads actually influence doctors' prescriptions.

Maybe I'm just cranky because they've started to put ads on the ceiling of commuter trains. You can't even lean your head back to rest without being confronted by Coca-Cola.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 2:57 PM
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We recently tried to give away a deluxe used baby stroller in more or less perfect condition. Around here you just set stuff out next to the street and if someone wants it they take it. It sat for at least two weeks untill we realized we'd have to junk it. With babies especially I think people take pride in buying all new stuff.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 3:01 PM
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I had a little laugh about 167 because we gave our jogging stroller to a cousin who lives in NYC. With her husband D. Shenk.

I'm kind of surprised Woebegonians would go in for waste on this scale.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 3:07 PM
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The thing I learned about kids adults from watching them is that kids adults invest value in whatever the people around them are most proud of.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 3:10 PM
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167: That's strange. People do get a lot of stuff like strollers and so on as presents at showers, or handed down within extended families, but you'd think someone would be interested. At my office people bring in outgrown baby clothes for each other's kids, and there are cribs that have been going around my family for a couple of generations. The anti-handmedown pressure starts in school.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 3:12 PM
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Flippanter is another person who could benefit from some Stendhal.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 3:15 PM
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The thing I learned about kids little sisters from watching them is that kids invest value in whatever the people around them are most proud of an older sister happens to have at the moment.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 3:23 PM
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Watch out, shivbunny!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 3:24 PM
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Each one contributes to shifting attitude norms from "I can (and should be able to) get that at the library" to "I can pick up the new Shenk at Barnes & Nobel" to "Honey look, I stumbled across the new Shenk at WordsWorth and brought it home."

Ultimately the message is the same - consume. The economic outcome in each scenario matters.


Posted by: tantalus | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 3:32 PM
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Ben w-lfs-n could benefit from a reading of The Sotadic Zone.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 3:43 PM
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167: untill we realized we'd have to junk it

You don't have freecycle in Woebegonia?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 3:47 PM
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Wow, I never heard of freecycle before. Looks like a great thing.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 3:52 PM
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The curb is the freecycle. There are also garage sales where you sell $50 stuff for $2. Recycling is thriving here.

Thinking it over, maybe there just weren't expectant people driving by, or maybe people just figured that we'd parked it out front and were still using it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 3:53 PM
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You don't have freecycle

Freecycle is awesome as is Craigslist.

For artisans and crafters I like Etsy and the Craftmafia folk because they are often women, so it feels like my money works even harder.


Posted by: tantalus | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 4:00 PM
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I must say that half of the stuff around here is picked up off the curb or the alley over time. That excellent white wicker chair, the cheapo cheesy "baker's rack" ... the lovely old wooden library card catalog drawers that house my CDs were rescued from a dumpster at the university.

It's a patchwork. House Beautiful would cringe.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 4:08 PM
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I had a little laugh about 167 because we gave our jogging stroller to a cousin who lives in NYC. With her husband D. Shenk.

Nápi, that is funny - I agree that his book is worth reading, whether option you chose. I just don't try to kid myself that the cover price is the true cost, and whenever I can, I'd prefer to go direct to the artist/author/producer.


Posted by: tantalus | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 4:10 PM
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maybe there just weren't expectant people driving by

This is a great, great phrase.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 4:10 PM
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Witt, where did you hear that fact about Walmart? That's something that I just knew had to be true, but I've never heard it stated as fact before.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 4:11 PM
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Dsquared isn't around, so I'm going to play him for the purposes of this thread. Workers are probably the only people to benefit from stores opening at 4am. The stores don't benefit, since they have to be open longer but sell the same amount of stuff they would if they just opened at 7am. Since the stores are motivated by making money and not to reward people who wait up all night in line, the people who wait don't get better deals than if the sales just started at 7. The fact that there are now more hours of minimum-wage labor to be had has got to benefit some worker somewhere, either someone who gets overtime, or some part-timer who gets to work more hours than they ordinarily would.

I suspect that labor is one of the beneficiaries of planned obsolescence, as well. Planned obscelescence increases the amount of all inputs used to produce a product, including labor.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 4:21 PM
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they have to be open longer but sell the same amount of stuff they would if they just opened at 7am.

Assumes facts not in evidence.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 4:23 PM
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Freestores are also a great concept. One was launched in this area not long ago.

I'm not sure how prevalent they are; the first one I encountered was in British Columbia. Basic idea is just that people drop off stuff and other people take them, all free. More rural areas have had such things for a long time.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 4:27 PM
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. Since the stores are motivated by making money and not to reward people who wait up all night in line, the people who wait don't get better deals than if the sales just started at 7.

The stores wouldn't be opening at 4am if it were just for the benefit of the workers. dsquared would be in there right quick telling them they were losing money!

Open at 4am: sell out of the teaser items quickly, get free publicity due to all the maroons out there in long lines and the elderly greeters getting crushed by all the fanatic crowds, and when everyone else wanders in at 7am, oops, we're out of that deal you wanted, but here's a similar item at 10% off! Spend spend spend.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 4:28 PM
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186: It's like Book Thing for stuff. Neat.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 4:31 PM
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The stores open at 4am because if they didn't, their competitor would, and get all of the business from the thrift-minded. At this point, if store doesn't participate in the Black Friday madness, they would get crushed.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 4:44 PM
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Why would they sell more than if they opened at 7am, and had the exact same sales?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 4:45 PM
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186: Parsimon that is very cool, thank you for sharing it.

189: The most egregious Black Friday offenders are national big-box chains, not local retail outlets. Crushing hasn't happened yet, although I agree they are putting an increasing pressure on local retailers to mirror their tactics.


Posted by: tantalus | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 5:05 PM
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The correct means to improve the lives of the wage slaves forced to go in at 4:00 a.m. hasn't yet been mentioned. What you should do is go shopping on Black Friday, and TIP THE HELP. Perhaps slip the cahsier half of what you save on the special discounts. It's not standard, and it might be against store rules, but it's doable. You'll make someone's day and you might make a family's Christmas.

Consuming less (or ordering on line instead of shopping) will only get the local proletariat laid off.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 5:09 PM
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Consuming less (or ordering on line instead of shopping) will only get the local proletariat laid off.

unimaginative, consuming less is not equivalent to ordering online. Eh?

That said, don't be daft here: consuming less is in the interest of the planet. It has to go hand in hand (or fist in glove) with alternative means of providing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 5:20 PM
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Consuming less is eqivalent to ordering online only in their effect on the local proletariat.

On the rest, I'm responding to one argument above and not others. Generally true that consuming less is better for the planet. However, replacing the pre-1980 appliances with modern ones will improve the planet a bit. Also replacing any large car with a smaller hybrid.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 5:30 PM
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I've given away quite a bit on Freecycle. It suffers from a fair percentage of ungrateful shitebags, though. By which I don't mean people being insufficiently obsequious, but people turning up and being rude fucks. Or not turning up at all, or continually and flakily rearranging when they are going to turn up, etc. It's still a great idea, but human nature does render it slightly flawed.

These days, if I am giving stuff away, I give it away via a university newsgroup.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 5:55 PM
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they have to be open longer but sell the same amount of stuff they would if they just opened at 7am.

IME, watching the boss plan her strategies, people really do spend a lot more if there's some wacky false sense of "we really had to go to extreme lengths to get to the sale" which is why the retailers do it, (although I'd never heard of the 4am opening.)

John, I'm shocked no one took the stroller. Buying 1st hand baby items is painful, unless you really can't find them any other way. When I had my kid last year I got hit with a wave of boxes of clothes that has been making its way around town since the 80's. I've got clothes for every size until he's about 5, and I just about cried, they're such beautiful clothes. I thought maybe all small towns were like this. I'm sorry to hear it stops when they're in school.

The theatre I sometimes work at builds its own shoes. The place takes some hits for being overly precious, but in 50 years there'll be people who know how to construct shoes, and the ones they make are recycled constantly and do not wear out.



Posted by: Penny | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 6:10 PM
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The theatre I sometimes work at builds its own shoes. The place takes some hits for being overly precious, but in 50 years there'll be people who know how to construct shoes, and the ones they make are recycled constantly and do not wear out.

I find this enormously cheering.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 6:19 PM
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Vaguely related to this topic -- does anyone have any recommendations for where to get replacement china? I'm trying to find it for someone who wants a Wedgwood pattern once sold by Williams-Sonoma.

(I have had better results from craigslist than freecycle. I think there isn't a good critical mass for free cycle in my area.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 6:20 PM
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Uh, there's a replacement china website out there somewhere. For matching pieces. I'm not finding it; a friend used it a couple of years ago.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 6:36 PM
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Replacements, Ltd.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 6:40 PM
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TIP THE HELP

At a big box? Sounds like a good way to get the cashier fired.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 6:49 PM
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Replacements has the best inventory but can be really expensive. If you have the time, eBay is usually much, much cheaper. (My mom fleshed out the 8 piece china set she inherited into a 12 piece set through eBay and Replacements. She said the difference was staggering.)


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 7:09 PM
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where did you hear that fact about Walmart?

I'm not finding the definitive source. Anecdata reprinted in Business Week (here) and various online forums (here, and elsewhere there is also quite a lot of discussion by gun enthusiasts). Also some product reviews that seem to suggest there is a hidden difference in model "number" that shows it is a lower tier/made-for-Walmart-or-Sam's-Club version (e.g. product review and comments here.)

I think I originally read it in a book, though. Which seems right -- I wouldn't have thought it was as reputable if I hadn't seen it actually in print.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 7:11 PM
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200, 202: Thanks. Both of those are on my radar screen; I was/am hoping to get any and all ideas people have. For some reason this relatively recent pattern is devilishly hard to get. There was no notice given before it was discontinued, which is part of the problem, I suspect.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 7:13 PM
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If someone finds out I've been tipped, I get canned. Same as when I worked at Wal-Mart, but not the same as when I worked at the local coffee shop. Different traditions and standard operating procedures, I guess.

The best way to handle something like Black Friday for someone like me, aside from serious activism, is pretty much to be polite and understanding when shit goes sour (as it always does). If there are 500 people in line, that means things aren't going to go as planned, because it really exceeds the amount of work floor monkeys like me can deal with.

What astounded me were the people who felt entitled to super-fast, super-polite, and super-competent service simply because they'd waited in line for four hours before a store opened. I'd just caution people who do attempt to take advantage of sales like that to recognize the scale of what people in the store are trying to deal with.

Remember, if you waited in line for four hours, the person on the other end of the counter has listened to the demands of every person in that line.


Posted by: Thanatos02 | Link to this comment | 11-25-07 9:01 PM
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In Massachusetts, supermarket workers (don't know about other retail) get time and a half on Sundays. It's a remnant of the Blue Laws, and he law is probably unconstitutional, but I'm in no hurry to change it.

Supermarkets are also banned from opening on Thanksgiving day and Christmas, though Blockbuster video can open on Thanksgiving. I think that WF once tried to open for part of a Thanksgiving day and they did pay double-time. You'd have to pay me at least 5 times a normal rate for me to not be incredibly resentful about having to work on Thanksgiving.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:01 AM
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What astounded me were the people who felt entitled to super-fast, super-polite, and super-competent service simply because they'd waited in line for four hours before a store opened.

There's a really evil dynamic where businesses set up their customer service employees to be unable to provide decent service, and then leave them hanging to take the inevitable abuse from unhappy customers. My mother loved being a flight attendant in the seventies and early eighties, but by the time she retired in the early 00s, sincerely hated passengers, because they were consistently hostile and unpleasant. And of course the passengers are hostile and unpleasant because the airlines have been jerking them around and abusing them, and they pass it on to the flight attendants because that's the personification of the airline they can get their hands on, so it's understandable, but that doesn't mean it's not very difficult to deal with.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:11 AM
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where businesses set up their customer service employees to be unable

Isn't this the very essence of managing? Mgmnt decides policy, peons fail to implement the brilliant idea of a steam-powered airplane, or friendly and profitable U-mix-it bartending, or whatever.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:04 AM
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This isn't that different from how Unfogged works. Ogged claps his hands, and he expects us to be interesting on whatever dumb subject he's picked out.. He's managing us, that bastard.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:52 PM
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