Friday, November 26, 2010

Save 100% Today. Pay Retail Tomorrow.

My little appeal isn't going to do anything to slow down American bargain-hunting consumerism. At 1:30 am this morning I was driving up the New York Thruway and there was a traffic jam that extended at least five miles south of Exit 16, where the crowds of SUVs and minivans were all getting off, heading toward the Woodbury Commons outlet stores. After passing Exit 16, I was back to 75 mph and one of the only cars heading North at that ungodly hour. So my little blog post reminding everyone that today is Buy Nothing Day will do nothing to slow the holiday shopping extravaganza. Non-union and overseas sweatshops and minimum-wage big-box-store employees will be kept busy again this year in honor of the holiday which honors Malcolm X on December 25.
With unemployment so high, part of me this year runs against every instinct in my body to consider: Maybe we need maniacal hordes of shopaholic zombies to keep our ailing economy alive. Maybe they are performing a service for which I have no stomach, shoving more and more shit into their oversized vehicles and living spaces. Or maybe not.
Maybe the answer, at least for me, is to commit the cardinal sin of American consumerism: Buy Less but Pay More. Low prices have negative effects on workers and main streets. There's not much I can do about it alone, but on a small level, rather than taking advantage of the coupons coming at me from Borders and Amazon, I have made my last four book purchases at my local independent bookstore, hoping to help keep alive a small main-street business and cultural center. And books (at least most books) have the advantage of being printed in the United States, mostly in industrial areas of the country that are otherwise hurting.

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