Sales are elementally the exchange of needs between a buyer and a seller. Each has something the other wants. For the last few centuries, this has commonly been cash for goods or services. Much of sales are satisfaction of needs for a reasonable price, for goods such as food, clothing, utilities, or shelter. These exchanges are for basic existence, and exist as natural rents.
Many other sales are the choice of buyers at their discretion. If someone is interested in furniture while others are interested in a book collection, who are we to interfere in personal quests for their wants.
Still other sales are the crate ion of needs by advertisers that the sales person is all too happy to satisfy. While this famously applies to kids toys and trinkets, to can also apply to marginal increases in the basic needs above. American consumers have brome convinced and entitled to a large amount of food, soothing, utilities and shelter. As recently as the wealthy 50s, a typical family of four once lived in an 800 sf house, had 40 amp electric service in that small house, rarely went out for meals, and enjoyed 8 ounce cokes with those meals. Now the average house size is over 2,000 sf, with 200 amp service, many families don’t know what to do with their kitchens, and “small” is 20-ounces in many restaurants.
This excess, this plenitude, is the dream of life after all. Our bodies have been wired for billions of years to take advantage of the good thing when we find it. To gorge in times of plenty against the famine that might come tomorrow. It is easy to market to this primordial urge. Just add fear.
But I can choose how afraid I want to be. Just lurching from one sale to the next is a kind of entertainment, but I can think of better, more fulfilling ones.
What would we gain if we shopped more to our needs and had fewer wants. I’ve enjoyed identifying this in myself over that last few years, and asking if the hole in my soul can be filled with more products. Or would it be better filled with more friends, more conversations, more experiences and more writing?
We would save a hell of a lot of many, but would put a lot of people in sales out of business. This is not a trivial recommendation. The America I recommend is not one where consumer spending makes up 70% of the economy. I am not even sure we would not retard progress.
A great impetus for the miraculous advance in medicine in the 20th century was the tremendous amount of money to be made in medicine, after all. This is great if you happen to be in medicine, not so great for the rest of us.
Likewise, what is the cost of the continual pursuit of happiness through retail, when we can find more happiness by other means?