A Plea for More ‘Considered’ Shopping

This week marks the formal beginning of the US holiday shopping season. Many stores will even be open on Thanksgiving day, as Black Friday expands to swallow the holiday itself. You can be sure that many Americans will be caught up in the frenzy and shopping on Thanksgiving itself (offline and online) as well as throughout the weekend and into “Cyber Monday.”

People will be bombarded with deals and offers: doorbusters and free shipping, cheap TVs, free smartphones and the like. Consumers are excited and eagerly anticipating all this accordingly multiple surveys. PriceGrabber recently reported that people will be shopping throughout the Thanksgiving weekend, drawn mainly by free shipping online and aggressive discounting.

There’s almost an irrational, addictive quality about the whole thing (I feel it myself). People wind up buying things simply because they’re cheap or new or just buying to buy — as part of a kind of shopping game. Witness Amazon’s “Gold Box” hourly and daily deals over the holidays. It’s a sophisticated use of behavioral psychology applied to online shopping.

This past weekend I was cleaning out my 7-year old daughter’s room. She had piles and piles of toys, art supplies, games and stuffed animals absolutely everywhere. It was starting to drive me crazy and make me physically ill when I went into her room.

I removed a huge amount of stuff, and there was still lots of mess and clutter. My guess is that if the things I removed never returned she wouldn’t even notice.

Most Americans have become addicted to cheap products, typically imported. It’s often the case, however, that those items lose their appeal or cease to work after a relatively short period of time. Many times I’ve been lured to buy the “cheaper version” of something only to see it break down or stop working in a few months.

Most of the “showrooming” that will happen this holiday season is about getting the same thing for less. Partly it’s smart shopping and partly it’s about our cultural conditioning to pay less for things regardless of what they are.

We all have too much “stuff,” myself included. We would do a lot better if we bought fewer things and focused more on what we really wanted or needed. If we spent a bit more to buy the “higher quality version,” our things would probably last longer. If we bought fewer things we could spend more on those fewer items as well. If we just bought fewer things we would spend less overall.

While the economy is driven by consumer spending and no marketer or politician will tell you to buy less accordingly, there’s a longer term cost to buying lots of unnecessary, cheap stuff: US jobs lost, stores closed and landfills filled up with little plastic toys typically made in China.

All of this is an argument — which my kids probably wouldn’t agree with — to be more thoughtful about what you buy and how much you spend during the holidays. I’m not saying “don’t buy gifts.” I’m not channeling the Grinch or Scrooge.

I’m just saying buy fewer, higher quality items and be more “considered” about it. After all, how much more “stuff” do you really need?

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4 Responses to “A Plea for More ‘Considered’ Shopping”

  1. Mod Betty / RetroRoadmap.com says at

    Agreed! While I make a concerted effort to shop in mom and pop shops, it’s still a bummer to see almost exclusively imported products – when I see something “Made in the USA” I rejoice, and have been using the holidays as an opportunity to scout out well made local gifts for nieces and nephews, who already  have more toys and gadgets than they know what to do with.

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    It takes conscious effort, sort of like eating well.

  3. Small Business Saturday Allegedly Generates $5.5 Billion in Sales says at

    […] a kind of corollary of my earlier plea to buy fewer, higher quality items and spend less on […]

  4. PamIE says at

    I have been a victim of very much the same situations…especially in that dollar section at Target and I end up buying things for my kids to “make them happy”. Many of these inexpensive items are absolutely unnecessary and just create a lot of junk lying around the house which ultimately get thrown out anyways. I think it is much better to give the gift of time and instead of purchasing these cheap gifts for your kids and other people in your life to spend time playing with them or talking to them instead.

  5. Greg Sterling says at


    Thanks for all your comments to all the different posts. You were very busy this afternoon.

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