Have you ever wondered what the world’s most contagious disease is? It starts with a C but it’s not cancer! It is a word that many people in this world don’t seem to believe in: consumerism. While the Oxford dictionary defines it as “the promotion of the consumer’s interests” I choose to describe it simply as the need for more and more and more. Every manufacturer, every multinational company out there is using this simple word to control how we spend our money and what we buy. We are mere puppets in this huge game between multinational companies. But it’s time we cut those strings and break out of the prison of barcodes.

The Trap

The next time you go to a super market or retail store, like Debenhams or Tesco look out for the following things and I am sure you will finally hear the pleading cries from your Gucci wallet saying “Should’ve gone to Specsavers!” Have you ever seen a clock in any of these stores? How about windows? Ever wondered why you always shop more than the shopping list? They are called a “super” market for a reason! I am afraid to tell you that you have been duped, deluded and deceived all these years.

The reason there is no clock or window is because the company wants you to completely immerse yourself in the shopping, so much so that you do not realise how long you have spent in the shop itself. All the latest products are kept straight at the front of the shop to attract you to it: just like the chocolates in the front area of Tesco, the delightfully appealing scents of the perfumes and deodorants in a Debenhams, how about the glinting jewellery that blinds you into a Pandora? Ever wondered why shops have a “Buy one - Get one free sale” instead of actually reducing the price? These shops work on something known as shoppers’ psychology. Reducing the price and then increasing it would stir up a question regarding the shop’s profit margin, and offers look more attractive to us buyers than a reduction of price. We all go into shops knowing exactly what we want to buy – the basics like milk, bread, eggs, etc. But these basics are always at the back of the store, which means that you have to walk all the way through various other products before you reach what you actually needed. How about kids products, like toys or chocolates? They are always lower in the shelves so that children can pick them up, and then do what they usually do – show their best Puss in Boots face and say “Pretyy Pweeese!!” which forces you to place the item in the shopping trolley. Eventually this leads to a miraculous Mount Everest forming in your trolley, whose weight is only felt by your wallet. These are the traps that we are unknowingly falling into.

“Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites." – William Ruckelshaus 

A normal human being in the 21st century has his/her basic needs, such as water, shelter, sunlight, the iPhone 11 Pro, a Netflix subscription, a double quarter pounder with extra cheese, a Krispy Kreme, a Puma jumper, etc. If we control ourselves and rid ourselves of this materialistic pursuit towards life we can deter consumerism. Anywhere we see a SALE! sign we are automatically attracted to it. Black Friday, to name another example, is a day dedicated to being gobbled up by materialistic wants, when nothing is celebrated; nothing is remembered, nothing special whatsoever. A day made to boost sales, made to lure in even those who don’t normally burn their wallets.

Lesson Learnt – Lesser Bought!

“Profit is sweet, even if it comes from deception” said Sophocles. Some people may justify reaping huge profits from marketing methods that may fraud customers, purely because that’s how they make their livings and it does add to the economic value of the country in general, however it is upto us for change. On one hand we talk about reducing, reusing and recycling, while on the other, we cannot find a repair kiosk anywhere nearby. We just buy more and more of the same product. Maybe choose to repair a broken or damaged product instead of simply trashing it and buying another. We need to control ourselves and not be lured away by flashy red sales signs. They are actually signs of danger! We need to believe that one can be rich only with our knowledge and experience and not by possessing branded materials. You will be astonished to know that some smart people have started a new trend to “help” relieve the trauma of consumerism with a new jargon called Swedish Death Cleaning! So if you are worried about yourselves don’t fall into further traps, otherwise even Specsavers can’t save you!

Rathi Ramakrishnan, Nower Hill High School