The message from advertisers this holiday season seems to be: buy more because you and your family deserve it. Retailers are hopeful we’ll all spend just a little bit more to make the holidays shiny and bright. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham went to the shopping mall with a guy who thinks we ought to scale back our spending during the
The message from advertisers this holiday season seems to be, buy more because you and your family deserve it. Retailers are hopeful we’ll all spend just a little bit more to make the holidays shiny and bright. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham went to the shopping mall with a guy who thinks we ought to scale back our spending during the holidays:
Bob Lilienfeld is one of the co-authors of a book called Use Less Stuff. As you might guess, he’s an advocate of using fewer resources, including buying less stuff during the holidays. We asked him to meet us at a big shopping mall to talk about why he thinks buying less means more.
Lilienfeld: “I want you to go back to when you were a kid. Think about the two or three things in your life, the things that you did that made you really happy. I guarantee none of those have to do with physical, material gifts. They have to do with time you spent with your family or things you did with your friend. But, it wasn’t the time you said ‘Oh, it was the year I got that train,’ or ‘the year I got those cuff links,’ or ‘when I got those earrings.’ That’s the principle difference. We’re trying so hard to be good and to let people know that we love them, but the things that we love about other people and that they love about us have nothing to do with material goods.”
Graham: “There’s a certain expection during the holidays, though, that we will get something nice for the people we love and here at this mall as we’re looking around, there are lots of enticements to fulfill that expectation.”
Lilienfeld: “That’s true, but we’ve been led to believe that more is better, and to a great extent more gifts is not better than fewer gifts. Quality and quantity are very different kinds of thoughts and we’ve been led to believe economically that quantity is more important. But, in reality it’s the qualitative aspects of life that we long remember and really are the ones we treasure.”
Graham: “Now from the news media, I get the impression that if I don’t do my part during the holidays in shopping, that it’s really going to hurt a lot of Americans, the American economy. $220-billion during the holiday season. It’s 25-percent of retailers’ business. So, if I don’t buy or if I scale back my buying, won’t I be hurting the economy?”
Lilienfeld: “It’s always been 25-percent of retailers’ business, even if you go back 30 or 40 years, and that’s probably not going to change. It comes down to your thinking through what’s good for you, what’s good for your family, what’s good for your friends and not worrying so much about what’s good for the economy and what’s good for big companies.”
Retailers are expecting sales to be better this year than last year. So, that simpler lifestyle that Lilienfeld is talking about is not widespread enough to have any real impact on the overall shopping season. But apparently the economy isn’t strong everywhere.
We talked to some shoppers about their holiday shopping plans and the idea of simplifying things. Many of them told us that the economy was forcing them to cut back on gift buying…
Shopper 1: “Well, because of my limited budget, I have to buy, like – I have a list – and I have to buy one at a time, so, being pretty poor is being pretty simple. I’m kind of already living that way.”
Shopper 2: “I don’t need to celebrate Christmas by buying people gifts. And I can give people gifts all year long. And I — Christmas is kind of sham-y to me.”
Shopper 3: “This year, yeah, my family is like, ‘Don’t get me anything.’ I’m going to do something, but hopefully it will be smaller and less expensive and all that.”
Shopper 4: “Well, I don’t feel compelled to buy something because an economist says it’s my part as an American. And I think people are going to get smarter and smarter about how they spend their money and the almighty dollar.”
With the constant messages on television, radio, the Internet and newspapers to spend, there’s a lot of persusive power by advertisers to buy now and think about the cost later.
Since Bob Lilienfeld is such an advocate of a simpler lifestyle, it makes you wonder about his own shopping habits.
Graham: “Do you ever find yourself in the shopping mall, buying stuff for the folks you have on your Christmas list or your holiday list?”
Lilienfeld: “All the time. But, what I try to do is two things. One is think about the fact that more isn’t necessarily better. But the other thing I really try and do is look for gifts that are what I call ‘experiential’ as opposed to material. Tickets. Things where people can go to plays or operas or ball games so that they have an experience. Same thing with travel. I mean, if I could give my father a gift or if I could help him afford to go somewhere, like to see me and the kids, that gift is probably worth a lot more to both of us than if I just gave him a couple of bottles of wine.”
And Lilienfeld says you don’t waste as much wrapping paper when you wrap up tickets.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.