lovehate: My Shopping Evolution

The world wide web has many positive and negative attributes not the least of which, both positive and negative, is eliminating my need and desire to ever visit brick and mortar stores again.
I remember growing up in a time when the Mall was the touchstone of all social and pop cultural advancement. As an early teen I could easily wander from checking out the freaky animals at the pet store to meeting a friend who worked at the record store (they were still called record stores then) to checking out the t-shirt shack, food court, music sections of department stores, book stores and basically wander around aimlessly for hours. This was all, of course, before driving was an option and before I was permitted to hop the bus downtown.
Upon gaining the bus permission, my browsing became refined. The downtown core held five record shops worth checking out on a weekly basis with at least two bookstores and two comic book shops. There were also a couple of television stores that carried the latest video game cartridges for Atari, Intellivision, Colecovision, and, a couple of years later, Commodore 64 software. This was the first time in my life I could feel ahead of the curve on things. This was the time I was reading magazines on video games, musical instruments, and collectibles. I knew when things were coming out a month in advance and could save up money for something I really wanted because I'd read the advance reviews.
The ability to drive and a growing experience at the specialized shops allowed me to winnow down my browsing even further. I knew the best stores to maintain my comic book collection, my sports card collection, my video game addiction and even had "frequent buyer" discounts on all the LPs and cassettes I bought. Each Friday night would be a comic and record run. Each Saturday would be sports cards and video games. I had it down to a system, and the only thing that killed the system was my burgeoning knowledge.
You see, I am, by nature, a collector. I have to get parts three and four if I've got parts one and two. I purchased comic book series far after they ever remained good just for the completist in me. I would buy every album a band put out if I liked the first one I bought. I would sometimes avoid a comic book series or novel series altogether if I'd missed the first one or two installments. I liked to get in on the ground floor... it was for this reason I eschewed coming in late to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and instead turned to the radical underground stylings of the Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters.


But knowledge is a costly thing. I soon found I could not keep up with everything I wanted to maintain this completist lifestyle and, as such, started to give up things altogether. I stopped buying comic books. I gave up hockey cards. I radically slowed down book buying. I focused on music and, while trying to keep up with growing PC options, the costs really put them out of my league. Besides, I had already learned how to tape over a notch in a 5.25" floppy in order to copy and recopy to my heart's content.
I moved into a time period where the only interest in any mall was books (more as a passing interest than a purchase) and music. And even then, the mp3 scene was bursting out with Napster and Gnutella clients. I had moved my browsing from windows and aisles onto web and ftp sites. I, essentially, forsook the mall.
I have the city's only worthwhile mall, by all accounts, a five minute walk from my house and I haven't been there in two years except to meet a friend at a restaurant inside. I remember renewing my license plate stickers two years ago at a kiosk just inside the doorway. I don't know or care to know any of the stores contained therein except for the ones with their illuminated signs emblazoned on the outside. I have been shopping online for over a decade. I remember pooling friends together to buy 500 blank CD-Rs and 1000 CD-R sleeves to get a discount rate. I research, discover, and comparison shop without leaving the comforts of home.

When I walk into the Brick & Mortar store these days, I feel out of place. I see people wandering around aimlessly looking at things and often feel that I should be doing so as well. I'll walk up and down the aisles looking at things I know about, don't want, and wonder why anyone would ever that price for it. When a sales clerk asks if I need help, I'll play the game and say, "No, I'm just looking." I don't want to make the clerks feel bad by letting them in on the fact that their jobs have become meaningless to me unless they have to unlock a display case. I try to make my Brick & Mortar experiences as long as possible to soak in the ritual that accompanies so many of the hoards that still shuffle aimlessly between the shelves.

In reality, but for checkout lines and slow debit machines, I should be out of any store in three minutes or less. I don't want the extended warranty. I don't want to upgrade to the "next" level. I don't want any advice from a clerk who's extent of technological knowledge is capped at chat clients and X-Box Live. CompUSA and Circuit City are victims of me and those like me who now have the tool to do the research, the comparison and often the purchase itself. Gone are the days of trusting a sales clerk to tell you if something is good. I've got a world of reviewers at my disposal and an endless supply of merchants willing to ship worldwide to my door.

Yesterday was Boxing Day in Canada, kind of like Black Friday in the US, and I haven't been there for years to take part. Even the online specials are almost meaningless. Unless I feel like a visceral cattle call in my near future, don't ever expect to see me rubbernecking the Brick & Mortars again. I've evolved.

the madding crowd

thinglets: the true meaning of xmas

From, 30 creative print ads for the holidays. I know that I can't get to sleep on the 25th if I don't feel my corporate pushers aren't sending warm consumer vibes my way. And for all of my contempt and cynicism I direct towards some companies throughout the year, kudos to artists and designers who have the thankless tasks of trying to make brand names and logos seem human.

thinglets: Amazonian Horrorshow

The TimesOnline in the UK has reported some practices of our beloved behemoth of online sales: Amazon. Apparently leading the charge in terms of web commercialism comes at the cost of human and workers' rights. And this is not in a developing country, but in England:

a) refusing to allow workers sick leave (six days sick leads to dismissal)

b) a compulsory 10.5 shift at the end of every work week

c) workers must hit 140 packages an hour to reach quota no matter the size

d) bonuses to workers over quota that come from workers who don't make quota

e) walking up to 14 miles/shift in the packing warehouse

f) one fifteen and one twenty minute break per 8 hour shift

"A spokesman for Amazon said anyone not willing to work “many hours” should not accept a job with the company. He confirmed workers would be penalised for being sick."


thinglets: My Mind on Shopping

Tom Waits - Step Right Up

Step right up. Step right up. Step right up.
Everyone's a winner! Bargains galore!
That's right, you too can be the proud owner of the quality goes in before the name goes on.
One-tenth of a dollar!
One-tenth of a dollar!
We got service after sales.
You need perfume? We got perfume.
How 'bout an engagement ring?
Something for the little lady? Something for the little lady? Something for the little lady, hmm?
Three for a dollar.
We got a year-end clearance. We got a white sale and smoke-damaged furniture.
You can drive it away today.
Act now. Act now and receive as our gift, our gift to you,
They come in all colors. One size fits all.
No muss, no fuss, no spills - you're tired of kitchen drudgery.
Everything must go!
Going out of business! Going out of business! Going out of business sale!
Fifty percent off original retail price; skip the middle man.
Don't settle for less.
How do we do it? How do we do it?
Volume, volume, turn up the volume.
Now you've heard it advertised, don't hesitate.
Don't be caught with your drawers down. Don't be caught with your drawers down.
You can step right up. Step right up.

That's right, it filets, it chops, it dices, slices, never stops, lasts a lifetime, mows your lawn.
And it mows your lawn and it picks up the kids from school.
It gets rid of unwanted facial hair.
it gets rid of embarrassing age spots.
It delivers a pizza.
And it lengthens, and it strengthens.
And it finds that slipper that's been at large under the chaise lounge for several weeks.
And it plays a mean Rhythm Master.
It makes excuses for unwanted lipstick on your collar.
And it's only a dollar, step right up! It's only a dollar, step right up!
'Cause it forges your signature.
If not completely satisfied, mail back unused portion of product for complete refund of price of purchase.
Step right up.

Please allow thirty days for delivery.
Don't be fooled by cheap imitations.
You can live in it, laugh in it, love in it, swim in it, sleep in it, live in it, swim in it, laugh in it, love in it.
Removes embarrassing stains from contour sheets - that's right!
And it entertains visiting relatives.
It turns a sandwich into a banquet.
Tired of being the life of the party?
Change your shorts, change your life, change your life, change into a nine-year-old Hindu boy, get rid of your wife
And it walks your dog, and it doubles on sax.
Doubles on sax, you can jump back Jack, see you later alligator, see you later alligator.
And it steals your car.

It gets rid of your gambling debts. It quits smoking.
It's a friend, and it's a companion, and it's the only product you will ever need.
Follow these easy assembly instructions.
It never needs ironing.
Well it takes weights off hips, bust, thighs, chin, midriff, gives you dandruff, and it finds you a job. It is a job!
And it strips the phone company free, take ten for five exchange.
And it gives you denture breath.
And you know it's a friend, and it's a companion.
And it gets rid of your traveler's checks.
It's new, it's improved, it's old-fashioned.
Well it takes care of business.
Never needs winding, never needs winding, never needs winding.
Gets rid of blackheads, the heartbreak of psoriasis.
Christ, you don't know the meaning of heartbreak, buddy!
C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon!

'Cause it's effective, it's defective, it creates household odors.
It disinfects, it sanitizes for your protection, it gives you an erection, it wins the election.
Why put up with painful corns any longer?
It's a redeemable coupon, no obligation, no salesman will visit your home.
We got a jackpot, jackpot, jackpot!
Prizes, prizes, prizes!
All work guaranteed.
How do we do it? How do we do it? How do we do it? How do we do it?
We need your business. We're going out of business. We'll give you the business.
Get on the business end of our going-out-of-business sale.
Receive our free brochure.
Read the easy-to-follow assembly instructions - batteries not included.
Send before midnight tomorrow, terms available
Step right up. Step right up. Step right up.

You got it buddy: the large print giveth and the small print taketh away
Step right up. You can step right up. You can step right up. C'mon step right up.
(Get away from me kid, you bother me...)

thinglets: free socks

At first I thought it was a Social Justice pamphlet to free Johnny "Socks" McNiven from his unjust incarceration for illegal turtle fighting and solicitation for the purposes of shell games. I was shocked to find that apparently men's clothing stores are so far beyond the current market crunch that they're just giving stuff away... now I don't know what I'm gonna do with my closet full of "Free Socks" protest signs. What kind of bothers me is the word NEW is nowhere to be found.

free socks