Tag Archive 'Reflection'

Apr 08 2012

Born to Buy

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This book was interesting as it discussed the effects of consumerism and materialism on children. I was surprise by many of the statistics provided in the book that show how this is only getting exponentially worse. While I was surprised by the statistics, I am not surprised by the fact that children are becoming more and more materialistic. The author puts a lot of responsibility on the parents in her final chapter providing suggestions to help de-commercialize childhood. It is getting to the point, however, that there is only so much parents can do to prevent exposure. Unless they live in the middle of nowhere and home school their kids and never go to stores and don’t have internet or TV (basically live as monks) advertisers will find a way to into their home, or even worse, into their child’s mind.

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Apr 02 2012

I remember when….Reflections on Bongiornio

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I found Sara Bongiornio’s A Year Without Made in China” an interesting and entertaining read. I really enjoy this type of “immersion journalism”. I was surprised by the level of skepticism she sometimes met when she shared her plan. It bordered on the downright hostile. I knew from the outset that this would be a near-Herculean task, but it took Bongiornio’s account to realize just how pervasive and far-reaching this influence is. For example, I never really thought of the whole mouse-trap issue. I do think that Bongiornio is fortunate to have done this when her children were young. I think it would have been much more difficult if her children were older. Not impossible, of course, but it would have been much harder on her and the whole family. (And in the case of growing boys who go through shoes like toilet paper, much more expensive.)

I thought the question about Chinese food was particularly funny, because I had wondered that very thing when very first started reading. And while her non-inclusion of very American Chinese food made perfectly logical sense, I still found the irony quite funny!

One thing I thought of as I was reading this book was, “What’s next?” I still clearly remember the time before “Made in China” ruled our lives. I remember that when we read “Made in Japan” on the bottom of the product, it generally meant the product was junk – not high technology or a good car. Though it seems that America will never be able to break the grip of “Made in China”, I’m sure that some other trend is down the road somewhere. I just wonder what it will be.

– Sara

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Mar 26 2012

Keeping up with the Joneses and the Kardashians – Reflections on Schor

One of the first things I noticed about Schor’s book, The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting and the New Consumer, is that it was written in 1998, before most of America knew what a Kardashian was. After seeing her observations, I shudder to think what Schor would write today. Schor talks about Americans’ compulsion to compete in an unwinnable race and the detrimental effects of the obsessive materialism that’s prevalent in today’s society. I certainly saw myself in many of the examples Schor discussed, but I am pleased to say that there are several areas where I didn’t follow in the lemming-like path of many Americans. While there are many brands and companies that I endorse because I’m historically pleased with their product or services, I generally don’t buy brands simply for label recognition or for the sake of some status recognition. This is true especially when it comes to clothes. I buy clothes based on their comfort, their quality and their cost. But where am I guilty? Advertising. I’m an advertiser’s wet dream. I am so susceptible to advertising that I can scarcely wait to try out a new product if I see a commercial that grabs my attention!

I’d be interested in knowing how the statistics from Chapter 5 have evolved since this was initially published. I suspect that a greater number of people have downshifted, both voluntarily and involuntarily since this was originally released 14 years ago. I think the best thing about this book is Chapter 6, where Schor offers detailed, common sense strategies for scaling back on compulsive materialism.  In the last year, I have already made some changes in my routines and lifestyles to help and stop the insanity. Most of these revolve around holiday routines. I won’t tell all my secrets here, though. I have to save something for class discussion!

There are many lessons to be learned from Schor’s book. Implementing even just a few of the suggestions she provides could easily pave the way for some great habit-busting life changes.

– Sara

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Mar 19 2012

Not Enough Nickels and Dimes – Reflections on Ehrenreich

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Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickled and Dimed was a very interesting commentary on a growing problem in America’s workplaces today. The fact that the problem is so large that experts were able to coin the term “living wage” indicates that circumstances are such that many are not able to live above the poverty line simply by working hard at a job that was once considered respectable employment. One of the most alarming parts of this trend was the number of American workers who must work jobs that carry no benefits. The completely separate, yet still closely intertwined problem of the skyrocketing costs of housing, day care, health care, and prescriptions (and just forget about completely unaffordable dental care) make the problem of securing a “living wage” an even more serious consideration. Examining trends like this make me afraid for my own children as they near the age of making their own way in an uncertain world. I don’t know what the answer to these problems are, but I know that it is a problem that affects the entire country, not just those who live in this world every day.

– Sara

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Mar 18 2012

Nickle and Dimed

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This experiment reminded me of those documentaries on fast food and healthcare. Taking yourself out of your familiar, comfortable lifestyle and plunging into a low-wage lifestyle can me a humbling experience as well as open your eyes to what is wrong with much of society. I myself worked at a restaurant for two summers and though I made pretty good money for a college student, I can’t imagine having to live off of what I made though many of the servers did make a living off of tips. One girl in particular is still there, at the age of 20, supporting herself and her husband. They live in a basement and live week to week; it is a sad life. I was unable to go back to the waitressing job as I was already suffering from a bad back, two more back surgeries made that type of work of lifting heavy trays and being on my feet all day impossible for me to do. I thought this book was really interesting and enlightening, though not very surprising… The fact that low-wage work is impractical and unfair is no surprise to me.

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Mar 12 2012

A World With No Wal*Mart? – Reflections on Moreton

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It’s very interesting to me to think that I can clearly remember a time when no Wal*Mart existed in my town. It’s not because I lived in some backwater country hamlet, but simply because Wal*Mart had not yet swelled to the expansive omnipresent station it holds in today’s society.  Bethany Moreton discusses the rise of this corporation and the premises that Sam Walton modeled his business practice on. I am familiar with Wal*Mart’s practices of calling their employees associates and holding “team meetings” before each shift begins in an effort to build community. It’s sad to hear that many of those ideas of a “community” within the company seem to be falling by the wayside since the founder’s death.  I was surprised to learn of the important role of women in Wal*Mart’s business model, especially because of the company’s many legal battles over the last few decades as women try to break Wal*Mart’s perceived “glass ceiling”. Regardless, Wal*Mart is definitely a capitalist force to be reckoned with and I’d be lying if I said that Wal*Mart was not a part of my daily life. I’m looking forward to bouncing this book off “a year without ‘Made in China’.” Wal*Mart definitely would not be able to be what it is with that option, so I’m really interested in just seeing how these two texts compare.

– Sara G.

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Feb 28 2012

I Still Have a Dumb Phone – Reflections on Beck

This article was not exactly what I expected. It didn’t really seem to focus on mobile shopping aid apps as much as I expected it to. After the first couple of paragraphs, it seemed to wander quickly away from that discussion. I am aware of the type of mobile applications that the article mentioned briefly, and I assure you, when I upgrade my phone over spring break, I’ll soon invest in that sort of technology. It is certainly the sort of competitive shopping edge I would take advantage of. The phone I have right now provides me some degree of mobile research ability, but it’s a really old Blackberry, so it’s only slightly above average as far as phone intelligence goes.

I will focus on a few things that popped out at me as I read this article.

Presearch. I hadn’t heard that term before, but it is DEFINITELY something I do. I presearch not only for price and availability, but also to help me make my choices. I subscribe to Consumer Reports online services and this provides me a good deal of valuable information when it comes to major purchases. I also refer frequently to other customers’ comments on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I have, however, learned to read between the lines. Many of the customers post with bias or with unrealistic expectations. Reading the text of their comments carefully, it’s generally pretty easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. (Heck, I even shop for my college professors using the same ideology using RateMyProfessor. I don’t have time to pick a dud!)

Koa quotes a Newsweek article that says if current employment trends continue, “the average woman will make more than the average man by 2024.” Yeah. Right. Girl power. I am woman. Bottom line? I won’t hold my breath.

I was a little surprised to learn that a number of retailers still completely separate their web operations from their brick and mortar stores. Though I suppose I am vaguely aware that this is the case, I just can’t imagine how that is a good idea. I would not purchase a product from the website of a store with a brick and mortar counterpart unless I had the option of returning the item to the store. It’s just bad form and it would put me off of a store.

I do find myself particularly annoyed with stores that don’t offer web-enabled POS assistance. I recently found myself trying to buy a large quantity of wall plates (for sockets and light switches) from Lowe’s. Apparently, everyone in the *world* wanted these things. I could only order online those products that weren’t carried in the store. Products carried in the store, I could order for pick up at a store, but no store near me had them in stock. It would not allow me to search in concentrically larger circles until I could find a store that had them. The only way to do that was to go into Lowe’s and have their customer service reps locate them for me. Even then, it was a cumbersome process. With the amount of money I spent on those stupid things, Lowe’s should have been standing on their heads to help me find them.

Bottom line, I didn’t get a whole lot out of this article, but it did make me think about the features that important to me in an online shopping experience.

– Sara

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Feb 28 2012

Looking For a Few Good Men – Reflections on Smith

I found Ray Smith’s Wall Street Journal article interesting for a few reasons. First of all, I do *a lot* of internet shopping and I hadn’t ever heard of any of the sites he mentioned in the first 4 paragraphs of his article. Interestingly, I had heard of all of the same sites mentioned by the men. Maybe it’s that fashion thing again. Oddly, as technologically stubborn as my spouse is (he’s 54 years old), he does shop online. I started thinking about the things he buys online and how he shops. I even asked him a few questions about his online shopping. He *detests* the physical act of going shopping, so online shopping is quite ideal for him. He is also possibly the stingiest man on earth, so he’s always looking for stuff to be really cheap. He only shops on a handful of websites, though. He shops on REI, 1-800-FLOWERS, L.A. Police Gear (he buys clothes there, khaki pants and polo shirts, but also knives and other manly things) and he shops on eBay. Most of his eBay shopping is window shopping (haha – no pun intended), but as eBay collects his clicking habits, they send him targeted emails. Those emails took him to two different eBay “storefronts” at Christmas this year off of which he purchased an expensive recurve bow for my oldest son and a .22 rifle for my youngest son.

I’ll be very interested to see what happens with the next generation of adult males, though. Both of my sons (18 and 12) head *straight* to the internet when they want something. They are already both relatively savvy online shoppers and don’t hesitate when it comes to online purchases (except when it comes to the actual buying part, because I still have to do that for them!) They also do a lot of window shopping on the internet on sites like ThinkGeek and Maker Shed and other sites for nerdy kids. My artsy-fartsy older son likes to browse sites like Etsy and Threadless and TeeFury where he can see other artists’ and craftsmen’s work.

I can’t imagine my sons will ever turn into the consummate internet fashion shoppers that this article seemed to focus on trying to create, but I suspect as adult men with their own disposable income, quite a bit of their money will vanish into ethereal cash registers in the sky.

– Sara

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Feb 26 2012

Polyvore, meet Pinterest – Reflections on Jacobs

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The Polyvore article was interesting, but the whole time I was reading, I couldn’t help asking myself, “What am I supposed to be getting out of this?” I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be considering how women use the site, how the site’s parent company and advertisers utilize the activities of the site’s users, or something else entirely. I found the whole concept a little bizarre because I’m not a slave to fashion. Even watching Today show segments or makeover shows on TLC, I find myself aghast at the thought of paying $80 for jeans, much less several hundred dollars. I’m a practical kind of girl when it comes to clothes, so much of the site’s draw would be completely lost on me.  I kept comparing the site to the little bit that I know about Pinterest. Everyone I know right now is totally into “pinning”. I thought it was amazing that a site like Polyvore that is focused solely on fashion wasn’t using the same sorts of technology as Pinterest when it comes to marketing. In a several-page (click-wise) article I found about sites like Polyvore, I read this nugget about Pinterest: “While curation not consumption is its strength, the site outdid Google+, Linked In, and YouTube combined in leading shoppers to retailers last month, according to Shareaholic.” I found this particularly interesting because Pinterest topics (at least from my understanding) are limited only by the users’ imaginations and range from funny kid and pet pictures, to recipes, to fashion and exercise where as Polyvore is focused solely on fashion. Mostly, knowing how easily distractible I am, it’s incredibly fortunate that I have not fallen prey to the lure of either of these time-wasters. I was probably too busy shooting at colored bubbles and “liking” stuff on Facebook!

– Sara

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Feb 24 2012

“Yeah, that’s great. But what about now?” Reflections on Gladwell

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This article by Malcolm Gladwell was very interesting. I do wish it had been written a little more recently. More accurately, I wish another article had been written since. I’d love to know what has changed and what innovations have occurred in the last 12 years.

Although I’m a huge internet shopper, I miss the days of the paper Sears and JCPenney catalogs. I really enjoy browsing through catalogs. I do think they are an effective way of promoting particular merchandise. Though Gladwell’s article explained that with an internet site, a company can display all of their merchandise, whereas with an article, they must pick and choose, realistically, how many customers actually click through every single page of a company’s website and view all of the merchandise? The paper catalog still serves to promote items and spark my interest in items of which I may be unaware, while the company’s website serves to complement that interest.

I also think that a lot of recent developments in internet commerce, like customer reviews on websites and independent consumer survey organizations may have eliminated some of the need for customer service. I think a lot of savvy customers do a lot of their research independently of a company’s customer service representatives. I’m certainly not suggesting that the company’s customer service departments are going the way of the dinosaur, but I would be interested to know how things have developed over the last 12 years as the internet has evolved.

– Sara

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