KONDA: Impulse buying contributes to US’ materialistic culture

Sometimes, people buy things on impulse. It does not sound too bad now and then – buying a cheap trinket while you are out grocery shopping. No, you do not need it, but there is no actual harm done to your bank account, and you feel satisfied with your new addition.

Corporations are fully aware of these behaviors and take advantage of consumer tendencies by employing marketing tactics such as product placement. While carefully considering how people might react to specific products that are displayed in certain ways, businesses have already determined the probability of your purchase. For instance, buying a candy bar while checking out is more common when it’s easily accessible in the moment. 

The problem is continuous impulsive buying — coming home with at least one thing you do not need or clicking the ‘order’ button on an online shopping site. A survey by Slickdeals found that 64 percent of adults in the U.S. increasingly bought on impulse, and 61 percent felt happy afterward. 

Buying something random could positively affect your mood — and it makes sense. But, you could find yourself depending on doing so to help you get through the day. The more you buy, the better you feel. You might end up spending more money each time, going from $10 to $20.

In fact, Americans increased their spending by 18 percent from January through April 2020. Slickdeals’ CEO Josh Meyers says impulse buying can be smart as people take advantage of bulk deals. On the other hand, it could be detrimental.

The truth is that products expire. Whether it’s denoted in a label on the packaging or expires in terms of its social popularity, people end up with things they do not need, and this contributes to consumerism.

Consumerism is described as materialistic — an idea that the economy survives solely on how many products we consume. While this is true, the way we approach our consumption is essential.

Living in the U.S., it is hard to say that one is not influenced by consumer culture. Yet consumerism pushes the idea that people must buy things to feel good about themselves. Every so often, people get bored and turn to new trends. They seek ways to better themselves by consuming more and more. 

Annie Leonard, an executive director of Greenpeace USA, says, “(Consumerism is) a particular strand of overconsumption, where we purchase things, not to fulfill our basic needs, but to fill some voids about our lives and make social statements about ourselves.”

Pop culture and online trends adopted by audiences are prime contributors to consumerism. Often, a celebrity gains attention from the public by using an item that is not mainstream. Considering their influence and popularity, people jump to purchase this item and spread its positives. This is only one way a trend comes to be.

Conglomerates endorse these trends, pushing forth marketing tactics such as influencer marketing, which is upheld by social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. When your favorite influencer markets a new product, you might get one of your own, even if it is similar to an already functioning item in your home. Eventually, the trend dies down, and a new one arises. It is a never-ending cycle.

Companies even purposefully decrease the quality of their products to encourage people to buy replacement products in the future. This is seen with fashion retailers introducing new styles every month to convince consumers that they must buy more. Cheaper, trendy clothing tends to be poorly made and easily replaceable. 

On a larger scale, sellers of electronics like phones and laptops also play a role. Apple was caught in a lawsuit over the slowing down of iPhones around 2017, which many people suspected was a tactic to encourage more buying. With batteries slowing down and software becoming outdated, people had no choice but to switch to newer options.

Although we cannot change the minds of large corporations overnight, change always begins in small steps. The average person would not think about how buying something slightly unnecessary could contribute to consumerism or, moreover, how it could play into the hands of these companies.

Try considering the viability of a product before you buy it. Will you keep the item when it is no longer trendy? Will you use the item for a considerable amount of time?

Companies will continue to push the agenda that buying more is better. Our responsibility is to shop resourcefully and place importance away from consumption.

This is how you can pitch in too.

Vaishnavi Konda is a first-year at Rutgers Business School majoring in business analytics and information technology and minoring in linguistics. Her column, “Pitch In,” runs on alternate Fridays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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