Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday

Shop til you drop takes on new meaning. Hearing about the deaths and injuries sustained during the mass movement to the malls in the post-Thanksgiving Day shopping Bacchanalia is appalling. A WalMart employee trampled to death? A pregnant woman thrown to the floor? A shoot out in of all places -- Toys R Us? It almost makes the terrorist attack in India seem sensible by comparison.

What has it come to that 'shopping' will improve our economy? And the ones doing the shopping are the very people who will be turned out on the street the moment the rent comes do and they don't have a job, don't have income to make the payments?

Why are people rushing to stores to buy 'things' that are mass produced with little regard for quality or even safety? Didn't we learn from the China toy syndrome that invaded the U.S. last year? Toxic paint and killer toys seemed to be the item on everyone's Christmas list. Now we want technology that will cost us several months of rent money for something 90 percent of us will never figure out how to use. Like houses and cars, bigger televisions must be better! Which reminds me -- what is it about mcmansions on itty bitty slivers of land? Used to be clapboard houses on acres and acres and ACRES of land that had been in families for generations. I miss that. Now the only one with acres and acres of land are developers who have no love and even less regard for what they own. It isn't anything more than dollars and profits.

A writer wrote of a character in a short story, a little boy who had been abused. No one protected him. Consumers face the same situation. Advertisers lie. Openly, straight faced, and without regret. Buyers must constantly be wary, knowing that a bargain is never truly a bargain. Our government's oversight departments are a joke. Corporations run rampant, treat us like indentured servants whether we work for them or are buying from them and yet we bail them out.

My husband recently bought a new Ford van. Yes, right in the middle of skyrocketing gas prices because he needed a way to transport his wheelchair. This was the only recourse. Seems that Ford was the only company whose vehicle could be converted to accommodate the lift and his wheelchair. We purchased it. Now every time something goes wrong --and it has -- we have three companies denying responsibility. Ford, who we understand knows this is a problem in this van model, says, "Oh no, the company installing the hydraulic lift for your wheelchair, screwed it up. Not our problem."

And the lift company declares it's Ford and possibly the company who lowered the floor and converted the van in preparation for the lift and other equipment. In the meantime, the passenger seat belt doesn't work. Minor I suppose with all of the things that seem to be working. Oh, right, there was the time last week when the lift would neither go up or down and held my husband captive on it until he was able to slither out of it and get help. And the driver's chair that was to be installed and hasn't been ordered yet. But hey, we had to have the money in their hands, the papers signed, the debt shouldered before they'd even screw, I mean work with us.

It is only by luck that what I bring home actually lives up to expectations. Even the underwear I buy is made to self destruct after so many washings. Research went into making a product fall apart on schedule. Breast cancer can wait, the important research devotes to finding how to make fabric fail after fifty washings. NASA has been doing some fine research. Did you hear -- soon the astronauts on the space station can drink their own urine? I can't wait to see the first urine fountain here on earth. Actually, it may be a great idea -- the concept definitely needs some PR work. I guess us Americans prefer to be lied to. Don't tell me its urine, call it enriched?

Other products are mere illusions. The grill we used to roast the Thanksgiving turkey was advertised as having a 'rotisserie' and we paid extra for that. A contraption made, not to perform the job, but to give the illusion of such a possibility. The prongs, made too short to adequately hold the bird. The motor not strong enough to turn it. The near impossibility of maintaining the proper temperature. Did the salesman know how inferior the product was? How much of an out-and-out lie he was telling when he guaranteed us that it could handle a 12-pound turkey?
We won't even mention the stainless steel sales feature as I watch it rust away on my back porch.

I hate to shop. It feels like I'm asking someone to kick me. Lie to me. Oh please abuse me again. The adage of buying U.S. products hasn't even been heard this year -- do we actually make anything in the U.S. any more?

When I lived in Ohio, there was a little company in Ada, Ohio, where they made footballs. Little Ada, Ohio populated mostly by farmers, factory workers and college professors, the home of The Ohio Northern University. The whole town, the whole region, took pride in this little company whose footballs were used in the pro games on television. Wilson. Every kid had a Wilson football or basketball. The company, headquartered in Chicago, made us proud to be contributing a quality product. Working in a factory took on new respect. "I work for Wilson...."

The company in Ada, I believe, is closed now. No products produced there. It seems that, like the stock market, manufacturing has hit a new low and both are driven by greed and profits.

For some reason this weekend I've watched two movies and both hearkened back to the Great Depression. Seabiscuit and Cinderella Man. Both tell of a down and out, loser if you will, who makes a comeback. We all seem to be pinning our hopes onto someone else when maybe we just need to have more self respect, make wiser choices, and stop buying inferior products.

After all, where are the majority of last year's presents now?

Three ways to help the economy and your own bottom line:

  1. Do not go into debt, only spend what you can afford on the holidays. Go to church, not to WalMart to find the spirit of the holidays.
  2. Write to your congressman and senator and the new president about your concerns, about your suggestions for a better future. Perhaps a way to help small businesses grow new products or a consumer product oversight agency that doesn't seem to be looking the other way. Maybe give Ralph Nader a pat on the back! Hold someone accountable for the junk being poured into the consumer's market.
  3. Get creative. Recycle some gifts from last year. Make something. Get crafty. Get sentimental. Give the gift of family heirlooms or history -- scrapbooks or albums, framed photos of ancestors, something that will promote your own family instead of funding the CEO's next trip to Costa Rica.


Rebecca Camarena said...

Lovin' your blog, and sending the link to all those in my writers groups. Saw your link in the newsletter, Funds for Writers with Hope clark.

Dawn said...

Thanks Rebecca. I love the hear from readers -- especially happy ones. :)

I enjoy writing the blog and also writing for Funds for Writers now and then. It is a great newsletter-- definitely get my money's worth there. :)