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Ten Fatal Flaws of Consumerism

Updated on January 21, 2014
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Eleanore Ferranti Whitaker is a published author of two suspense genre novels and a short story fiction and non-fiction writer.

How to Spot the Ten Fatal Flaws in Personal Consumerism

Obsessive/Compulsive Consumerism

The analogy of obsessive/compulsive gambling may be the best example of personal consumerism that's out of control. There's more than just a price tag attached to rampant consumerism. There are ten fatal flaws that manic consumers witness only after the damage is done.

No. 1 - Want or Need?

The obsessive/compulsive consumer lacks the ability to distinguish between what they need and what they want. When this mechanism is in play, shopping becomes a daily activity borne of an obsession with the desire to purchase what the individual wants. The joy of the purchase falls flat in short order or as soon as the item purchased loses its desirability. The consumer wanted the item to add to a massive personal inventory based on ownership. To "have" the item is to own its related status symbol. Few individuals need a luxury car. Most just want it and the accompanying status that ownership of "luxury" incurs. Inability to distinguish the difference between want and need acutely is fatal flaw number one.

No. 2 - "Shop Till You Drop" Syndrome

To observe obsessed shoppers is a unique exercise in identifying compulsions. In addition to being unable to distinguish want and need, the Shop Till You Drop syndrome is a whirlwind traverse into an unstoppable zone of buyer's madness. In this situation, the shopper sets a tempo for window shopping, getting up close and personal with racks and display cases loaded with trinkets, clothing, toys and jewelry. The Shop Till You Drop syndrome may involve more than one individual since shopping non-stop at breakneck speeds is essentially more encompassing in pairs. This is especially important when special one-day sales make uncivilized behaviors to get that last dress, suit or designer tie imperative. Fatal Flaw Number Two clearly shows the need to redefine personal behaviors and values to retain some measure of dignity.

No. 3 - The "Must Have" Mystique

The "Must Have" mystique isn't a matter of want or need. It's a matter of using brand names like media broadcasts to validate identity. The minute an item is deemed "in short supply" and has a well-recognized trade name, the "Must Have" buyer mysteriously becomes obsessed with insuring they own the last possible item. The "Must Haves" tell themselves that the item will increase in value as a result of being the last manufactured, built, carved or designed. These items are treated to their own special storage in top name crystal curio cabinet or expensive safes and vaults never to be looked at or seen until some future date when the value has hopefully gone through the roof. After all, who leaves "Must Have" valuables in plain sight where they can be stolen? Taking inventory of these "Must Have" items after a half decade usually determines their value or lack thereof. The problem with the "Must Have" mystique is that mass collecting becomes rampant clutter over time. Fatal Flaw Number Three is a matter of misguided sense of value and borderline hoarding that often grows out of control.

No. 4 - Sales Hype Addiction

Every hour of every day is filled with someone selling goods or services. The glut of selling is at fever pitch. Consider the imaginative, creative talent that goes into fighting for top spot among market competitors and the billions spent on selling, selling, selling. An infant learns about its existence partly through tactile and environmental conditioning. The moment toddlers learn the word, "No!" they begin the cycle of sales conditioning albeit in subtle parental gestures. An infant focuses its eyes on that sales logo on the bottle of formula. The toddler grows accustomed to the label on his jar of baby food, bath lotion and even those tiny coveralls and shoes. Already the Sales Hype Addiction is firmly in place. By the time the toddler reaches school age, they are perfectly capable of identifying myriads of logos, labels and brand names. The trouble begins with pre-teens and peer pressure to "own" or "have" the latest toys, computer devices and brand name clothes. Fatal Flaw Number Four is the inability to desensitize children and adults to the glut of sales hype that urges obsessive/compulsive buying.

No. 5 - "In Your Face" Sales

Part of the ten fatal flaws in personal consumerism is predicated upon "In Your Face" sales. This is a sales technique that imposes sales on every living being on the planet with the remotest ability to reason and with operable five senses. Creating levels of desperation upon the least suspecting is the basic mechanism sales and marketing experts use to "close a sale." The problem with "In Your Face" sales is that most individuals bombarded by this type of aggression find it impossible to run to a safety zone. Rather than fight the aggressive "In Your Face" salesmonger, consumers give in and buy whatever is being sold. They rationalize the idea buying "whatever" is an escape route from the unstoppable triage of having goods or products shoved in their face, a classless, aggressive sales pitch and a maniacal, persistent salesperson. Fatal flaw No. 4 shows lack of strength of character and resolve to safeguard one's financial stability.

No. 6 - Luxury and Excess

Royalty has always believed nothing displays genuine class like excess. This type of excess is usually the marriage partner of luxury. In the typical contemporary consumers' existence, excess may outgrow the attic, basement and garage. So rented storage sites furnish consumers' with an extension in which their excesses may be stored in locked, climate-controlled units. In some peculiar twist of fate, this excess may remain in storage until the demise of its owners or until the monthly rental rates rise to unaffordable levels. Then, the excess may be sold at estate sales, garage sales or given to the local charity. The fatal flaw in No. 6 is that over time luxury and excess in storage depreciates in value or produces a small tax credit for donations to charities, that don't begin to provide a worthwhile return on the original investment.

No 7 - Impulsive Consumerism

Every town has a strip mall on a major access road. These malls stand like monuments to Impulsive Consumerism. Coupled with road signs advising of the latest sales discounts, new products or services and spritzed with a celebrity appearance or two, consumers on their way to a funeral are impelled to pull into these massive parking lots. Impulse buying accounts for approximately 40 to 50% of all business transacted, according to several business media sources. Interestingly, of those percentages, more than half of all impulse sales are a result on shoppers spotting a "sale" and buying on sight. This is especially true with those under the age of 30 and teens who frequent shopping malls regularly. Fatal Flaw No. 7 is that buying on impulse ignored product or service quality and often leads the consumer to purchase sub-standard materials of manufacture.

No. 8 - Cost of Goods or Services vs. Actual Value

The rabid consumer rarely takes the time or effort to evaluate or assess the cost of what they purchase as compared to its actual value. This usually results in numerous volumes of consumer complaints of fraud or misleading advertising. Yet, the reality is that every consumer of goods or products has those sufficient time prior to the final sale to gather as much information about the product they wish to purchase. Many shoppers simply walk into a store, pick the first item they find and then, a month later, return it for malfunction or some other easily detectable operating flaw. This is also true of the service industries where consumers don't take the time to read and understand the terms of service, payment, warranties or guarantees. Fatal Flaw No. 6 is costly to consumers when you consider how little durability and functionality they receive for the prices they pay for goods. To gauge the value of purchases, compare the cost with the durability. Should a buyer replace a home, car or refrigerator every year simply to keep a business "in business?" Is that the duty and obligation of consumers? With services, consumers may often resort to legal assistance to recoup the loss of down payments, deposits and negligent services performed with substandard materials.

No. 9 - Massive Debt and Personal Consumerism

Personal consumerism is the chief cause of loss of personal financial stability. When titillated by the glut of offers of credit, credit extensions and financing, the urge is nearly irresistible to spend more than is rational or reasonable. Massive debt and personal consumerism are inextricably linked to lack of self-discipline and a sense of entitlement to excess and luxury. Yet, when debt becomes massive, the peripheral costs of credit and collections incurred can be worse than the original debt owed. Fatal Flaw No. 9 is inter-related with controlling mass consumption using the perspective of common sense buying.

No. 10 - Consumerism and Scams

In combination with hyper sales pitches, advertising overload, in your face sales aggression and consumerism, the number of scams are increasing in astounding proportions. Consumers today feel violated by scams and live in constant fear of loss of their credit ratings and financial stability as a result. Yet, their buying sprees don't prevent their consumerism from abatement or stagnation. Instead, buyers forge ahead into the world of unprotected consumerism online and off, throwing all caution directly into the winds of another ill fated scam. Fatal Flaw No. 10 ignores the prevalent role consumers play in aiding scammers by lack of vigilance over their own personal information. They ignore the old saw, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." If maniacal consumerism was not so rampant, scams would not flourish.

The Consumer's Credo

Avoid the ten fatal flaws of personal consumerism by utilizing a thorough and forthright inventory of buying habits. Root out the negative character traits that may cause lifelong financial debt and needless worry. If you "need" it, buy it. If you "want" it, calculate the shelf life value of the product or service vs. the cost. Hoarding excess can be easily avoided with a bi-annual inventory of stored possessions. Sell it or give it to charity if it's still useful. If not, dispose of it and save the cost of rental units.



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    • C.V.Rajan profile image

      Disillusioned 

      3 years ago from Kerala, India

      A very powerful and authoritative writing! Thumbs up.

      C.V.

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