Posted on Friday, December 17, 2010
The holiday season is now in full throttle, which can mean only thing: Let's consume. And let's consume as much as is humanly possible in a very short period of time. Most of this consumption will take place in shopping centers, malls, and retail outlets, as well online. We are encouraged to purchase as much as we can in order to satisfy the bottomless pit of our needs and, more importantly, to spur on the recovery of our weakened economy. According to economists, if sales are stronger this year than last year, then we must be headed in the right direction.
One of the most prevalent advertisements seen this year in many major outlets is "buy more, save more." What the promotions are getting at is that the more dollars you spend, the higher discount you'll receive. You can find this at a multitude of outlets, including Banana Republic, Home Depot, Dell, CVS, and Macy's. But this doesn't make any sense because, as we all know, the more you spend, the more you'll owe. In other words, retailers, desperate for sales much like many businesses in America, are literally engaging in less than truthful advertising. And what's really behind much of this promotion is getting people to open up new credit card accounts at these stores.
We've already been down this buy-more-save-more road before with our housing market, and that didn't end up very well. There isn't much difference between banks pushing mortgages on people to buy houses they couldn't afford and retailers pushing people in a weakened economy to spend more than they can.
In a time when people are feeling tense, scared, and basically insecure about their jobs and financial wherewithal, it's unconscionable to continue with these kinds of promotional tactics. Yes, it's true that the responsibility to buy or not to buy ultimately falls on the consumer. However, it's also the responsibility of any vendor to understand its audience and not play up to these kinds of insecurities.
Unless this changes, we'll only continue a cycle of debt from which we will never recover.
Jonathan A. Schein is president/CEO, ScheinMedia, publisher of GreenRealEstateDaily.comJonathan A. Schein