Do we sink or swim in the rising tide of consumerism?

With rising consumerism, shopping festivals have overtaken the real ones.   | Photo Credit: K. RAMESH BABU

With December comes the last swing of the festive season, and as usual, the same concerns pop up: how many gifts does one buy, and how many of them are going to get passed on to someone else? And does it count as a festive gift if it is given months before or after the actual festival?

Thanks to the post-demonetisation push on digital payments, it has become easier for children to become consumeristic at a younger age in India. Nearly every conversation between a young and old family member is based around ‘What did you buy for me today?’

Don’t be surprised if the children seem to know the prices of desirable goods much before you do; even if you control their exposure to television and films, a simple click on an online retailer’s website will reveal all in no time.

Frenzied buying

Nearly every discount sale is now referred to as a shopping festival. What happens to the original festival, the one where we offer prayers, wear new clothes and have a family meal? It gets devalued into a frenzied shopping ritual where everyone, gifter and giftee, knows the price of everything.

There used to be a time in India when new clothes were meant to be not just festive treats, but also the only time when wardrobes got updated for the whole year. But as our families have gone nuclear in size (and some would add, as toxic in impact), parents have become more indulgent. Nearly every social function is reason enough to get a new set of clothes. People are mortified at the thought of repeating their party wear, though there’s no law in any land against it.

The stratospheric prices of bespoke sari blouses (often less than a metre in length) versus the actual sari (five and a half metres), is just one example of how a dressier generation is keeping the economy going, irrespective of demonetisation.

Killer deals

Shopping in the run-up to festivals has been honed to a fine art in Western countries. The ritual of Black Friday — the day after the American festival of Thanksgiving (celebrated on the last Thursday of November) signifies the beginning of Christmas shopping. It is being observed more widely across the world now, despite the disruption and violence that it is associated with. The website has actually been tracking the number of violent incidents related to Black Friday sales in the United States and other countries from 2010. People get pummelled, shot at and trampled in the search of a good deal at the stores.

Not to be left behind, e-commerce marketers have been aggressively pushing online shopping sales on ‘Cyber Monday’, the first Monday following Thanksgiving.

Some may argue that online shopping is less harmful and certainly doesn’t incite random destruction of life, but the ultimate outcome remains the same: it makes us buy one more gift, for ourselves or others.

Let’s hope we’ll spend our money more wisely this festive season.

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 9:49:38 PM |

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