I just finish my second, one year long shopping diet. During the shopping diet I attempted to purchase nothing but food, household consumables like cleaning supplies, and items that wore out like the tires for my bike, light bulbs for the house, or toner for the printer, and gifts for others. I realized three thing which I will expand on below:
- many of my impulses to purchase items are short lived
- my shopping and purchasing desires are often driven by ego rather than need
- “technology news” is increasingly covert advertising
Desire are Often Short Lived
I have found a shopping diet very liberating. It seems I am often exposed to “great deals”, “must have products”, etc which would often have me considering purchasing an item which I had no idea I needed or desired minutes before I saw the advertisement or read the “news” story. During the shopping diet I was committed to not purchasing things, so it was much easier to ignore these bids for my attention, especially sales that ran for a limited time.
Sometimes I wasn’t able to just dismiss the appeal of an item. Rather than break my diet, I would drop the item into a wishlist and then put it out of my mind. This week I finished my diet and looked at the wishlist accumulated over the last year. I immediately was able to dismissing nearly 2/3 the items on the list. A “cooling off” period from my initial purchase impulse allowed me to I realized that I had no need or lasting desire for many of the items. There were a few were items I choose to purchase. There was a small number of items that remained on my wishlist because they will likely be useful in the future, but they are not immediately needed.
Shopping can be Drive by Ego
One item on the wishlist I dismissed was the very pricy shure kse1500 electrostatic headphone system. Finding this on my wishlist surprised me. A few years ago I decided that a pair of Sennheiser H800 headphones driven by a Chord Mojo DAC was my “end-game” headphone system. I had listened to, and owned better sounding headphone systems, but the sound quality didn’t justify the investment given how often I used headphones. I would rather use speakers so Jackie and I can enjoy the music together. Why was I tempted to purchase some pricy headphones that I wouldn’t use that much? I realized there were several reasons.
The first reason I considered purchased these headphone was driven by my curiosity. I was interested to see if these headphones were as wonderful as reviews suggested, and how my perceptions compared to the people who wrote such positive reviews. Second, I was experiencing a bit of FOMA… what if these reviews were correct? Maybe I was missing out of some amazing sounding headphones which could bring me musical bliss. Third, these appealed to an imagined future life which allowed me to have superior sound quality while having great freedom of movement. Unfortunately, while all three of these reasons made purchasing these headphone attractive, that was an even stronger reason these headphones had ended up on my shopping list. I wanted to be an expert consumer.
I realize I take a fair bit of my identity from having good taste and from having a comprehensive knowledge of a product space. I felt compelled to find “the very best” items. Over the years I have created a number of web pages which included a survey of well regard products where I share what I have learned. I tell myself I am making these lists to help others, but I think it’s primarily driven by ego. A way to show how smart I am. To demonstrate I have good taste and know what is world class.
When I think about the legacy I want to leave, it’s not that I am an expert consumer, it’s that I have made this world a better place and had a positive impact on people I encounter. Being an expert consumer is not something that significantly advances either of these things. I don’t want to spend my time refining my ability to be a good consumer. I don’t want to invest countless hours creating and then maintaining web pages about products that people consume. Going forward I plan of avoiding spending my time writing product reviews or maintaining product lists, and instead spend my time investing in people.
Tech News is Advertising
This experience has also made me see how insidious advertising has become. It seems that many of the news outlets, blogs, twitter feeds etc which used to feature information seem to be filled with “reviews” and “news” which promotes consumer products. For example, I recently noticed than almost 1/3 of the articles in lifehacker are able products which are now on sale. Maybe it’s always been that way and I am just noticing this trend, but I think this is a new thing. I am seeing the same trend, if not an even higher percent of storing in other outlets. For example, why is there an articles about the 2018 Miata getting a boast in horsepower in a blog about computer technology. I am sure several of the articles I see area really paid “product placement”. In the next few months I am going to see if I can modify my news sources and filtering rules to be more about important ideas and technologies, and less about new consumer products that someone thinks I should buy.
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.I Timothy 6:17-19