I had an interesting talk with a client the other day. They were describing their frustrations about the way they are marketed to. This is an area I am very interested in, running my small business.
They felt that they were consistently being told to buy products or services, while often they’d managed perfectly well without buying new things, and making do with what they already have. They felt the pressure of all these marketing messages, on Facebook, their TV and every billboard in town was wearing them down both emotionally and financially. This was, by any reasonable definition, a from of mental stress.
It certainly is true that we do seem to be bombarded with marketing messages these days. And at a time when prices seem to consistently outstrip salaries many people feel they are less well off than they were a few short years ago. Such influences are sometimes not in our interests.
My client also described an interesting concept. They voiced their concern that their own joy in ownership was undermined by the idea it was bought with an equal amount of misery from someone else. For example, a fashionable tee shirt might look great, but they knew very well that the person manufacturing it in a sweatshop in Bangladesh was paid a pittance. So, while they may enjoy their purchase to some degree, there was a cost that was not financial, but that weighed on their mind.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Another example might be that the cheap Chilean wine, compared to B.C. wines. If you were to place two $15 bottles of wine on a table and sample them, they might be very comparable. So, what is the difference between one, which is produced in a country with a poor human rights record, and discrimination against women and alternate genders, and the other locally produced product? Does the tax paid to support the government of either one represent a good or evil choice? I know we’re not paragons of virtue, but living in the coastal splendor of BC is very different to living in a third world country lacking in the types of humanitarian values Canada stands for.
So, what is the difference? I don’t particularly have the answers to this, but I think it is a fair question. I suspect it’s something to do with knowledge and education. If we have knowledge of the situation our choice is likely more informed and we may apply a degree of ‘moral criteria’ into our decision. So, education clearly plays a role here.
These issues become much more complex when we look at more expensive purchases. Now, I have nothing against people who drive Teslas. However, indulge me for a moment. The choice not to over-heat the planet with more internal combustion engines is clearly a good one. However, there’s a challenge here. That brand new Tesla uses heavy metals mined in the Congo (yes, I’m old fashioned calling it that, but it’s an improvement over ‘Zaire’) often by children working in open cast mines in horrendous conditions. And I can assure you they’re not working a 4 hour week with labour standards. I don’t have to go far down this road before you get the general idea.
And while I’m on a roll, my brother, who drives an electric car (predictably beige, God bless him), has just found out that his battery is on the way out, and that the vehicle, after ten years, is basically trash. So, guess who is in the market for a new car? The life span of a vehicle probably factors in here. Being able use a product that lasts a longer time may be said to depreciate the impact of these choices. I should add that my bicycle is nearly ten years old and I will be very disappointed if I don’t squeeze another 10 years of use out of it. Likely manufactured in a Chinese factory, possibly with raw materials little more ethically sound than those in a car, the technology hasn’t changed radically so as to compel me to buy a new bicycle anytime soon. I still press the peddle and the wheel turns. I’m not saying it’s any better, but it does seem that lifespan of the product does have some impact on the equation.
I’m not even going to get onto the subject of cell phones.
So, what I’m suggesting today is this. At your next purchase, small or large, just step back for a moment and ask yourself the question, “Do I want this, or am I responding to being told I want this?”
While it might not dissuade you from buying the product you’re passionate about, at least it may help you do so in a way you can live with – and live happier with. As summer winds down and the kids get back into school I am beginning to see a few more clients. I do prioritise those who I’ve seen in the past. Be sure to let me know if you’d like to come in for a ‘tune up’. I can’t replace your battery, but I may be able to help you get the most out of the one you have!
Have a great week. If you or someone you know needs a little help I am seeing clients at 1892 West Broadway. Point them in my direction or give me a call at 778 919 0197.