Consumerism as a word on its own is a very vague and ambiguous term. Every person on the globe is a consumer on his/her standards. Air, food, clothing, water and food are some of the basic needs which every man play a consumer role to. A more serious case is however that of, hyper-consumerism; which refers to a poorly controlled shopping spree of usable items, including those of no importance. The habit is said to either be either of chronic or recurrent nature in individuals. Marketers have therefore taken advantage of this vulnerable group and are making a kill out of them (Dawson, pp.139-145). Some shopaholics behaviors are self inflicted and are simply either out of ignorance or irresponsibility, while others are due to lack of control of the impulse. This irresponsible behavior will cause our society to suffer greatly in the long run. The attitude of “I want more, spend more, work more–rinse and repeat” is leading the entire society to its ruins without offering any benefits in the end…its like the proverbial rodent in a wheel, running so hard yet getting nowhere. The only beneficiaries here are the marketers who in most cases build a marketing strategy depending on the clues that they have regarding the consumer behavior (Dawson, p.171). Consumers on their part only go for those goods that seem appealing to their self concept needs; hence a right target by the marketers will definitely lead to a boost in sales. Since consumers’ lifestyle is so much tied with promotional strategies, marketers may exploit this group of disadvantaged hyper-consumers who have little or no control over what they purchase. This paper will look at how the marketers are exploiting those consumers who are not able to control the attempt of digging into their pockets. The paper will also give the ethical stand of the position of such marketers who make a living out of the sales made on hyper consumerism.
Marketers and Consumers
The major objective of any marketer is to satisfy the buyers’ needs, and in a case where the seller recognizes a weakness in the buyer to purchase in excess without control, the most probable thing that the marketer will do would be exploit this situation to his advantage. With no policies or enforced regulations to guide this operation, consumers stand to lose a lot here. With their persuasive advertisements, marketers in most cases succeed in convincing consumers to go for goods that consumers practically have no use for. Top in the victims’ list are the compulsive shoppers, who easily fall in the trap. The urge to buy an item is already in them far long before the marketer strike. The marketer only worsens the situation by convincing the consumer to buy more and more, yet he knows the underlying repercussions of over shopping. Some of the ills of compulsive shopping which of cause the victims are aware of include; time wastage, market distress, social, family and financial difficulties (Black, pp.15-16).
How the Marketers are Exploiting Hyper-Consumers
Most people are involved in excessive consumption of goods and use of services, not out of needs, but wants which have been inflicted on them by the marketing and advertising industry. Once the marketers realize that a particular group of consumers are in a shopping spree, they do the next “best” thing for their business, that is, advertise and publicize the product to encourage further consumption. This, they do even with the knowledge that excessive consumption is dangerous upon the consumer. After realizing that the victims have got their emotions manipulated into consumption, the marketers encourage them to go on consuming even if debts are weighing them down. It is like the marketers have no conscience at all; mobilizing hyper-consumers to keep on the trend in the name of earning profits is unacceptable. To some extent, some products have been reported to be laced with additives which are addictive to keep the consumers hooked to the stuff forever, making him come again, again and again (Barber, 2008).
The Future Implication of Hyper-Consumerism
Over-consumerism is more of a disease than a habit, according to Dawson, who is an epidemiologist, hyper consumerism, which he refers to as the love of possession is the chief cause of the recent reports of insidious ailments. He gives an example of heavy drinking of alcohol which leads to irresponsible behavior and to a further extent can break homes; it can eventually result to final death of the consumer. Over-eating is also one major course of the lately witnessed mass “fatty generation” in the 21st Century. Very few people are keenly watching what goes through their mouths. People have ignored all the directives of nutritionists on what a good diet should include (McElroy, p.175).
Our planet stands a risk of running out of resources if the concept of rampant consumerism does not stop. But this is one realization that our marketing agents have overlooked, or simply brushed aside. They are desperately busy marketing their goods and encouraging more and more consumption. The marketing communities have even reached to the children who they strive to win their loyalty right from birth and infantilize their parents so that they can discourage their children from making alternative choices when they grow up. With this trend kept on the go, the branding supremos will definitely achieve their goal of trapping generation after generation in using their product regardless of the side effects (Barber, 2008). There are those who are just shopaholics; they just purchase anything that they come across, even if they do not need them. As much as this may sound crazy, such people do exist, and it is not to their liking that they buy the new stuff; the urge to posses a new item overwhelms them to a point of driving them to divert all their monies to quench the urging effect…this creates a harvest time for the marketers and the entire business community. The business community fuels the urge by scheming on a highly calculated and timely propaganda in form of advertisement. The marketers says they cannot survive without this, since all the necessary human basic needs have already been satisfied (in the developing world), therefore the only way to make sales would be to recreate and reinvent goods which they will convince the public to get addicted to as their top priority second degree wants. These are people who are attracted by the image of the product and not the function (Benson, pp.457-461). All the basic needs having been exhausted, the marketing communities seem to have devised the only best move, that of eternalizing childhood desires and fabricating “unnecessary” adult products. This feeling that comes over a person on the need to own unnecessary items is what Black calls “Compulsive buying disorder”. Black explains that this condition leads to subjective distress and impaired functioning of ones judgment. It is a kind of obsession that overcomes a person with anxiety that only be relieved when he/she goes shopping. Black puts this in a four step process; anticipation, preparation, shopping and spending. Immediately after fulfilling the last phase, what follows is a depressive feeling of disappointment and a let down; they seem to find no satisfaction from buying an item that they craved for so much (Black, p.17).
Consumption is not only limited to foodstuffs and other consumables, television watching is another one. It is a major problem especially in children. The time allocated to watching TV is far too much and not necessary. Barber calls this problem “a homogeneous lowbrow pulp” crafted to appeal to people of all ages. Hyper-consumption has its share of problems to the environment. Despite the awareness, green-consumerism persists and the green marketers are on record encouraging the public to consume as they (green marketers) love to. Shoppers are being hoodwinked by the money minded community of marketers into buying goods that they really do not need…the eventual results are far too costly to bear. If not detrimental to the consumers’, then it is to health, or it will eat into his/her pockets, a heavy cross to bear indeed.
Ethical Issues of Hyper Consumerism and Marketing
It is unethical and socially unacceptable to subject fellow humans to any form of exploitation; worse still if involves those who might not be mentally apt. The marketing communities have therefore been warned against this practice of taking advantage of hyper consumers. This is a ruthless and mindless destruction of the current as well as the generation to come. Everyone should embrace collective responsibility and promotion of a pattern of equitable consumption founded on growth, not unbridled consumerism. But thanks to hyper consumerism, humans have been preconditioned to believe that shopping offers some kind of pleasure. For instance, the TV tries to depict the Show, Sex and the City to be the real picture of New York City, rather that “a crime scene” that it really is. People have taken to emulating Television characters as if they are the real selves. Such television scenes are not practical, but the public does not come to this realization; so when they compare their real lives with the television ones and fail to get the connection, they grow discontent. The adverts do not stop at that, they continue to convince the public that they can surely draw contentment in shopping. Marketers therefore insist that shopping can be done on literally everything including anything; be it physical stuff, experience, relationships, emotional fulfillment and even religion…the list is endless. This is simply throwing the mass off balance, and illegal (Hotchkin, 2009).
Being Hyper is no reality, and when one comes face-to-face with reality, un-satisfaction rules. Reality to the hyper-persons is inadequate, inadequate and impotent. The planet is a world of paradox, where no one can simply get satisfied with what he/she has. Just like the case of the compulsive shoppers, who feel that “if they have this or that, they will be happy, it will never happen. What may result instead of that is just disappointment and depression. Therefore it is unethical for the business community to make “dirty” money in the shadow of hyper consumerisms (www.peterhotchkinsermons.blogspot.com).
This essay has established that the hyper-consumerism state of the society was greatly aided by the profit minded business men. They wanted to continue in the profit making spree and so resorted to the creation of synthetic needs which they ensured appeared like basic needs that no one could live without. The concept promoted by the business community is leaving no chance for human diversity, but rather reinventing the wheel, where adults are encouraged to remain children in their acts and choice of commodities. From the facts gathered in the paper, it can be confidently asserted that, the problem of uncontrolled excess consumption began with capitalism which promoted expenditure and not savings, narcissism and not service to others, hence shattering any possibility of democratic choice.
The consumers have the potential to put to and to this destructive circle, by initiating a solid plan to avoid the carelessness and the downright laziness. But some reports hold it those bad practices like compulsive buying disorder may run deep into a person’s genes. In (McElroy, pp.139-172), explains that abnormality is genetically passed from parent to child, so instead of spending time talking the addicted heavy spenders out of the idea, the government should just enforce some regulations to the marketers and other business organizations to avert any exploitative act. The report further levels accusation of the disorder to cultural and development influences on a child as he/she grew up. It explains that the way a person has been brought up in his early life may also lead to acquisition of such a behavior in his adulthood. A group approach of psychotropic treatment can be used on an individual suffering from a compulsive buying disorder. But it is all up to the individuals. They ought to have the courage to face real life just as it is, no hiding under the veil of hyper consumerism culture. Humans should not elevate themselves to the position of deity where they think they can control everything in life…let us all be real and live real.
Barber, Benjamin, R. Consumed: Think you love shopping? An interview by Sophie Morris in Norton on (2008). Web.
Benson AL,( Ed). I Shop Therefore I Am: Compulsive Buying & the Search for Self. New York, NY: Jason Aronson. (2000). pp.457-483.
Black, Donald, W. Compulsive Buying Disorder: definition, assessment, epidemiology and clinical management. CNS Drugs. (2001). pp.15:17.
Dawson, Michael. The Consumer Trap: Big Business Marketing in American Life. Champaign: University of Illinois Press. (2003). pp.139-178.
Hotchkin Peter. The Ethics of Hyper-Consumerism. From McElroy S, Satlin A, Pope Jr. H.G, Keck PE Jr. and Hudson, J.I. Treatment of compulsive shopping with antidepressants: a report of three cases. Ann Clin Psychiatry. (1991).