A few years back, Beth decided that she would stop buying clothes from retail stores, and would only get our clothes second hand. This started because we were frustrated and troubled that it is nearly impossible to trace who made our clothes, or in what conditions. The thought of buying clothes made in sweatshops that abuse their workers is repulsive to both of us. There's also the constant frustration and waste of buying cheaply made clothes from clothing stores, and the fact that we could save some money, but the main reason for the change was that we do not want to support the global clothing industry, at least not directly. Well, today we made an exception. I needed a belt and some white t-shirts for work, and Beth had come up empty on her thrift runs, so off to Kohl's we went. Today I was shocked with the world of the department store. And amused and sickened, too by what I found on our trip.
The first thing that struck me was how much extra stuff there is in this country. Rows upon rows of all kinds of clothes, and jewelry, and underwear, and everything, just sitting there unused. If that Kohl's shuts down tomorrow, everyone who lives around it will be just fine. The store is serving no otherwise unmet purpose, except, I suppose increasing shareholder profit.
Then there was the over-the-top signage and displays, all designed to persuade me: back to school displays; stoic or overly happy models; 75% off; extra amounts to take off if some requirement or other is met. There was no respect for me that I was willing to pay what something was worth, or buy only what I need. There is obvious intent from the sign-hangers to manipulate me into buying as much as they can.
Then comes the soothing music, with frequently intermittent interruptions about ways to save even more money. And at the end of the message, just when you think you've heard enough they say it: "The more you know, the more you Kohl's." I won't say more about that.
When we paid for my belt and a pack of white t-shirts, the lady (who had already tried to take ahold of my address and credit rating in exchange for an additional 10% off) informed me that I just saved $24.25. I won't say more about that, either.
On the way to the car, I told Beth that I imagine a shareholder meeting in which one guy stands up and says, "You know, if we spin the truth a little, we sell more product... I wonder if we make our entire store revolve around spin...," at which point some other guy interrupts excitedly and finishes his evil sentence. Beth thought it more likely that the shareholders spend there meetings just sitting around and laughing.
We humans can get used to anything, and we Americans are very much used being controlled by the hangers of the signs. If you've never abstained from going to a department store for an extended period of time, I strongly encourage you to do so. It takes some adjusting, but buying less, buying only what you need, and thinking about where it comes from are habits worth getting used to.