Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Paranoid Theory of Shopping

This started as a medium-ugly dog ornament
and then they dipped it in a tarlike substance
in an attempt to make it look like a poodle.
My daughter and I recently had 20 minutes to kill and the only place around was Target.

We ended up in the holiday-decoration aisle, where everything sparkled and glittered.

And we temporarily lost our minds.

We exited the store $20 dollars lighter, the dazed, new owners of about a dozen Christmas ornaments, including perhaps the ugliest one ever made.

What happened?

I once interviewed the marketing person for a beer brand, for a trade-magazine article. She described her latest campaign, targeted at young men, ages 21 to 25. In the pause while I processed just how ridiculous young men could be, she said, “OK, so this one doesn’t target you, but we do have ones that would work on you.” She added darkly, “Everyone is influenced by marketing.”

“Yeah, right,” I thought. “Not me.” But over the years, I’ve come to see that she was right.

Enter a mall and the lights, the crowds, the disorienting labyrinth layout, the lack of windows and clocks, the fast-tempo music, the bakery and coffee smells, all the colors and the piles and the racks are meant to discombobulate you.

I remember my mother in a store – it was a Marshalls, where the marketing message is, “You can find something good for cheap in this dump, IF you search.” She was flicking through a rack and pulled something out – maybe it was brightly colored or loudly patterned, it was certainly eye-catching – and she asked, “So, do I like this or do I hate it?”

Good question. Everything fights for your attention in retail and it can be difficult to keep a hold of your faculties.

Which is how I ended up with my latest Christmas ornament.

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