By: Gulrukh Tausif
When it comes to shopping, one of the best things I have read is an advice by Warren Buffet. The American business magnate, investor and one of the richest men in the world says: “If you keep on buying things you don’t need, soon will come a time when you will have to sell things you do need.”
We might not have gone as far the Chinese teenager who sold his kidney to buy the latest version of the iPhone, but I feel as a society, we are bleeding ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally when it comes to keeping up with Jones, Smiths and Harrys.
There was a time when shopping was done on a need-to-do basis. Children needed new clothes as they had outgrown their old ones. Shopping was done for Eid, weddings and household appliances were bought once they spluttered and had drawn their last breath. However nowadays the shopping process has become as ruthless and dangerous as a many headed Hydra. Just like the mythical monster who grew two heads for every head chopped off, our needs seem to multiply as soon as each one is gratified.
“Time to upgrade your wardrobe with flat 30% off”
“Enjoy upto 40% off on the hottest prints of this season.”
“Buy electronics using your Bank credit card and get 20% off.”
“Summer dhamaka sale, Pre-Eid Sale, After Eid discounts, Stock clearance…..
“Best deals on all you can eat….”
The words Sale, Deal and Discount are enough to throw us in a state of excited frenzy and these words are being used consistently in print and electronic media by every brand conceivable to entice people to shop more, to spend more and to buy more.
It would have been a different matter if convenience and better living standards were the only reason to go shopping. But the sad reality is that with changing times, our values and norms have also shifted shape. There is intense competition and rivalry among the affluent to become the society’s trend setters. TV shows, magazines and social media carry images of the rich, the bold and the beautiful flaunting their hair, makeup, clothes, accessories, travel destinations and lavish weddings. The trickledown effect of this tendency has played havoc on the middle-class strata in Pakistan.
People are working long, arduous hours to earn more and more money so that they can keep up with the latest trends or else lose face. Money is being spent to replace or upgrade things of personal use, electronic items, gadgets, household stuff, and cars at an alarming rate. It no longer matters if they are perfectly functional, what matters is that there is a new model in the market and there’s a deal tag along with it.
The tragic part is that once new things are acquired, short-term euphoria is experienced till a new model or a new volume or a new version arrives in the market which makes our possession redundant and outmoded. There is then a scramble to dispose of these “unwanted” things and scrimp, save or borrow to buy the latest stuff. This has increased spending and reduced savings and asset building which most of us can ill afford.
It is quite ironic that the same people you see browsing online shopping websites one day are listing their stuff on online selling websites the next week. People are buying things they do not even need just because they are being offered with a discount or Sale tag. They are eating food they cannot afford or even do not like just because “there’s an offer you cannot refuse” to go along with it.
Tulip pants are given to the maasi as gharara pants are in and short shirts are considered to be “oh so out-of-fashion!” as long shirts come back with a vengeance. Colours and style become outdated in the blink of the eye and nothing seems to give any gratification.
The downside of this consumerism is the restlessness, dissatisfaction, stress and envy that go along with all the paraphernalia. It is leading to more family discord and financial stress when bills and credit card loans have to be paid. More and more stuff is thrown away as with the arrival of Volume 2, Volume 1 goes out of vogue.
If we are honest with ourselves, consumerism has put us into a state of constant dissatisfaction – we are never happy with what we have, what we look like, what we eat, what we wear, where we go and what we drive. It is the need of the hour that we make intelligent, conscious decisions regarding what we buy, simply by asking ourselves, “do we need it or do we want it?” We have to get out of this rat race before it tramples our morals, ethics and all sense of inner peace.
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Story first published: 15th July 2017