“Black Friday, Cyber Monday, national shopping holidays next?” I said to Campbell as I sat down, shaking the rain from my hat.
“I take it shopping is not your happy place.”
“I know you run a bookstore Camp and you rely on people shopping for books but what kind of a world is this relentless consumer driven existence. We shop until we drop goes the clichée and unless we participate we perish,” I lamented.
“Did Clare take you to the mall against your will?” Camp asked, raising a quizzical, bushy eyebrow.
“Not exactly,” I said. “She knows how much I hate shopping and the glitzy environments of these consumer palaces. Labyrinths of generic franchises and instant plastic food outlets, populated with a revolving crowd that always reminds me of Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’in which zombies try to take over a shopping mall. I hate malls almost as much as airports.
“You’re just old fashioned,” Camp said, taking a leisurely sip from his beer, “and you miss the small shops of main street and the intimate touch of a store with a personality, something like Coast Books, which provides a friendly, personal shopping experience in a comfortable environment.”
“You sound like a commercial Camp – a friendly personal shopping experience– I almost get a fuzzy warm feeling listening to you.”
“Yeah, but books are different, they are full of information, stories and pictures, easy to store and valued for generations.”
“Give me a break, you know how many tons of books end up in the bin? There actually is a big container at the recycle center just for books. I sometimes find myself browsing in there myself. Not to mention how many forests end up as books. Anyway I’m not talking about bookstores when I talk about shopping. I’m referring to the insatiable, voracious appetite for new and better things: clothes, toys, accessories, electronics, gadgets, implements and even cars. It’s an endless consumer orgy.”
“It’s what makes the world go ‘round,” Camp said. “It’s what drives our economies. If we all stopped shopping and held on to our aging stuff, the wheel of commerce would grind to a stop and we’d all end up in a depression. Spend your moneygoes one slogan, in with new – out with the oldis another popular tag line.”
“From mall to trash heap, from factory to incinerator, with a finite life as a gizmo or a thingamajig in-between,” I said. “I target-shop which means that I procrastinate until my old jeans have transmigrated into pop fashion, faded and full of holes, which is usually pointed out to me by Clare. “It looks like you need a new pair of pants,” or “how can you wear those broken down sneakers? You look like a hobo. Time to go shopping.” The dreaded word.
“I thought you liked shopping,” Camp said, “it is part of your retirement social life. You said yourself. It’s where you meet people and have a chat.”
“I’m not talking about food shopping,” I said “shopping for necessities is not the same as walking around malls looking for inspiration and I have to confess I like going to the building supply store.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know that you’re a conscientious shopper, not to be confused with a bargain hunter or the mom trying to cloth her children. Like anything else in life: moderation is the key. Shopaholics are driven by a compulsive disorder as are alcoholics and workaholics .”
“And then there are the ritualistic consumer orgies, driven by clever marketing strategies, usually with a cultural or religious bend,”
“You mean like Halloween, Valentines Day and Christmas, incidentally the biggest boost to book stores. We couldn’t survive without compulsive gift giving,” Camp said.
“I guess I’m howling at the moon here. It’s just that I hate malls and I know that the difference between the shopper at the Gucci and the Salvation Army store is only money.”
“Well my friend,” Camp said, “shopping can be a mutually satisfying and gratifying experience both for the buyer and the seller. It can be pleasing and even invigorating and what’s wrong with that?”
Just at that moment Vicky came by with a timely second round of foamy beverages. “You like shopping Vicky?” I asked her.
“Who doesn’t?” she said, “except I don’t have the time or the money to do much of it. I buy most of the stuff I need or want on line and on credit.”
“What about malls?” I wanted to know, “do you like malls?”
“Only in the winter,” Vicky said, “they keep the lousy weather outside.”
“There you have it,” Camp said, “shelter from the storm with an opportunity to participate in the economy.”