Monday, August 24, 2009

Life - The longest running infomercial.

Bleatings from EnviRambo.




Something strange has happened to me. Last week my daughter and I headed to the Mall of America for some back to school shopping and this past weekend the kids and I went to Six Flags for a last hurrah before school starts. Either situation thrust me amongst more people than I have been around in a long time, but the two combined was sensory overload. I did not realize how commercial the world was until I removed myself from it. I am not saying that I have become a hermit. I was all over this summer... weekly trips to the farmers' market, cooking demonstrations, organic farm tours, thrift store shopping, the library, a play, organic milk rally, town hall meeting with Secretary of Agriculture - Tom Vilsack, rides on the bike trail, charity events, screening of Food Inc, the list goes on and on. I think I have been in ignorant bliss, living in an alternative world where there are no commercials or advertisements, free from the marketing onslaught of reality.

These past few weeks have been an eye opener. I used to love the mall - I worked there for six years. The sights, sounds, and smells were of comfort, like a second home. Now they make me want to run for the exit to breathe fresh air and clear my head. All those people milling about... like rats in cage. The salespeople either ignore you, are disgruntled that they have to deal with you, or cling to you like a cheap suit. It made me miss the farmers' market where the "salespeople" greet me by name and always have a smile. It is a different kind of familiarity that I am accustomed to, unlike the chatter of the mall. I am dreading the month of November when my farmers' market shuts down for the year and I have to return to the supermarket for food. The cold aisles, bright lights, tinny music, and beep beep beep of the checkout scanner do not appeal to me at all.

Then there was our trip to Six Flags this weekend. That was a marketing slap in the face er, punch in the gut. I felt like a prisoner undergoing a brainwashing experiment. Everywhere I turned was an advertisement of one sort or another. Giant banners everywhere with brands emblazoned on them. Commercials blasted over the airwaves. Multiple televisions positioned at every angle to assault you while waiting in line - Have you ever tried watching nothing but commercials for an hour? Even the rides themselves were sponsored by a product - Do I really need to read about ketchup while on The Demon? At one point while waiting in line I noticed a girl using sign language and thought how lucky she was to be deaf. Terrible, I know! Even the gas station on the way home had a television atop each pump. I purposely pay at the pump to avoid the store and all the products in it, now I cannot even do that. At least when they were static signs I could choose to look the other way. It is harder to ignore when it is blasting in your ear. I felt completely violated.

Returning home I breathed a sigh of relief like no other. Ahhhh..... Quiet. The occasional commercial may drift in during an episode of 'Drop Dead Diva' or in-between songs on the radio, but only because I choose to allow it. I am in control of my home. I have stopped nearly all junk mail, removed myself from all catalog mailing lists, signed up for the no-call registry, and know how to use the power button on the remote control. As far as the outside world, the best I can do is choose to not put myself in those situations. Pay at the pump, shop locally-owned boutiques, become a thrifter, use the library, meet the people who grow your food at the farmers' market, let nature be your entertainment, and so on.

I was happy in my ignorant bliss, as people usually are, only this time a dose of reality was a different kind of wake up call. One that had me craving more of the same, reaffirming my alternative lifestyle. Obviously marketing cannot be avoided - life is like the longest running infomercial. What is featured in yours?


15 comments:

Green Bean said...

I'm like you. I hardly shop at mainstream stores anymore or go to places like amusement parks. We spend our time supporting local retailers, buying from the farmers market and visiting state parks. It's always a shock to venture out into the "real world".

Tameson said...

I get anxious in the mall too.

Daisy said...

Hmmm...maybe that's why I'm dreading school starting. I've had this sheltered summer, avoiding the mall and the television as much as possible, and now I'm going to be facing 30 Hannah-Montana-toting kiddos. Sigh. I'm ready - not.

Monica said...

I feel the same way at the mall. I start getting a case of the heebie jeebies from all of the stuff, people and noise. I try to avoid them like the plague. Luckily, we've only been there once so far this year. :)

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I had the same experience last week only at Target, and sadly I fell prey to the infomercial, buying some things I wanted but didn't necessarily need. It's so hard to resist when you're bombarded by temptation on every side!

greeen sheeep said...

Ah Erin, how I do love Target. It's like my kryptonite. I don't know that I have ever made it out of that store without an impulse buy.

flowers said...

It's so true! I shop at "regular" stores so infrequently that when I go in I get lost for hours suddenly remembering all the things I need. I went into Target for a lantern to go camping the other day and an hour later I looked and had a cart full of random impulse buys. I just walked out!

I did love your list of what you did do this summer! Mine is similar ;-)

Truffula Mama said...

As a teenager, I was a regular at our local mall - not to hang out with buddies, but because it was my go-place for clothing, gifts, etc. When my mom announced that she was going to the mall, I cheerfully accompanied her. I knew where stores were located, and which entrance would be best for a given expedition.

Today, it's still the local mall, only it's not mine. Many of the stores I knew are long gone, and I have no clue what's replaced them. I don't think about which entrance is best for parking, but instead, if there isn't possibly an alternative to going there in the first place. If I must go, I think about the distance of the walk from the bus stop.

And my mom thinks I've gone off the deep end. ;-)

But, hey, not only do I avoid the back-to-school crush, but I blithely ignore the teeming masses and horrendous traffic situations as the winter holiday shopping kicks into full gear. There *are* definitely advantages to swimming outside the mainstream!

Regarding Target and Ikea, now we're talking about a different situation altogether. That may be an area of un-greenness for me. Just sayin'.

greeen sheeep said...

Ha! Truffula Mama, I "forgot" to mention my trips - with an "s" - to Ikea in my list of summer outings. Those two stores are best for me to avoid altogether, way too tempting. I am weak.

Truffula Mama said...

@greeen sheeep - I'm sure you were at the I___ store simply for the lingonberries, and that you purchased not one thing more. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I feel like screaming when visiting Ikea - even though I love their products, there's no visible way out of the store and it's always packed! I avoid it like the plague if possible...there's always the online catalogue to look at. :)

We watch DVDs, but don't have free-to-air (no aerial) or cable. I shop at a farm for fruit and veg, but do get my groceries from Woolies or Coles as we've no co-op nearby. My mind seems turned off from what the marketers are trying to achieve, although ads are still incredibly annoying!

Cath

Eco Yogini said...

totally agree- our life and media is a giant marketing ploy. After spending several years studying body image and the media I became hyper aware of all the sexist and unhealthy messages our media was sending to women and girls... the average person sees something ridiculous like 300 ads per day...

Living in a city even a short walk to the local boutique reveals bus stops with signage, buildings with billboards...

I feel so much better after canceling cable. no more commercials. :) it has become so insidious that we (as a society) rarely even notice how influenced we are. A billion dollar industry wouldn't be booming if we weren't affected by advertising.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Greeen Sheeep and Truffula Mama - I am so glad I don't live near an Ikea anymore. You know what their biggest draw was for me? The free babysitting and kids play area. Sometimes we'd go just because we were bored. But of course we'd always go home with something. :(

Fake Plastic Fish said...

OMG! That feeling of overwhelm that you just had? That's EXACTLY how I felt at the Blogher conference. Exactly. I think I live in a bubble too, here in the Bay Area. Getting out into the world of malls and commercials (in your case) or aggressive marketers and swag (in my case) is an important wake-up call but also a shock to the nervous system!

Stephanie said...

I went to Six Flags recently too -- believe me, it wasn't so commercial until they went bankrupt and thought that maybe ads would bring in revenue! I think they were wrong. (I read a whole article on how ad revenue [passive revenue] is an awful way to make enough money to run. That dealt with the web, but I can see it in Six Flags too.) It was so awful! I love Six Flags, but with all the ads there it was a bad experience.

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