Why I Buy Crap

Bamboo threaded pillow with Peruvian feathers and Persian stitching gives you the perfect night’s sleep. One click, sold. Wait, I already have a pillow!

I buy shit. And I mean the kind of shit you open, take out of the box, skim the directions, and then throw in the closet to dustify. I shop like a cat chases a string. I pursue, but as soon as I have it, I lose interest and move on.

My hairline recedes with every garage sale I hold. “That’s a 400 dollar snowboard! Just give me a 100 bucks for it… 50 bucks… 20… alright, just give me a Slim Jim and a six pack of Budweiser…fine, Natty Light.” Why do I keep buying this stuff that I don’t need?

At least I’m not alone. According to the Los Angeles Times, there are more than 300,000 items in an average American home. Furthermore, Fortune Magazine reported that in the U.S., there are more malls than high schools. This is our culture but why? Why are we addicted to buying so much stuff?

Also, why does stuff suck? I mean, why, no matter how much you spend on a cheap or “luxury” item, does it still suck? You can buy the most expensive car, and after a few hundred miles, the filo-zilo-carberating-who-cares craps out. You push it to the nearest Pep Boys just for the guy to say, “Ehhh, it happens?”

“It happens? I just bought the damn thing!”

I recently ordered a used guitar effects pedal from Reverb.com. It arrived broken so I emailed the seller explaining the situation. The grifter accused me of breaking the pedal, threatened to block me, and told me to fix it! Forty emails with customer service later, I get my hundred bucks back and it just then occurs to me, “Why did I buy that pedal in the first place?” Do these gadgets, things, and stuffs really make me happy?

The more we own, the less we own.

–Meister Eckhart

Sometimes, marketing only creates imaginary voids. It creates problems we need to satisfy, dissonance that only our dollars can resolve. Maybe it’s that potatoes take too long to bake, so we buy a $10 glove that bakes a potato in the microwave. But why do I need the glove? I’ll just put the thing in the microwave for fifteen minutes, take a nap, and wake up to some burnt bacon bits and a mediocre potato. Who cares? (No insult intended to you potato connoisseurs).

I just bought a safety razor blade because the bald guy from Pawn Stars said multi-blade razors are a rip-off. I believed the bald beauty and bought the razor just to have the same mediocre shave I had with Gillette. For the record, I already had five disposable razors in my drawer!

Bad marketing creates the illusion that a product is a miracle to your miserable life, but really the overpriced, Indonesian-made piece of trash isn’t that good and my life ain’t that bad.

To the illumined man or woman, a clod of dirt, a stone, and gold are the same.

–Bhagavad Gita

Maybe it’s a status thing. Companies pay millions of dollars for celebrities to endorse their products, whether it’s Elton John drinking Pepsi or Matthew McConaughey staring blankly out a Lincoln windshield. We want the association. We want the status that this product will give us in public.

If I buy Air Jordans, then I can jump like him too, right? No, I got rusty knees and couldn’t jump over Peter Dinklage lying down.

For some, status is the reason we’ll pay an absurd amount of money on clothing brands like Gucci or Louis Vuitton. However, each year, the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing. Maybe it’s due to changing fashion or maybe you just realized once you got home, “Wait, I don’t like polka dot bow ties.”

“Fashionistas” will pay thousands for some exotic jewelry that looks like a pair of handcuffs. I wouldn’t spend a thousand dollars on handcuffs unless one side was attached to Christina Hendricks' wrist. I might spend an extra fifty bucks on a bottle of cologne endorsed by Brad Pitt. I didn’t understand a single word he said in that goofy Chanel No. 5 commercial, but Brad is married to Angelina Jolie, so… sold.

How many are the things I can do without!

–Socrates

Maybe we want to change our behaviors. This theory is most evident with trendy workout equipment. Ughh… the Shake Weight. I won’t lie, I considered buying a perfect pushup machine because I was hypnotized by a guy who could wear a D-cup bra. Then I thought, let me start with normal pushups before I worry about perfect pushups.

We buy a $4,000 (as little as $100 dollars a month!) stair-climb-thingy so we can watch TV and burn three times the calories. Just run up some stairs like Rocky, you bum! We trick ourselves with the promise that a piece of equipment can change our behavior and make us work out more. Unfortunately, it is just another piece of crap that will take up space and give us a sting of guilt every time we see it.

Every increased possession loads us with a new weariness.

–John Ruskin

I buy based on the assumption that my purchases will lead to change. I buy an expensive guitar pedal instead of spending that time practicing. I buy pricey running shoes because cheap ones hurt my shins, or maybe my shins hurt because I rarely go running. I want these things because they are a short cut to a better me.

But people don’t evolve through purchases, we evolve through experience. A pleasant experience makes for a pleasant memory.

And a memory will never break.

The best things in life aren't things.

–Art Buchwald

 

Written by Jack Scullin on October 9, 2015

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Dan Scullin says:

Kudos on a GREAT article! Keep 'em coming!

David says:

Great article, I buy too much as well.

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Jack Scullin