8.20.2006

Can't Buy a Thrill, or, the Retail Therapy Isn't Working

I have many failings, weaknesses and faults (one of which is readily apparent in this blog: Excessive self-absorption), however deriving excessive pleasure from spending money isn't really one of my gross personality defects. Rather the opposite, I probably should be more free spending, part of the reason I am tight with money is that I find it really hard to think optimistically about the future, and hence I am very good at saving for a rainy day, because I expect the deluge at any moment. (In my own defense, I have lots of direct experience with 'rainy days', some which have been the consequences of my own actions, and some of which have been the result of big macro forces over which I have no control).

Earlier this year I had summer tires put on my car at Sears which meant I was stuck at the local mall for the better part of the afternoon while the tires were installed. I was thoroughly depressed and bored by this experience. There was absolutely NOTHING that I wanted to look at. The record/video stores are just chains and the clothing stores are extremely non-distinctive (how many pairs of khakis does a guy need, anyway?). I wound up back at the really dingy depressing waiting room at the auto service place watching The Godfather Part II on AMC. It was pretty funny because there were two other guys there and all three of us knew the movie really well so we talking to the characters and reciting the lines... I think that the Godfather films are touchstones of American male experience.

But now I have moved to a new condo and it is larger than my old place. It is freshly painted with white walls and new beige carpet: Kind of like a cell at an asylum! (The layout of the place is actually quite nice, it's just that the color scheme is extremely neutral.) This means that I need to spend some money on furnishings. For the past two weekends I have made the 25 mile pilgrimage to Taft Corners, Vermont's center of the big box store universe. I find that I am very prone to looking at stuff and being indecisive and wasting time: And when I pull out my credit card and actually buy something, it makes me more depressed...I don't feel well at all. I usually don't carry a credit card balance but there will be no avoiding taking on some debt as part of moving in. I just wish this process made me happier.

The other thing that has really surprised me is how almost everything in some of the big box stores comes from China: I wonder what being a buyer at these chains is like: Are there trade shows like “The All Asia Unnecessary Kitchen and Bath Gadgetry Exposition”? There are aisles and aisles of this stuff....Who buys it? Where does it come from? (and what are the labor and environmental practices there?)

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