Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Breaking News: Supermarket Claims Another Victim

I was only meant to get enough ingredients to make my noodle stir-fry, and yet my quick trip to Woolworths resulted in a bill of $67.39. This isn’t the first time that I’ve made a trip for a handful of fresh ingredients and returned with a bevy of unnecessary items that I couldn’t resist. I can justify myself all I want but the reality is, I’m just an irrational consumer.  

I try to combat this as much as possible, in fact there are some aspects of my consumption habits that point me out to be actually quite rational. I’ll make a list, I’ll check the pantry and fridge, so that I get what I need and only what I need. I’ll include quantities and measurements on my list, such as, ‘250 g of sugar’ as opposed to merely writing, ‘sugar’. These are all habits that I’ve formed in order to become a more savvy shopper. 

The marketing strategies of Woolworths, however, seem to take advantage of my irrational ‘shopaholic’ side. Despite seeing myself falling into typical consumerist traps, I find it hard to resist. I can’t help but notice that aisles that include more ‘needs’ — such as milk, shampoo, bread, fruit and vegetables — are interwoven with aisles that feature more ‘wants’ — sweets, soft drinks, magazines, tupperware containers — and as a result, one would need to traverse all these tempting aisles in the supermarket, just to get to the items one had really come to Woolworths for. This is how I found myself in the beauty section, looking at different facial cleansers and moisturisers that I’m not sure I really needed at all. 

Each product’s packaging was begging me to buy it — yet another irrational consumer trap. The cleanser I had now picked up boasted, ‘BPA free, No Parabens’. I wasn’t exactly sure what they were but now I was persuaded I definitely did not want them. And this brought out a different side of me: the ‘Green Consumer’. I became persuaded that I needed ‘all natural ingredients’, or any product emblazoned with ‘Organic’. The price no longer mattered, I was just looking at the packaging now. The product that made the greenest, most ethical promise would win but equally, the one with the nicest aesthetic. I decided on a cleanser with cucumber slices on its packaging, that made all the promises I wanted to hear. But as I justified the purchase by telling myself that the quality, the environment and the product’s ‘natural properties’ were worth the price, I had to ask myself if I was really paying for that or paying for its aesthetic. After all, Green Consumerism is still consumerism; I can’t fool myself that I’m saving the world by buying an organic cleanser. 

Whilst accepting responsibility for my irrational consumerist side, such a common consumer trope is also knowingly exploited by the advertising world. It is the packaging and marketing of ‘green’ items that persuade a consumer that ‘going green’ is fashionable, and creates an aesthetic they cannot resist. Although I'd call myself one part rational, one part green and two parts irrational as a consumer, advertising and marketing strategies seem to almost wholly dictate my consumption habits, irrespective of the identity I assume. 

After all, I did buy a 'Vegan Leather' jacket last week, knowing full well it was just pleather with a creative marketing team. I'm not even vegan.  

// Margot Ana

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