I hate consumerism. I really do. However, I am not strong willed enough to always practice what I preach. I used to be, before I was a parent. When I was twenty years old in my old studio apartment, I had little furniture. Really, I had little in general, I dreamed of days where I could own nothing and get by on nothing. Then I got pregnant and things changed. While I still view that time in my life very positively, I struggle practicing that as much. I still purge a lot; I do not have emotional attachments to my things. However, I consume much more, and I give in to my child consuming much more. The pandemic, stores being closed, and “essential shopping only” has really brought this idea, once again, to the forefront. My four-year-old son at one point was crying out “I JUST WANT TO GO SHOPPING!” and “I WANT A NEW TOY!”. I had to step back and consider, what happened? What happened to the person I was not long ago?
Is the pandemic going to create better consumers? While research varies, from 21 days to months, I suspect the pandemic will cause some changes in our behavior long term. However, what about shopping? Is it done? Are we going to shop online more now? Are people going to shop less because for months they couldn’t shop? Will people realize how much money they were saving? Or, once this is over are people going to be excited to be able to go out again and shop a lot?
I suspect that the answer will depend on the type of person and how hard the pandemic hit you. Speaking mostly economically. If you were hit hard; lost your job, lost your savings and found yourself waiting at the food pantry for the first time in your life, there is going to be some trauma. Likely, thinking of disposable income and the things you feel are necessities, is going to be different now. However, if life went on as usual; working from home, same income, no real hiccups except for the inconvenience of not finding toilet paper and ground beef, you may be more apt to celebrate when the lock down is over.
A family member and I were just talking about how quickly the ads on TV have changed to talk about social distancing, cleaning, or health. I am sure that there will be a similar response when the country opens back up. However, no product (yes, even a gallon of hand sanitizer) is going to make you feel better after the trauma of a pandemic.
Consider the following quote from an article published by Alexandra Pastore on March 17, 2020 (link below):
“The outbreak is affecting overall decision-making on quality as well. According to Red Point’s data, 31 percent strongly agree and 27.9 percent of consumers somewhat agree that they are “currently more likely to make snap purchasing decisions when shopping online because I am scared that these products will sell out due to the coronavirus outbreak.””
I would encourage all to take this time to think about the topic of consumerism. How has it changed your life for the better or worse? Is obtaining these goods and services ever going to lead to satisfaction? Will you always want more? Does tomorrow ever come? Perhaps this is a good time to look inward and decide if your spending correlates with your long-term goals. A time to consider how you shop, what is essential? A time to think about how your mental health affects your shopping decisions (because it does and so does your sleep!).
What do you think the outcome of Coronavirus will be for the average consumer?
Traci Schank, LCSW