Monday, May 30, 2011

Stop Buying Stuff!

It's Memorial Day, a day when Americans traditionally honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We honor them in classic American fashion ... by going shopping.  What better way to exercise our freedom?

Except that it's not. Shopping is not an exercise of freedom at all. It's what every capitalist enterprise in the land tries to manipulate us into doing. TV, news media and many Web sites all exist only to show us ads which try to pry our hard-earned dollars away from us. Defective products, software bugs and incompetent, indifferent or hostile service are all just the result of cost-cutting. The Geneva Accords may ban putting prisoners in stress positions as torture, but there's nothing to protect airline passengers. Banks can transfer billions of dollars around the world in a fraction of a second, but try getting through to customer service.  ("Your call is important to us." ... just not important enough to actually answer it.)

These same banks are so busy wheeling and dealing with your mortgage that they ran themselves into the ground.  So who did the government bail out?  (Hint:  Not you!)

This past weekend, I reserved a cargo van from a large moving van rental company. (Of course I can't mention their name, U-Haul, in this blog.) When I got to the appointed location to pick up my truck, I was told that I actually had to pick it up at another site, adding 40 miles and over an hour's drive to my already long trip. "Oh, we reserve the right to send you to another nearby location," they said.  I guess nearby to them means "in the same timezone."

Ever read the End User License Agreement you're supposed to accept before using any commercial software? It basically says: "If this software doesn't work as promised, too bad.  If it also destroys your data and/or makes your computer unusable, tough noogies." And we tolerate this, over and over again.

Businesses, by their nature, try to take in as much money as possible, and shell out as little as possible. That's what a business is. The only thing that can slow them is if people actually draw the line somewhere and say "No!  I'm not going to fork over my money for some unreliable, poorly designed product or half-assed service." But we don't do that. We just go along, giving these businesses a license to keep charging more and delivering less.

That's why cable TV and Internet and phone rates keep going up, even though the technologies get cheaper all the time. That's why you have to buy a new iPad every year, and why everyone's pushing eBooks and on-line movies that you think you're buying, but never actually own. You are actually just paying for a license to use this content in ways the company sees fit.  Other uses violate the license.

They say we're supposed to buy stuff to help the economy.  What has the economy done for you lately?  But really, when they say "the economy," guess what they're talking about.  Businesses!  The theory is that if you spend enough of your money, businesses will recover and start hiring, and you'll get a job in time to pay those credit card bills.

Some ads claim "your money back if not completely satisfied."  Better yet, don't give 'em your money in the first place!

No comments: