I try to be conscious of the use of time. I am appalled by the expression “killing time” and try to live with the idea of using each moment to its utmost. Yet I find myself defeated by my inbox almost every day. It’s not the quantity of work emails that overwhelms me. It’s not even the forwarded jokes (because if it’s forwarded I probably won’t bother to read it: senders take note!). It’s not the chain letters (pass this on to save the ….) or Amazon’s catalog of new novels that might interest me.
No, much as I like to think myself immune, much as I like to pride myself on my awareness of the preciousness of time, I am taken in and completely seduced by sales!
No matter how many times I try to remove myself from mailing lists and ignore the offer with attending exclamation marks that lights up my inbox, I can’t help myself. I click on. Whether it’s a fashion dash at NM’s Last Call or a limited-time only sale at Gilt or a Groupon deal that I know I want to have, I am pulled in. I’ll just look, I tell myself. I’ll just browse for a few minutes, I say. It’s my relaxation. And before I know it, a half hour as gone by. Just five more minutes… And before I know it, another half hour has gone by and I have clicked “BUY”!
How did I fall down that rabbit hole? I think there are two seductive powers at work (there may be many more; ad companies make the big bucks for a reason). One is the word “Sale”. Whether in bold letters or followed by exclamation marks or a list of high prices marked down many times, the word sale is powerful. We aren’t spending money, we are getting a bargain. We are doing what any sane rational person would do. We are actually saving money. We would be fools to resist! That is one powerful theme. And I certainly respond to it – even though the balance in my bank account clearly demonstrates the fallacy of that reasoning.
The other, more insidious, attraction is the image that’s being sold. Some companies are no longer subtle. The J. Peterman catalog describes the scene in which you are wearing the dress they are selling. “It is midnight in Paris, the moon is full and there is a light breeze off the Seine.” That is certainly more appealing than “You are a housewife in Peoria, just finished making lunches and doing the dishes”! We buy the image. We buy the story. No matter how rational we are, no matter how thoughtful we are, we are taken in on some level.
I date myself but I will never forget the Cybil Shepherd ads for Cover Girl makeup. Despite what the mirror and science told me, I was convinced I would be tall, thin and blonde if I bought the lipstick she was wearing.
Advertising works. It appeals to us. And we must be on our guard. I’ve tried to stop the catalogs at the door and the flood to my inbox but it seems that no sooner do I stop one then another one site pops up. I am going to have to exercise self-control. I have to make a commitment to just delete them on the spot – even opening up the email to unsubscribe poses dangers! – I’ll just look at this one cute outfit.
I am recommitting myself to an online shopping moratorium. I will go online just to read the comments on my aish.com articles (!) and check the news. Is that a Zappos clearance ad beside that NY Times piece?