Why do we buy the things we do? This is just one of the questions author Rob Walker seeks to answer in his book Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are. Jean talks with Rob, who writes the "Consumed" column in The New York Times Magazine, about understanding our shopping habits and how we might rethink our purchases in order to become more conscious consumers.
People shop because it's fun, exciting and, to a certain extent, because they need things, Rob says. But he says there's a flipside that people often ignore—overspending, buying things they don't need or buying things that only give them temporary satisfaction. While advertisers play a large role in these types of consumption, Rob says consumers play an equally significant role by injecting meaning and value into the products they buy. "It's never a one-way street," he says.
Rob labels this interplay between companies and consumers as a sort of "secret dialogue" because, most of the time, consumers shop without really thinking. "We're often not aware of how these processes work because a lot of it goes on in a kind of nonconscious way," he says. By pausing to think about our motives for buying something and considering whether we'll really need an item six months from now, Rob says we can begin to make better choices. "[Ask yourself,] 'Am I actually going to still be exited about this, or is it really just this momentary rush that ultimately this thing's going to end up at [the thrift shop]?'" he says. "It can change your decision-making."
Published on January 01, 2008