PM Pick

The paranoid shopper

My favorite kind of store to be in is a thrift store, and not only because they are cheap. (In truth, they aren't so cheap anymore, thanks to the eBay effect; afraid their goods will be resold by amateur retailers, many thrift stores have applied a price hike across the board in the last year or two.) What I like most about them is how no effort is made there to cater to the consumer. It's just a hodge-podge of random stuff barely categorized and distributed haphazardly on the shelves and racks. The real hard-core thrift stores don't even have shelves; they just have clothing massed in a heap and you sort through and buy by the pound. If there's music, it's often the worst species available on the radio -- religious music or smooth jazz (religious music for the soulless suburbanite?). They are often in some semi-industrial or abandoned neighborhood, retro-fitted in something that used to be a grocery store or a hardware outlet; often you can see where the aisles used to be because the floors aren't replaced or resurfaced. They aren't doing a thing to "shop for customers." They don't give a crap about who I think I am or who I want to pretend to be, and that's just how I like it.

No strategies have been developed to make an "experience" for the shopper or to give their trip to the store an implied narrative through well-choreographed signage and a carefully sequenced goods designed to prompt certain "should I buy" questions in the receptive consumer. Sociologist-turned-marketer details a lot of these ploys in Why We Buy, a book I found extremely interesting, albeit in a counter-intuitive way. It's good to know what retailers have learned about shoppers' tendencies and biases, in their attempts to lull shoppers into a comfort zone, so that one can systematically resist it. If you are "comfortable" while you are shopping, you're probably in trouble, as this means you've let your guard down at precisely the moment it's most important it be up. Also, comfort comes at a cost. If you are experiencing some mellow feeling in some store, you're probably going to pay for it in some way, or will very soon. Shopping is an ersatz experience, an experience substitute; if you permit retailers to gull you into thinking it's an activity in itself, you've surrendered already -- you've given up on real experience, on having an actual life. It seems imperative to resist that at all costs, especially as the buyosphere expands and engulfs more and more of the space we inhabit. So when retailers learn from Underhill that shoppers tend to veer right upon entering a store, you should remember to veer left and avoid the trap set for you there. When Underhill points out that shoppers don't notice anything until they've acclimated to the inside of the store, often 20 or 30 feet from the door, you should remember to try to acclimate yourself sooner, get yourself braced up. When a sign has been placed to amuse you while you are forced to wait in some predictable way, ignore it. If there's a promotional video playing, for God's sake, ignore it. Amuse yourself weith your phone if you must. By denying retailers the opportunity to cater to you, you gum up their works and you just might get to see behind the curtain, see through to real costs of things, real discounts available perhaps, and most of all, you'll be having a real experience instead of some bogus fantasia. Make yourself comfortable in your own way; don't let yourself be sucked into the stereotypes about what we prefer that marketers like Underhill make convenient for us.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image