Baffled by the State of Present-Day Consumerism

My life is so far removed from contemporary consumerism that every once in a while, when I am exposed to the day-to-day workings of a consumer lifestyle, I am awestruck with culture shock.

Such was the case today when a realization became quite clear to me - one which had eluded me thus far in my simple life of antique-buying and online marketplaces.

(Bear in mind that I have lived the majority of my adult life without ever walking into a brick-and-mortar store.  But really, in 2013, who would ever need to?)

It had been a week of online purchases which continued to reinforce the absurdity of chain-store shopping.  I first needed a simple data/charger cable for a mobile device.  A no-brainer, I presumed.  Just out of humorous curiosity, I checked the price at my place of work - they ranged between $7.60 and $23.94 including sales tax. 

And just as expected, a 10-second search across multiple online marketplaces yielded a distributor in Hong Kong with the same exact cable, new, with original packaging, a purchase-price guarantee, and a log of 1,500 positive customer transactions in the past 6 months.  The price online?  99 cents.  Tax-free.  With free shipping.

Next, I needed a hard drive to expand my Music Workstation and my mirrored back up disk to 6TB each.  Laughably, the single highest-capacity internal 3.5" drive sold at my workplace was a mere 1TB, and was priced at $179.99 plus tax.  Warranty services (the "sucker feature") were available for an additional $39.99. 

Of course it was no surprise that a two-minute cross-referencing of Amazon, eBay, Tigerdirect and produced a Seagate 4TB internal with over 200 satisfied customer reviews and a no-cost replacement policy for $160, again, tax-and-shipping free.  Once again - that is four times the capacity of the higher-priced item from my store.

Now of course tech purchases are clearly something one would never purchase in a physical shop.  There's simply no reason to when compared to the infinite product availability, sales history information, customer and professional reviews, merchant data, and competitive pricing that the internet offers.

But my new realization was one step beyond this clear and simple fact.

As a man who has always purchased antiques instead of buying anything new, right down to my thousands of rare LPs which I always buy from flea markets, record shows and online record trading sites like, the idea of buying something new is something that seldom crosses my mind.

Still, as of late a few household essentials have come up which the world of antiques simply cannot satisfy.

First I looked for a hand-carved solid rosewood full-length mirror.  I was going to commission a local artisan to craft it for me, or perhaps purchase the raw materials and use a friend's wood shop.  But then I found a variety of solid oak, cherry and other elegant full mirror pieces on Amazon for $18 - $50!  (Surely this is some form of sales trickery with the word, "solid," most likely with a core of medium density fiberboard, but for $18 it's madness to turn it down.)

Next I considered purchasing stretch velvet and satin from a fabric store and making a full-size comforter for my velvet and satin bed set which I'd assembled.  The material would set me back ~$80.  To my absolute shock and surprise, a buyer can't even FIND a single comforter for sale on Amazon anymore - everything is sold as "Bed in a Bag" garbage!  I must beg the question - doesn't anyone design and assemble their own bedding decor anymore?

But that's when I saw the pricing for a SEVEN PIECE velvet comforter set on Amazon.  It includes 1 comforter, 2 shams, 1 bed ruffle, 1 neckroll, 1 square cushion and 1 bolster cushion.  The price?  $59 marked down from $200 with free shipping.  Bloody hell.

It rapidly became apparent to me that "new" merchandise is so inexpensive that it renders the art of custom-crafting almost moot. 

This was a startling realization about the nature of contemporary consumerism, and will take a while for me to fully digest.  Indeed, I will order the seven piece velvet comforter set, and I will likely order a solid rosewood full-mirror as well.  And, quite likely, I will bury the memory of those purchases deep in the recesses of my mind and return to my humble life of crate digging, antiques, and vintage apparel.

The notion is just too much for me to bear at this point in my life.

I welcome your thoughts.  Thank you.

Views: 358

Tags: amazon, artisans, brickandmortar, consumerism, custommade, diy, ebay, handcrafted, newegg, online, More…pricing, thehighcostoflowprices, tigerdirect

Comment by innerspaceboy on September 16, 2013 at 9:38pm

H3xx, a friend of mine here is Buffalo has built a 3D printer that prints 3D printers. 

Comment by innerspaceboy on September 16, 2013 at 10:37pm

@Angela - Not for about 6 years.  They never visited or called.  It was the sort of place you put kids to forget about them.

My father died of cancer and I see my mother once every year for Christmas so that she can ask if I'm making lots of money yet.  She slips me $50 when no one's looking for my "present" and whispers, "THIS IS FOR YOOOOOOOOOOU, don't tell anyone," which feels incredibly awkward.

She's a terrible woman.

Comment by RobertPiano on September 16, 2013 at 11:30pm

My house is a bit eclectic as well. Mostly Victorian furniture with 1980's synthesizers and guarded by hundreds of concrete gargoyles.

Comment by innerspaceboy on September 16, 2013 at 11:51pm

@RobertPiano I applaud you, good sir.  I have an absurdly vast collection of proto-electronic and early synthesizer records...

TONTO's Expanding Head Band
206 Tangerine Dream & related albums
Early Stockhausen Berlin Radio recordings
Process tape music by Cage and Reich
Musique concrete on the Philips Prospective 21e Siecle label
Dick Hyman's catalog
The Copper Plated Integrated Circuit
The Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center
Beaver and Krause's Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music
Kraftwerk I & II and K4: Bremen Radio 71
Harrison's Electronic Sound
Manhattan Research Inc
The In Sound from Way Out
Silver Apples of the Moon
NYC's Silver Apples' S/T and Contact
Charles Dodge w Bell Labs' Earth's Magnetic Field
Jean Jacques Perry's discography
and oh so much more.

But alas, I don't have a single modular synthesizer to call my own.  My hat is off to you.

Though I am putting together a Theremin-building workshop for the city.  Should be fun!

Comment by Simon Paynton on September 17, 2013 at 1:55am

I'm a huge fan of the UK industrial sound from the 80s.  If you like Stockhausen, check out some of the classic Nurse With Wound albums, and the essential Robert Rental and the Normal live at West Runton Pavilion.  There's also the early Cabaret Voltaire and the live Throbbing Gristle, Einsturzende Neubauten (OK, German).  Today I'm a big fan of German techno.  They say as you go east, the music gets harder.... and harder... there's loads of it here if you're interested.  Those Gestapo people really know how to rock. 

Comment by innerspaceboy on September 17, 2013 at 9:00am

@ Simon Paynton - Thank you. My library currently includes vinyl rips of...

99 Nurse With Wound LPs
137 Throbbing Gristle albums
26 Cabaret Voltaire albums
and 5 Einsturzende Neubaute LPs.

I've also got a lot of post-punk/minimal wave like Fad Gadget, Muslimgauze and the Chameleons. 

THANK you for the links, I'll be sure to check them out!

Comment by Simon Paynton on September 17, 2013 at 1:39pm

I also stand in awe of your awesomeness. 

Comment by Simon Paynton on September 17, 2013 at 1:41pm
Comment by Simon Paynton on September 17, 2013 at 1:47pm

(limited time only)

Comment by innerspaceboy on September 17, 2013 at 6:31pm

@Simon - Instant upvote for "Madruga Eterna." 

Had to check my KLF index (94 CDs/FLAC albums/LPs/singles and 36 films/music videos... okay now I'm just showing off...) to make sure I had a copy.

I'm still trying to get my hands on an original published copy of THE MANUAL, and an art print of ABANDON ALL ART NOW just barely slipped through my fingers on eBay.

We should speak further, my good man.


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