Friday, February 26, 2010

Obsessive Consumption

A few years back, long before No Logo, before the Battle in Seattle, before American Apparel's proud declaration of "Made in L.A." rallied hipsters everywhere...before anyone by the ILO and Ms magazine paid any attention to labour rights, I watched an episode of Dateline which traced a pair of $20 pants from the discount store where they were sold to the country where they were made.

They went to the factory and spoke to one of the garment workers.

She liked her job. She felt lucky, when in reality, her life was pretty tough, her salary was paltry and the deductions seemed unjust.

They brought her to the States, to the store where her pants were sold. When they found them, they showed her the price.

In a horrible display of schadenfreude, the host told her what the exchange rate was, and I remember the look on her face as she did the calculations.

Anyway, this isn't supposed to get all preachy. I know enough economics to know that there are a lot of factors at play in these issues. I'm just telling you this because she thought that we were greedy for wanting to buy the pants that she'd made for such little money that she wasn't being paid a living wage.

That's all.

Which brings me to this: does anyone order anything from "SkyMall"?

The SkyRest travel "pillow"? This is an inflatable wedge the size of a banker's box which you place on your lap so you can lean into the seat in front of you and sleep. Sort of a "drape and drool". So, not only are you creating discomfort for the person in front of you and maybe claustrophobia for the poor soul trapped in the window seat beside you, you're also gulping down all the oxygen on the plane to inflate the monstrosity! Whither courtesy?

A 2250 cd storage rack. Honey, if you have that many cds, your name is probably Rick Rubin and odds are that you're not buying your storage through SkyMall, though I would note that it does come in a surprising array of colours. Who knows. Maybe you are. (Sorry, Mr. Rubin.)

The Roll-up Electric Piano. What is the practical application of this? "Jeez, I'd love to play that tune for you, bu there's no piano here..." "That's okay! I've got one here in my bag!"

Who buys this stuff?


That garment worker thought that we were greedy. Maybe so.

But the people in the factories who make this stuff must think that we're crazy. And they're probably right.

1 comment:

  1. Two things:

    It's a sad irony that she was shocked at the inflated price of the pants, when consumer demand for ridiculously cheap pants was the reason the production was outsourced in the first place.

    But, if not for that demand, she wouldn't have a job. Those pants would cost $80, and would be made by union labour.

    Complicated, isn't it? But that's what you get when you take on the big issues: A great big grey zone.