Voluntary Simplicity

A life of voluntary simplicity seems to be the exact opposite of conspicuous consumption that we discussed in our first week. We have come full circle from upper middle class competitive consumption to hippie-ish ideas about conservation and simple living. I appreciated the misconceptions about voluntary simplicity that the author provided, because I had those same assumptions when I began reading. I was surprised how age-old the hippy ideas were, dating back to ancient Greece. I thought reading about this lifestyle in all the different cultures at different times was very interesting. While this life of voluntary simplicity seems to be a good idea, I feel like it would only work on a smaller scale or in technology free environments. Even the ancient Greeks didn’t fully abide by the Golden Mean though, I’m sure, that many believed in it and thought it was right.

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On Friday, April 20th, I visited the Springfield Mall at 11:30 in the morning. I was supposed to get there by 11:00 but I got help back in traffic and then a little lost. I finally saw the mall and pulled in, parking outside the Belk. I was surprised that the parking lot seemed quite full for what I was expecting on a weekday at 11:00. While I easily found a spot and not too far from the entrance either, I had half expected the mall to be empty at this time. The weather was nice and I suppose that always seems to get people out of the house. I didn’t see how anybody could have gotten to the mall without driving as the area was much more commercial as opposed to residential.

I went into the Belk entrance which had a table set up with young girls. I thought that maybe it was a girl scout table but wasn’t sure and because I was short on time, did not have the opportunity to speak with them. The Belk looked much like the many I have been in: clean and organized, though this one seemed to be a little bigger than the one I am used to. I walked through the Belk and went out into the main hallway of the mall. That particular entrance had about three young boys who seemed to be handing out pamphlets, though they did not approach me, so I cannot be sure what they were doing there.

Once in the main hallway (I don’t know what else to call it) of the mall I was surprised by the amount of people who seemed to be there at this time of the day. I walked up toward the Costco and the closer I got the Costco, the less crowded the mall seemed. Most of the stores at this end of the mall seemed to target children. The Build-a-Bear Workshop, the ‘Wiggle Worms’ (which seemed to be a play area where mothers can leave their children supervised while they shop), a store called Crazy 8 and the Choo Choo train. I spoke with the girl who ran the train and she talked about how they get really busy during holidays (which wasn’t surprising). I went into the ‘As-Seen-On-TV’ Store where a guy with a Jamaican accent was sitting at the cash register. I always enjoy looking through these types of stores and at all the ridiculous trinkets mixed in with subtly brilliant inventions.

Walking through the mall, I noticed two security guards walking about. They were both elderly men who I figured wouldn’t put up much of a fight, but their presence was still calming. I didn’t understand why the mall needed two GameStops, and the stores weren’t even at opposite ends of the mall, one was closed to the middle and the other near the Costco end. I kept myself from going into the very tempting ‘Sweet Factory’ which was colorful and inviting and also near the Costco end with all the other children’s stores.

I saw many stations set up in the center of the hallway much like every other mall I have been in. One station was selling hair curlers and strengtheners and would do your hair for you, another few stations were selling the typical cell phone accessories and the jewelry station that pierces ears. As I passed by one store, a woman with a tray approached me and asked me to try some tea. Of the few stores that I found the time to go into, most of the employees seemed to be helpful and upbeat. I went into Journey’s to look at the converse shoes as I desperately need a new pair and immediately upon entering the store I was offered help, though I refused the help, it was appreciated nonetheless. I went into Claire’s to look for a cheap pair of stud earrings and the employee working in there was rushing around, though she was kind and upbeat and greeted me nicely. I went into Icing to look for the same thing I was looking for in Claire’s and the employee did not greet me, she only kept looking down at her book. I commented to her on my surprise that they sold flasks and she only grunted in response. I went into Papaya only because it looked like an interesting store, I had never been in one. I felt that there were far too many employees working in there at the time, though they seemed to be friendly. I ended up buying a dress off the sale rack for seven dollars.

After going into the stores I rushed to walk through the rest of the mall before having to leave and saw many stores that I was expecting to see. An Abercrombie, and American Eagle, Finish Line, Victoria’s Secret, Starbucks, J.C. Penny’s, and many more that are typical for malls. I had been looking for a mall directory since I had gotten there and couldn’t find one until I got to the other end of the mall toward the end of my visit. It may have been that I wasn’t looking close enough and missed some on my walk through but I was surprised that I had only seen one throughout my visit. The food court was also pretty typical except for the Chick-fil-A cow walking around, another thing I wasn’t expecting for this time of day.

I didn’t have any particular connection or disconnection with this mall. It is a mall, much like any other. What I didn’t like was the layout, I thought it was annoying how many side-hallways there were with dead ends. I would have preferred to be able to walk through without walking up and down each side aisle to see what was down there.

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Purchasing Power

This book was really interesting, though I wish she had had more of a variety in the ages of the children observed as well as in the areas in which she observed. My favorite part that I found most interesting was the part in which the children shopped with their twenty dollars. I was touched by the decisions they made, knowing that I would have bought something for myself without a second though makes me feel ashamed of myself. This book definitely challenges stereotypes about race and consumer culture and also influenced my own ideas. Whether I like to admit it or not, I stereotype people based on what I see or hear in the media, something we are all guilty of at times. We need more books like these to challenge those stereotypes and reveal the truth.

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Born to Buy

This book was interesting as it discussed the effects of consumerism and materialism on children. I was surprise by many of the statistics provided in the book that show how this is only getting exponentially worse. While I was surprised by the statistics, I am not surprised by the fact that children are becoming more and more materialistic. The author puts a lot of responsibility on the parents in her final chapter providing suggestions to help de-commercialize childhood. It is getting to the point, however, that there is only so much parents can do to prevent exposure. Unless they live in the middle of nowhere and home school their kids and never go to stores and don’t have internet or TV (basically live as monks) advertisers will find a way to into their home, or even worse, into their child’s mind.

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Hunger Games Archery

I recently went to see the Hunger Games in theaters, a movie I would recommend to anyone. Having seen it twice, each time I left the theater I had the desire to learn more about archery. I would love to get a traditional archery set and become as good as the main character Katniss Everdeen. Looking up an archery set for this shopping blog, I also researched the movie and how it effected archery sales. According to this article from ABC News (http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/hunger-games-sparks-archerys-pop-culture-moment/story?id=16011857#.T34SNa6ftVo) the movie sparked an archery pop culture movement. This article was one of many I found about the same subject.

This video shows why:



I’ve learned quite a bit about archery in my simple research for this blog post. There are many different types of bows ranging from modern ones with pulleys to the more traditional kinds. Even among these two very different styles are many more substyles such as the crossbow, the long bow, the recurve bow. The one used in the Hunger Games is the recurve style bow.

On a fansite, I found the popular silver bow which was created by the fans. I found it for sale on Ebay for $57.00 but it was already sold out.


I found some wooden bows for sale on Ebay ranging from $23.50 to about $50.00. I also found much more expensive bows selling for up to $1000 but most of the ones I was interested in ranged from about $250 to $35. http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_sacat=20837&_nkw=bow%20recurve&_sop=12

I was one of many fans of the movie to be inspired to really try archery. I’ve had a cheap bow at home and shoot it every once and a while. Every time I get it out, I have such a fun time trying to hit my home-made target on a cardboard box. This movie has made me interested in getting a real bow. I know I would have fun as well as challenge myself with a more traditional bow.



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A Year Without…

This book was interesting and comical. It makes you think about how many of your own products are from China and when you do realize just how much you are surrounded by Chinese products it is overwhelming. That was my personal reaction. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of Chinese products I surround myself with. This book was an eye-opener for me. Like Bongiorni, I don’t have any particular feelings for or against Chinese products or products from any other country. I would just feel better about myself to be more conscious of where my material goods are coming from and I would also feel better to support my own economy a little more, on a local level as well as a national level.

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Overspent American

This reading really shows how much Americans get pulled into a certain lifestyle. I was surprised by how many factors really go into this vortex of consumerism. Not only is it TV and commercials that invent needs, trends and desires but it is the community we live in or the schools we attend that decide what we need and buy. This book reminded me of my aunt who lives in an upper/middle class subdivision. She constantly competes with her neighborhood housewives to have the best front lawn, the best car, and even worse they compete with their children. If your children aren’t on the honor roll and if they aren’t on the travel soccer team, then your status is threatened. It seems exhausting to me, coming from a small town where extravagance is frowned upon, or maybe its not the place I live, its just my own personal outlook. I have my iPod, my car, my phone and my Mac, but with the exception of the iPod these are practical items. I commute to school in my dust covered car which has no handle (I have to climb through the back and open it from the inside). I didn’t get a phone until I was in high school and I didn’t get a personal laptop until I went to college and kind of needed one. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t get caught up in that kind of thought or lifestyle, but I can’t be sure of that, there are simply too many traps.

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Nickle and Dimed

This experiment reminded me of those documentaries on fast food and healthcare. Taking yourself out of your familiar, comfortable lifestyle and plunging into a low-wage lifestyle can me a humbling experience as well as open your eyes to what is wrong with much of society. I myself worked at a restaurant for two summers and though I made pretty good money for a college student, I can’t imagine having to live off of what I made though many of the servers did make a living off of tips. One girl in particular is still there, at the age of 20, supporting herself and her husband. They live in a basement and live week to week; it is a sad life. I was unable to go back to the waitressing job as I was already suffering from a bad back, two more back surgeries made that type of work of lifting heavy trays and being on my feet all day impossible for me to do. I thought this book was really interesting and enlightening, though not very surprising… The fact that low-wage work is impractical and unfair is no surprise to me.

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Wal-Mart Fieldwork

At 11:00 on Friday the 16th of March, I went to the Wal-Mart in Central Park in Fredericksburg. The weather was clear and warm at around 55 degrees and sunny. Felicia drove me in her car, so I didn’t have to worry about trying to find the store as I am unfamiliar with the area. When we first got to the store, I was surprised to find the huge parking lot so full at such a time of the day. When we found a parking spot and finally went into the store, there was no one to greet up as we walked in, which was incredibly surprising as that is such a mark of Wal-Mart. Just like many Wal-Marts I have been in, there were many displays set up as you walk into the store, sale and seasonal items mostly, though there was a large selection of Trojan condoms in your face when you walked near the pharmacy section. Walking further into the store, but still near the door was the huge section of Easter things; pre-made Easter baskets of all kinds were lined up (ones with toy cars or pink bunnies), special Easter candy was well organized in about four rows. What I did like about this particular Wal-Mart that I haven’t seen in my own, was the organized and clean feeling that I got. While the employees still seemed distracted and busy and the many customers were walking around, the store seemed well-stocked, organized, and clean and I was impressed by that.

By walking through the store, I noticed the family atmosphere that the store tries to portray in the setup and the advertising. The electronic section had many pictures of children and families enjoying the TVs and electronics sold. (The selection of TVs was enormous, I felt like I had left Wal-Mart and stepped into Best Buy.) On the commercial playing on the many TVs, I heard a quote: “family plan, family price”. Along with the electronic section, Felicia, Katy and I walked through a furniture section, a baby section, a fabric section, a Do-It-Yourself section (with pictures of women hammering happily), the hunting/sports section (which sold BB guns, fishing poles, an impressive amount of equipment, shells and scopes for guns, but no guns). These sections wrapped around together so that, for example, the hunting/sports section merged into the kids section with all the toys (the section merged nicely with the bikes connecting the two). The toy section was separated between girls and guys along with age.

When my group finally made it to the other side of the store, we noticed there was no greeter at the second entrance either, though customers did get to walk in to the smell of the in-store McDonald’s (pretty typical of some Wal-Marts, though the one I go to at home has a Subway, which I like much better). The McDonald’s was paired with many other typical in-store features such as the Gameplay Arcade, the Photo Studio, and the Woodforest Bank (which Katy told me was owned by Wal-Mart, I found that interesting).

When walking along the front of the store near the checkouts, I realized that they were all full which was not surprising considering the amount of cars in the parking lot. Also, impulse items were strategically put along the checkouts as well as along the walk-way such as the “As Seen On TV” items, the “Dollar Station”, “98 cent candy”, “$5 music and movies”, and many more.

Some things about the store that I noticed and found particularly interesting were that the craft and fabric section were far apart, which does not make sense to me. The saint candles which did not surprise me, since the store is known for being religious. The placement of the garden section, hidden in the back, I can’t think of where else they would have put it, but hidden behind the toy section did not make sense. The employees seemed to be more diverse than the customers. Though I did see some varied, non-white customers all in the section that had sale balloons hanging above the clothes racks.

As far as transportation, I figure that most all of the employees and customers drove to the store and all of the merchandise arrives in 18-wheelers and are stored in the back of the store where, I image a warehouse type of room is set up. I didn’t have any particular connection or disconnection with the store. It’s a Wal-Mart and except for some unusual placement and the cleanliness, it was no more different than many other Wal-Marts I have been in.

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To Serve God and Wal-Mart

I was really surprised to learn the history of Wal-Mart in this reading. I never knew that the company thrived due to Christian ideals, though it does not surprise me that the first store was in a rural community. It made sense for a store to market itself to the poorer, rural class rather than the rich, urban women. While these people don’t have as much money to spend, there are many more people looking to save money than looking to spend it.

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