February 2002
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Consumerism at its Worst
By: Melody Rogan, Tec-Voc School, Winnipeg, MB

The sound of a cash register makes me cringe. For some, it is the sound of happiness, for which they forked out a fee they'll surely be bragging about the next day.

These days, if you don't need it, you just have to buy it. It is an epidemic worth complaining about. That's where I come in.

I try to avoid malls whenever possible, if not for the crowds of disillusioned youth, then at least for the impulse buys that lurk within every trend- filled store you can find there.

Unlike most girls, I absolutely hate to shop. There are too many pushy sales clerks on commission, too many flashy objects that scream "Buy me because I'm pretty!", and when I actually do purchase something, I most often will feel extremely guilty about it within five minutes of leaving the store.

Trying to find something that is actually worth your hard-earned money is tough enough without being frustrated with the "sale" prices that are high enough to be the regular ones. Clearance signs are what draws my attention, and I generally expect to find low prices. That's often not the case.

I worked briefly in a retail store full of low priced items, and the things the customers were purchasing blew me away. Many of these purchases were ones with which they could have done without.

Mothers would buy toys or candy for begging children, pre-teen girls would buy hair accessories and makeup that most likely got lost in the couch or were added to a steadily growing pile of things they don't use, and tourists would end up with all kinds of neat knick-knacks and souvenirs that they most likely regretted buying once they returned home.

Shopping has become an activity that satisfies wants, not needs. We are more concerned with what we have in our homes and cars than with the well-being of our families and ourselves.

We have become slaves to the retail gods and are on a constant mission to buy the best this or the coolest that. It is really a sad environment we bring our kids up in, full of greed and the urge to show off, and all of it resulting in wasted dollars and a void that remains unfilled.

The good thing is, you don't have to complicate your life with junk you wouldn't ever use in the first place. Simplicity is the key to happiness. Remember that saying, K.I.S.S.? Keep it simple, stupid! It's a very good way to live life.

Without the wasted time and money spent in malls and department stores, you could be experiencing life to the fullest. You could be spending time with friends and family in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere instead of arguing over what kind of sofa would look good in the living room. The money could be saved for a much- needed vacation. What's wrong with the couch you already have, anyway?

I have faith that people will one day see the importance of avoiding the pitfalls of wanting things and will begin to focus on what they really need to make their lives feel complete.

Teens could use some role models when it comes to the concept of living free of the unnecessary. It's about time the adults in our lives showed us how to really appreciate what the world has to offer, and I'm not talking about the shoe sale at Polo Park.

When you get down to basics, you'll find that money really isn't as important as it seems and that the people in your life are capable of filling a void better than any shopping bag full of clothes ever could.