If the idea of spending a long Saturday surfing slickdeals and coupon forums appeals to you, you can get a ton of stuff for free. Most of us know this, and are too lazy to put the amount of effort necessary into seemingly small gains. I spent a month or two working the drugstore systems (I ❤ CVS and the like) and winning gift cards through SwagBucks before I got bored and moved on to things that I deemed to be more productive uses of my time.
Now, some folks find that awkward or just plain tacky. I used to be among that lot when I worked in retail myself. I really disliked it when bargain hunters would come in (especially when I worked on commission), and I steered well clear of them whenever possible, until one day I worked in a store that went out of business and we had to liquidate all of the merchandise and fixtures. I got some amazing bargains there, and I helped many other people get them as well. It was exciting to see families come in and buy things that they probably wouldn’t have purchased otherwise for their children. People’s eyes would light up when they’d come up to the register with their purchases. It was a free-for-all. Chaos reigned. But it was also a thing of beauty.
A few years later, I put in some time selling merchandise online for a charitable “thrift” store, and I was amazed at the family heirlooms that came in, unwanted by the families of deceased relatives, as well as the number of costly items that came in with tags attached, unworn, unwanted. When you’re faced with multiple floors of floor-to-ceiling cast-off stuff, you’re staring at our culture’s consumer mentality. As unfortunate as it sounds, a loss in one place balances itself with a gain somewhere else.
Retail Anarchy‘s author Sam Pocker (a self-titled economist) promises to make his readers both angry and delighted in the introduction of his book, and he makes a good point – in a rambling, chaotic style (for a visual sampling, check out his website), he pokes fun of our consumer culture that leads us to pay inflated prices for merchandise that we don’t really need to people that aren’t really offering us good service. He chooses to fight our warped retail system by manipulating it and teaching other people to do the same.
This is a book that’s best nibbled at instead of swallowed whole, since reading through it from start to finish does tend to lend an impression of being complained at by an elderly person. Don’t let the rant confuse you; Sam Pocker isn’t elderly. He’s merely gifted in the art of gripe. Example from the section entitled “How to Argue with a Cashier”:
The nihilistic and almost dictatorial manner in which corporations try to determine how you “will” and “want” and “need” to buy things and at a price that only exists because you, the consumer, let it exist.
Food for thought. Retail Anarchy is happening, people. It’s like the Rebel Alliance rising up against the Dark Side of the Big Box Stores. Or something.