I am not just a consumer, I am a human being

In case you needed cheering up – the media seem to love doom and gloom stories in January – research has emerged that might back up the concerns some of you expressed about credit cards and debt this week.

The Post Office Christmas Club claims that 29 per cent of people in the UK are worrying about how to pay for their excess spending over Christmas. 10 per cent of the 2,000 people they interviewed went into debt to pay for the festive season and 37 per cent of them are cutting back on essentials, such as food and utility bills, to pay back the money.

The Post Office is plugging its Christmas club which enables people to put money away regularly towards Xmas 2010. The minimum pre-payment has been cut from £5 to £2 because the club said customers told them they were unable to afford to put much money away. If you pay into the club, your cash is locked away and you can’t get your hands on it until 1 November each year. Personally I don’t think Christmas clubs are the best way to save for the festive season. Usually you’re tied into shopping at that particular store and you can’t get hold of your cash if you need it for something else. But at least with the Post Office Club you can use your club card in a number of high street shops.

If this research is a fair reflection of what is going on in the UK, then it makes me feel sad and angry. True, times are hard and many people are struggling financially, but why does Christmas always come as such a surprise? It’s the same few days every year. Why do we bow to this pressure to overspend on our loved ones? Why can’t we see beyond the tacky TV advertising campaigns and understand that we don’t have to bankrupt ourselves to enjoy Christmas? That said, I’ve been impressed by the attitude of many of you who use this blog in refusing to overspend and making Christmas about family, friendship and having fun rather than running up debts. I wish the rest of the UK could do the same.

Surely there is more to life than being a consumer. I’m so tired of being seen as that and nothing else. Peter recently left a comment which resonated with me, saying how fed up he is of everybody and their dog trying to sell him home insurance. I know what he means. I think one of the problems is that we are no longer seen as individuals (if, of course, we ever were) we are all just consumers – targets to be sold as many products as possible 24/7. I watched an interesting programme the other week on BBC 3 about the noughties. It argued that during the credit boom of the last decade even politicians began to see us as consumers rather than voters, deciding which election literature households would receive based on their postcodes and shopping habits. If this is true, then it is particularly depressing.

We are complex human beings. Surely there is more to us than what we buy? But by overspending at Christmas and other times, we are not just endangering our financial health and stability, I think we are being complicit in this notion that we are all just consumers. Effectively we are demonstrating to companies and institutions that, yes, you are right, we are only what we consume and nothing else. Surely it’s time we showed them that enough is enough and there is more to us than that?

Are you tired of being seen as a consumer rather than an individual? Do you ever see this situation changing? Leave a message as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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18 Responses to I am not just a consumer, I am a human being

  1. Clay says:

    If I read the Post Office T&Cs correctly, this product pays no interest at all, and you have to pay £5 if you want to redeem (i.e. withdraw) your money rather than spend it at a merchant. I\’m surprised you give it such a benign puff. Any instant access building society account is better than this.

  2. Bill says:

    It is possible that they not only see us as consumers, or a target, but also as potential victims of every possible scam & rip-off. The week before Xmas I was desperate to put the anti-freeze in me vehicle, I had delayed so long, simply because the cooling pump was leaking through its bearing, the only cure being a new pump. I purchased the pump, at trade price, from a reliable supply. After removing the old pump, I found that there was no gasket in the box with the new one. A number of \’phone calls established that the dealer had another 5 on the shelf, all devoid of gasket, A second dealer had the same problem. I had a long bus journey to a 3rd dealer, to purchase another pump, complete with gasket. I could have used the old gasket, but I had already destroyed it, taking the old pump off. A whole day, in the freezing cold, wasted.I hate any form of shopping, knowing that I will always get some form of agro, & will always get ripped off.A chippy I use charges almost £5 for cod or haddock, with chips, the next one even sells plaice on rare occassions, with chips, @ £3.80p, a 3rd one, in other direction, only £1.80p. Why the difference?They only do it because we allow it!If I had a familly within reach, they would not receive Xmas gifts. Why celebrate the birth of Christ, surely we would be better sorting some of the modern problems by donating a few spare coppers to a local charity, where we have a good view, therefore less chance of the cash going AWOL. Why spend so much on one birthday, when we can split the expense by celebrating each familly birthday, correctly, in turn, on the corect date. This then spreads the expense throughout the year, & gives customised gifts, of most use to the recipient, at that time. The cash is therewith, much better spent.I have no familly within reach, & have just spent my birthday donating a lunch break to 5 Ladies who began a Social Club led by me on that day. I am also gifing them my Sign Language skills, in an informal training course, hoping that at least some will start college for the NVQ 1, this coming September. If I move home at least 200 miles in the meantime, I hope that one of them will continue to lead, & keep the Social Club, with informal BSL education, alive in my wake. We can maintain contact by email etc.At only 2hrs/wk, + the same again in prep, it is my Xmas, & also birthday gift to the world, sadly I am so short on spare coppers.Anyone who has such an aqbstract gift as education, which they could donate to the local community, simply try a free lease at yer local church/village/community hall, or as I have done this month, a rent free room, each 2hrs/wk, in two different Public Libraries. Heat, light, water & refreshments are also free! I also have free use of the White Board, & o/h projector.I could charge the local Council at least £10/hr fers me time, but I prefer to donate it. I will possibly do First Aid, as also Cookery/Nutrition , & Vehicle Maintenance classes later in the year, if I am able to blag the necessary premises fers free.My own career, & life, ended suddenly 10 years ago. I no longer have any use for the remaining time, so I will donate as much of it as possible, in the education of others. I did apply fers the post of street sweeper, but sadly, did not have the necessary PhD.

  3. Bill says:

    p.s.I would have swept the street, up to 16 hrs/wk, fers free, but sadly I do not have time do do a 5yr PhD.

  4. Piper says:

    As far as I know, Clay, Christmas clubs don\’t generally pay interest and I\’ve never liked these products or promoted them. Paying the money into a savings account is a much better thing to do – as I\’ve previously suggested on this blog. The problem is that not everyone has a bank account. Otherwise a simple piggy bank or joining a local ethical credit union is a better idea http://www.abcul.org/page/aboutsite.cfm

  5. Piper says:

    PS Sounds like you have been busy, Bill. Keep up the good work.

  6. Flo says:

    Ah Piper of course we are consumers first and foremost, not people. You forget that the whole economy is based on what we buy. If we don\’t shop till we drop there is a fall off in employment, not to mention the lack of tax take NI, PAYE, from business and business premises. If we don\’t buy then we have to export to countries which have consumers who are buying and who want our products. How you opt out of modern life and stop being a consumer is a good question – even of the basics like heating, housing, water, food never mind using the road, the library, local transport, schools and such like. Now that all land is owned by someone it\’s going to be a little hard to take off with horse and cart, tent and pegs and live the free life of a rover, providing all your own necessities and striking out for being a person. Till all the people see that there is more to life than consumption there will be no sea change in society.

  7. Penny says:

    Hi Piper,Have you read Clod Atlas by David Mitchell? He writes of a future distopia where all the people are referred to only as consumers and have to spend a certain amount each day, using their \’souls\’ a kind of embedded RFID in the hand.

  8. piper says:

    Hello there. That book sounds interesting – must check it out. Thanks.

  9. Unknown says:

    I think a lot of people like Xmas clubs because it locks away the money. Where as in reality you could do far better with your money if you found a good savings account.

  10. liam says:

    well your article was contained what i predicted. No answer to the title shown or the second meaningful title including "i am a human being" . One of the main root causes of the social situations is sales people trying to sell , people buying etc. But another root cause is "perspective"! People view them selves as physical beings. We live in a atheist society in Britain to a large view of the countries people . Even if im wrong spiritually then my conclusions on the mind are still correct. People comsume because they are infactuated with the convieniance . convieniance has created an illusion of independance in society. In mental thought process nowadays people think they need money to survive. The consumer is a part parcel of the pursuit of happiness and satisfaction in material products or also the joy of collecting or decorating. Showing art and expressivness in ways. But how can you express yourself glued to screen.

  11. piper says:

    I wasn\’t pretending to offer answers, Liam, just expressing a few thoughts. I think you make a good point about our obsession with convenience and how it\’s easy to think having material things makes us more independent.

  12. Unknown says:

    Rampant consumerism is what makes our sick society work, or not as the case may be. I only regret that I won\’t be around in 200 years time, as I believe that people will look back through history at this time, laugh, and say "did they really think that economic system could ever work long term"? A society based on greed. Working all hours for a pittance to buy the things the salesmen tell us that we "really need", just to keep people in work in order to buy more things. We have become just like hamsters on a wheel, and I think we\’ve seriously lost the plot. Life is for living, not for working to buy things we don\’t need. I was brought up to only replace things that can no longer be fixed, not because "there is a new one out in an amazing new colour"! I am a salesman\’s worst nightmare. An anti-consumer. I ignore all forms of advertising. I never buy anything as a result of junk-mail or spam. I will repair anything I possibly can, rather than replacing it. Only when it is broken beyond repair, or completely worn out, will I consider replacing anything, and even then I will spend hours researching to get the best possible deal. If I can make something or adapt something to do what I want, I will do so rather than having to spend unnecessarily. If someone is trying to sell me something, and it\’s something I really do need, I will not buy it as I believe there is a far better deal to be had out there somewhere, and I will seek it out. I never shop for anything without a note of exactly what I want, and I will stick to it. Consumer? Me? Never! Not if I can help it. I just don\’t believe in the consumer-society.

  13. Peter says:

    Hi Piper,Yes, of course you are absolutely right. Everyone is now seen as a consumer by companies eager to take every penny from you so as to feed their shareholders!Christmas has become a total farce and is now all about money rather than it\’s true religious meaning.Year by year, the shops have been opening earlier and earlier, so the break that we all enjoyed from Christmas Day to the new Year, has been eroded and bought in its wake 24/7 shopping all year round. Who on earth wants that? This whole decline of course has been fueled by rampant greed by those who are rich enough already but want more. Like so many people these days, I\’m pig sick of this British greed culture that has taken over the mindset of so many people. We should all get back to \’working to live\’ rather than \’living to work\’ and start to live real lives and being human again. Children at Christmas particularly (when making up their lists of what they want Father Christmas to bring them), should be encouraged by their parents to make up a Christmas list also, of the things that they are going to do to help the less fortunate, rather then be about all their own \’wants!\’ In time, we might then all pull back from the brink of this selfishness and over indulgence.Now I hear in the future, some companies who have gathered all our shopping habits (thanks to those \’loyalty cards\’ we\’ve all got), will use this personal information to call up your mobile phone to tell you who is selling the products that you would normally buy! Passing a shop door way will also trigger off a call to your mobile phone, again to tell you what products they have inside! It\’s all just sheer greed and madness!This is the future if we let it ….Peter..

  14. Unknown says:

    I totally agree with Peter, especially about Christmas. The TV ads, which seem to start in September now, drive me crazy.I have never lived to work. Work is what I do, not who I am.Never give your mobile phone number to anyone who is not a close personal friend or relative, or someone you trust completely not to abuse it. I certainly never give it to any commercial concern. I always use a pay-as-you-go mobile, and would change the sim immediately if any business got hold of my number. I got my last sim off ebay for 99p. They are readily available.

  15. piper says:

    What a wonderful idea, Peter, that kids could make a list of what they want at Christmas and that this could include helping the less fortunate. Like you, I really hope that we will see a move away from this greed culture we have now towards something more positive. That\’s a good tip about not giving your mobile number to anybody, No Name.

  16. Bill says:

    Flo, . . . there are at least two desert isles in the S. Pacific, half way twixt Kiwi & Easter Island. If we had one each, we would be neighbours, only two, mebbe three days apart in a decent sailing dinghy. Anytime yer fancy eloping, just drop me a line.Possible we could start a new age Hippy Colony?Fresh home grown food & drink, fresh caught fish fers breakfast every day, the fantastic sunrise, complete with authentic Dawn Chorus, the sun, sand & clean fresh brine all day long. The georgeous sunset, sea air mingling with the fresh scent of the jungle.A fresh grass skirt every morn, fresh flowers in yer hair . . . .

  17. Unknown says:

    Hi Piper,That was my tip about never giving my mobile number to anyone I don\’t trust, especially commercial concerns. I also have my home phone registered with the telephone preference service, I have caller display, and anonymous caller rejection on my line. The telephone marketers rarely have phones that leave a number, so they simply don\’t get through. They just get a recorded message from the exchange saying "the person you are calling does not accept anonymous calls, please ring again without withholding your number." They never do of course.Colin.

  18. Peter says:

    Just heard on the news that Television companies are to be allowed to show and feature products on their films etc, so as to beable to get advertising income from product sponsers. (apparently to help companies in these hard pressed economic times!)Well there goes future good TV viewing then. TV companies now I\’m sure will be very tempted to prioritise films for screening that contain the most products in them, rather than any artistic content, so as to attract advertising revenue.I suspect also in the longer term, films / plays might also be written / rewriten, or include extra \’product showing screenplay\’ so as to again cash in on extra advertising revenue!Without doubt, this will start to happen as companies are always led by one thing. Maximising profits.Yet more being treated as just a product consumer I\’m afraid. TV quality has just sunk to yet another low as the TV companies will prioritise revenue over film content!I\’m reaching for my \’off\’ button now..Peter..

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