When traveling, one of the easiest ways for me to connect with a place and its people is to browse and shop. Beyond the purchase of things, I acquire images, information, stories and experiences that paint in part a picture of the culture they represent. I browse the people, the layouts, aesthetics, and the neighborhood. How everyone is interacting and their engagement to an item or the space…
Markets satisfy all sorts of curiosity, whether new fruits or the way something is packaged. What is offered provides a sense of what is valued and what is available. I imagine how a product might be used, how it evolved, or its potential future…It also pushes me; would I be willing to try something unfamiliar?I remember traveling with my sister as a young woman, her first inclination was to go to museums and mine was to shop. At the time I felt guilty about my behavior identifying only with the materialistic aspects of shopping. Over time I began to realize my interest had more to do with exploring and identifying with the current and future culture.
Closer to home in my neighborhood I have a certain ownership of what’s available in stores. Be it eye glasses, house made sausages, or milk. We, the community draw the products to this place. I can identify with the items in a way that is familiar; regardless of whether I’d use them personally. The products are part of our support system and are connected to our identity.
Online shopping can quickly fill a need, although has yet to capture me in the same way a physical place does. Not to say I don’t admire the design and experience of a good site. In general the impression I feel is that I’m connecting to a hole in space (just as it is). I don’t feel like I belong in the same way I do in a physical place; maybe because it lacks dimension, or is missing people? Currently my online shopping is usually limited to finding the best price, something not available locally, or a friend’s site. One thing that online shopping does provide that local shopping doesn’t is anticipation of arrival. I’m guessing anticipation is a powerful motivator for purchasing.
All in all shopping serves a complex set of needs and desires from utilitarian to providing a sense of belonging. I’m saddened at this time of year because advertisers and the media capitalize on our ability to be whipped into an ugly frenzy. The broadcasting of our unconscious behavior brings shame to us all.
There should be no shame in shopping: Shop for the right reasons.