Consumer Justice Concord

Consumerism Today


Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts. With the industrial revolution, but particularly in the 20th century, mass production led to overproduction—the supply of goods would grow beyond consumer demand, and so manufacturers turned to planned obsolescence and advertising to manipulate consumer spending. In 1899, a book on consumerism published by Thorstein Veblen, called The Theory of the Leisure Class, examined the widespread values and economic institutions emerging along with the widespread "leisure time" in the beginning of the 20th century. In it, Veblen "views the activities and spending habits of this leisure class in terms of conspicuous and vicarious consumption and waste. Both are related to the display of status and not to functionality or usefulness."

In economics, consumerism may refer to economic policies which emphasise consumption. In an abstract sense, it is the consideration that the free choice of consumers should strongly orient the choice by manufacturers of what is produced and how, and therefore orient the economic organization of a society (compare producerism, especially in the British sense of the term). In this sense, consumerism expresses the idea not of "one man, one voice", but of "one pound, one voice", which may or may not reflect the contribution of people to society.

In the almost complete absence of other sustained macro-political and social narratives, concern about global climate change notwithstanding, the pursuit of the 'good life' through practices of what is known as 'consumerism' has become one of the dominant global social forces, cutting across differences of religion, class, gender, ethnicity and nationality. It is the other side of the dominant ideology of market globalism and is central to what Manfred Steger calls the 'global imaginary'.

So today, consumers have many more choices than they have had ever before. They can make their choices easier and faster than ever before. Some people might remember what it was like to go ‘window shopping’. They likely remember a time when looking over what the mall had for shoes or some article of clothing they might be interested, would clearly take some time and a bunch of walking. Today, over the internet, you can do that same review or examination in minutes, with virtually no walking at all. Today the product choices which you may now have have clearly expanded. The reality is that the methodology of how you can come to buy, has all has but been narrowed down but to one or two mediums, which are your computer and/or your smart phone. You can be shown goods or merchandize very quickly and have a ton things to choose from. And yes, there are many people who are getting rich off of on-line shopping, no doubt. They are just different breed than the shopkeepers and retailers we once knew or worked with.

However, with all that said, the question today is, do consumers now have a higher expectation of things when acquiring something today, than they used to have? We believe yes, and they should have. But the central issue one’s shopping is whether or not the ‘art’ or method of shopping is better or worse than before. Some things are and can be better, but there are a number of things which are worse and can even be heartbreaking. Important things such as:

  • On-site or in-person product inspection for product quality, color, size, etc. is no longer possible.
  • Consumers being completely reliant upon the pictures or representation of what they see on the website.
  • Immediate exchange of defective items is not possible.
  • Immediate refunds (within a day?) are not possible.
  • Being able to appreciate exactly what you are about to purchase before parting with your money.
  • Size assurance, usually for cloths. Size variations for exactly the same supposed size, can be all over the map. Some manufacturer’s sizes can tend to be small, some large.
  • Knowing that the goods you end up with are actually brand new.  Getting used goods has happened to people, believe it or not. 

Consumers are people too. They can make mistakes easily as well. They can miss a point or not see something which should have been obvious to them before. Nobody is perfect. But the good news is that none of that matters. We are here to help you and protect you through the various experiences which on-line shopping can present.