As Ive mentioned, I’m in a heavy “bitches be shopping” mode as I’m settling into a new home that is 5x larger than anything I’ve ever lived in.
I’ve purchased furniture, home decor, sheets & towels, work boots, denim, dry goods, storage bins & racks, paint, curtains, toiletries, vitamins, over the counter medications, and cosmetics. I’ve really “enjoyed” the full spectrum of American retail in all its consumer glory. Makes me feel all patriotic.
I’m lucky that I have several decades of experience in the dark arts of consumption studies and consumer marketing to guide me through. And even with that knowledge, I feel like I keep getting ripped off.
What is wrong with shopping in America?
Most folks are keenly aware of rising costs and supply chain troubles coming out of a pandemic that was treated with stimulus and zero interest monetary policy. Stimmy checks & a society wide health scare had all kinds of unintended consequences on everything. But the end result is everything feels more expensive. And also shittier.
One argument is that shrinkflation has come for America.
Shrinkflation, also known as the grocery shrink ray, deflation, or package downsizing, is the process of items shrinking in size or quantity, or even sometimes reformulating or reducing quality.Wikipedia
It’s a maddening phenomenon as brands and retailers do their best to hide the basic fact that you are paying the same amount for less. We are a nation being gaslighted by an array of institutions that we’ve been raised to consider our pride and joy. It’s part of our national myth that supermarkets won the Cold War. American brands can be trusted. American brands are the best.
American brands are subject to market forces not central planning. And those forces are choppy at best. Which is how we ended up with our favorite popsicle letting us down.
The otter pop’s my husband favors have gone from 2oz to 1.5oz but have stayed the same price at Costco. It’s not a huge change. We probably wouldn’t have noticed it except we had a couple older ones we bought early in the pandemic and were able to compare. It was a small betrayal but at least we knew it and could accept the increased cost.
But imagine if you weren’t aware of the macroeconomic forces at play. Or if you weren’t a careful observer of consumption and shopping. What if you were just a kid that got duped by a popsicles?
I suspect we are all experiencing a little bit of crazy-making from the subtle ways in which we can no longer trust our brands and retailers. It feels downright un-American. And I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s a contributing factor to the general sense of unease and institutional distrust. If you can’t trust American consumerism, well we don’t really have much left.