Sunday, May 27, 2007

On Shopping And Being Rude...

Pen-y-Ghent, Yorkshire Dales

I am rubbish at shopping. Really, spectacularly rubbish. Although I dabble, I remain an unreconstructed lefty when faced with the opportunity to become a proper player at consumerism. I balk at the opportunity to hand over sums of cash in return for a fleeting glimpse of happiness. God knows I see enough ordinary human misery in my job to realise that consuming like there is no tomorrow brings little more than debt and a hollow feeling that you have just been had.

Obviously there are times when I have to go to a shop and buy things. My general rule of thumb is that if something comes in a brown paper bag I can manage it. Anything bigger, and it means that somebody is trying to sell me something and the rubbish shopping thing kicks in. I can just about handle the over stimulation of the senses that goes on in a large store. I can switch off to the ‘buy me,’ ‘no, buy me instead’ from every product. What I can’t handle is the fact that every single transaction with a sales assistant has a psychological ulterior. Nothing is as it seems in the world of shopping. These people are trained to take my money. I am trained to understand unspoken and psychological communications. It is a match made in hell and makes me a little unruly.

I survived Ikea this week, with barely a scratch. Well, just one minor hiccup:

Me: (very loudly) who in their right mind would buy a suite in such a dreadful colour?

Kooky hypnotherapist: perhaps that man sitting behind you?

His partner was clearly quite taken with the dreadfully coloured suite. He smiled at me conspiratorially, and so I rather suspect he wasn’t. I said sorry quite a few times. I think I just about got away with it.

I left Ikea empty handed, apart from a battery operated milk frother which cost £2.50 and I am really rather taken with. No need now for that hugely expensive cappuccino maker.

I was feeling quite pleased with myself that I had managed a full circuit of Ikea without falling out with my companion, ( although the kooky hypnotherapist is particularly difficult to fall out with), without stropping like a twelve year old and having only slightly offended one person. All in all a good shopping day. (I know we didn’t actually buy the chairs we went for, but that really is a minor detail. Not having a nervous breakdown is a good shopping day as far as I am concerned.)

I took a call from The Husband on the way home. I had to meet him at a local bathroom shop because, apparently, we have an urgent need to fit a new bathroom. I was bemused. We have lived in our Old-Lady-Style-House for 4 years, in the full knowledge that it needs redecorating and that neither of us can be arsed to do it. But suddenly WE NEED TO FIT THE BATHROOM THIS WEEKEND.

(Ouch, so sorry for shouting, but that is what the message said.)

So I met him at a major retail outlet and frankly it was a bridge too far. Sensory overload. Too many special offers - a veritable Woolworth’s pick ‘n’ mix of taps, fixtures, fittings and toilet seats with sweets embedded in them. (What's that all about then?) The background music was way too loud, and I maintain that 70's disco music is only appropriate for.....well, a 70's disco really and then only under sufferance. It was all too much for me.

I felt sorry for the twelve year old assistant who tried in vain to interest me in her lovely (?) bathrooms. She should have been sitting in a park drinking Diamond White with her friends. I should have been somewhere else sticking pins in my eyes. I ended up sitting on a toilet rocking gently whilst The Husband translated her sales speak to me, and I told him to tell her to speak up and stop mumbling, as if she were the one with the hearing problem and not me. I can’t imagine how rude she found me. Sorry little sales girl. It really wasn’t your fault. I think my Old-Lady-House has turned me into a grumpy old woman.

Operation Bathroom started yesterday. I shall be glad to have rid of my Old-Lady bathroom. I already have sciatica and greying hair, and was concerned that the shell-style bathroom suite and maroon patterned tiles would soon start looking quite attractive to me.

I escaped Operation Bathroom with my son. The two of us took a wonderful walk up Pen-y-Ghent and I began to feel human again.

The workings of capitalism are clever. They needle our inherent desire for satiation, knowing that when it is within our grasp they will needle once more. We sublimate our core relational needs into the need to consume, and neatly side step the issue of built in disillusionment that accompanies the built in obsolescence.

I would like to claim that this is why I hate shopping, but that would be just too pompous. Really, it’s because I am rubbish at it. Very, very rubbish.


Biby Cletus said...

Cool blog, i just randomly surfed in, but it sure was worth my time, will be back

Deep Regards from the other side of the Moon

Biby Cletus

Stray said...

Oh Ms M, I think what you've actually recognised there is that you are very good at shopping - purchasing things which you need - and very bad at consuming - which seems to be an activity about selecting your preferred design / brand of something you don't need at all.

I am seriously impressed that you got round Ikea and only acquired a £2.50 milk frother. Amazing. You didn't even buy any tupperware or a new set of 3-differerent-sizes-of-scissors?

You're so right about the store assistants. I find electrical stores in particular to be staffed by young men who should be out sniffing paint thinners and breaking windows, not describing to me the relative benefits of fridge freezers. In shiny trousers with too much gel in their hair ...

I hope operation bathroom is going as well as can be expected. I quite like the sound of your old lady bathroom ... though I do agree that developing bunions at your age would have been a terrible cost to bear.


JJ said...

Ms M that did make me laugh.

I am truly concerned though about milk frother thing, which I understand only works if you add washing up liquid to your coffee! ;)

Ikea is directly responsible for my theory that you can't have too many pairs of scissors (those three packs, that Stray's talking about). I can't leave Ikea without having spent £80, mostly on scissors, it seems.

Ms Melancholy said...

Hey Biby, mmmm, thanks. You haven't just spammed me have you?

Hi Stray, I think you may be right. Perhaps I am actually very good at shopping. I often get so overwhelmed with the choice, that I leave a shop with nothing, even if I have money in my pocket for once. I did say several times "perhaps the shell-style bathroom suite is not so bad after all" when faced with the twelve year old's collection of strangely designed toilets. Fortunately hubby is more decisive than me, and has chosen quite well I think.

Hi JJ, funny you should say that, because I almost bought a set of scissors. I can get quite cross when I go to the kitchen drawer and one of the children has moved them for yet another school project. But for some reason I decided that one pair is enough. I think I was a Plymouth Brethren in a former life.

Angela-la-la said...

I avoid Ikea completely for exactly those reasons. Too much stimulation and too little money to be fleeced make me antsy.

Just what colour was that suite?

trousers said...

A number of things spring to mind.

a)The cornucopia that is Muji - occasionally I wander in there with a couple of friends and I look at all these cute, well designed, enticing objects. I constantly repeat a mantra: "But I DON'T NEED IT!!"

b) Walking through Derby to catch a train this afternoon (i.e. before I read this post). In the city centre I had one of those rare moments where you view things without filters: it just struck me how hugely bizarre if not vulgar it was to see masses and masses of people just going round and buying things. On one level I felt like I knew what it was all about and yet on another level it seemed so abstract as to be incomprehensible.

c) Life has been so much better since I got my George Foreman Grill.

Ms Melancholy said...

Hi angela-la-la, I do so love your name, by the way. The suite is white, with a lovely shell design at the back and by the taps. It is going free to a good home if you want it? Along with some maroon patterned tiles? I suspect even freecycle won't work for this one.

Hi trousers

a) I avoid Muji because it becomes hard to differentiate between 'want' and 'need' in there. Such a fine line sometimes I find

b)I agree entirely. For that reason I find the Trafford Centre the third circle of hell, and have to leave almost as soon as I have arrived, passing briefly through 'Schuh' on my way out. I can buy a pair of shoes in about 3 minutes flat.

c) I prefer my George Formby grill. Low fat, and a good line in ukelele tunes.

Check out Stray's blog if y'all want some bank holiday fun x

Jude said...

Having spent the day being lured into buying Converses and leggings (and dress-tops to go with the leggings) by my two eldest, and 'absolutely must have' underwear (for eldest) I wish I had as much willpower as you when it came to shopping.

I find that a quick browse round Ikea can easily set me back a couple of hundred quid, and don't even get me started on John Lewis.


Ms Melancholy said...

Ah, Jude, if it were simple will power I too would be impressed. But sadly it's not. It is a combination of former poverty and my natural sense of futility, which is a much less desirable combination than lovely dresses and leggings. I bet you look fabulous!

Ms Melancholy said...

PS you can't go wrong with a pair of converse all stars, either x

varske said...

One of the reasons we liked living in Vilnius before 2000 was there were no shops. Well there were shops with names like Produkty, and Fruit and Vegetables, and Bread. And the famous Children's World and Central Universal Department Store (with no departments, just everything mixed up). So we saved our money and went for a binge every 3 months to Stockholm or Helsinki. Then we really felt justified in consuming.

Then Vilnius got shops and shopping malls just like everywhere else, and there was no need for the binges. That was very unsatisfactory.

These days we just get supermarket angst (especially in IKEA). Too much stimulation, too many decisions, not enough money ... gotta get out of here.

I did once manage to go to IKEA and not buy anything at all, but that was because I went for something they had run out of.

Milk frother is also for making Greek iced coffee (frappe).

Jude said...

The dresses and leggings were initially for my girls.

But having sourced theirs I did get pulled into the whole thing.

Their converses were a result of me buying my own the week before last. Theirs are trendier, but I have a pink glittery pair of Kitsons on order.

Can you tell I am going to be 40 this year?

And the leggings looked sooooooo much better on me in 1986.


Ms Melancholy said...

Hey Varske, I so love the idea of shops called 'Bread' and 'Fruit and Vegetables'. As long as they did what they said on the tin, and I had enough money to buy their goods, I'm sure I would be happy. I wonder if I am really just a Marxist at heart. Or massively indecisive. I don't know which x

Hi there Jude, oh god, 1986! Aren't you just reminded of it?? I keep seeing young women dressed exactly as I would 20 yrs ago - leggings, cut off denim minis, flat pumps and baggy t-shirts layered with jumpers and cardigans. I also had a lovely vintage 60's suede jacket which I dug out the other day just for the memories. It doesn't fit me anymore, but I can't bear to throw it out. Ah, I never thought I would reach the age where the fashion of my youth would come round again. Do you think we should start a support group?

Jude said...

A leggings support group? I'm on for it. Any leggings that could support me these days get my vote.

I also had a fabulous suede jacket, bought at 'the second hand place that everyone bought their dinner jackets from' (Trev) in Newcastle.

Second hand suede jackets were ace.


Ms Melancholy said...

Hi Jude, I do think I may need a leggings support group actually (and lovely pun, by the way!) I feel compelled to buy some, with full awareness that I may have suited them when I was 20 and a stone lighter but now I will just look, frankly, ridiculous in them. Shall we open it to all comers? Leggings are such difficult things to pull off, I think. (Feed line for another marvellous pun, if anyone can be bothered.)

Ms Melancholy said...

Hi again Angela-la-la, sorry, I was a numpty before. You asked what colour the suite was - meaning the Ikea suite - and I told you the colour of my lovely shell-style bathroom suite.

Now, I run the risk of offending someone else again here I'm sure, but hey, that never stopped me yet. It was beige. Not a nice beige though. Not a stone beige or even a honey beige. More a livery-dog pooh beige. Now, you are going to tell me that you have that exact same suite, aren't you? Please don't. Please.

Jude said...

Leggings are very easy to pull off.

Why have we waited 20 years for their return?

Ms Melancholy said...

Ah, thanks Jude! I will be your straight man/woman any time. Yes, really very easy to pull off. Much harder to look good in though. Unless you are aged 20 and a size 10. Ask my husband. I tried some on the other day and he just shook his head. He is nothing if not honest.

bindi said...

You are brave Miss M. I always get lost in IKEA, it is like a maze and I always end up making a fool of myself, because I give up and ask a twelve-year-old assistant if there is a short cut out of the joint, and they always shake their heads. I think they are cruel and heartless - I'm sure there must be a short cut, the staff couldn't possibly go around in circles all day.

I am used to not buying too, especially clothing because i sew. However, things are so cheap these days and life is so hectic it just doesn't seem worth it to save ten dollars when the hub just goes off and buys another crate of wine without a blink of the eye. I have been set straight, on saving money, I have been told by an older friend, honey get over it! and I get better at it every day.

Caroline said...

Please wear leggings to the launch Jude and Ms M ... please. :)

I too love shopping, but am rubbish at it. If I can't buy a whole outfit, then I buy nothing at all and sulk.

But I love Ikea for the green cake in the shop at the end and last time I bought *the best* cheese grater. It catches the cheese in a plastic pot attached to the metal grating bit - genius! And all for £1.49!

I am beyond cool.


anticant said...

'Built in disillusionment accompanying built in obsolescence' is an exact description of my own condition at this stage of the earthly pilgrimage. Thanks, Ms M!

These days, I do most of my shopping on-line. It keeps the postman busy, and he knows my post code [see Merkin's blog].

l-q-s said...

Ms. M, you are ace! I have done the 'commenting loudly on the sofa/item of clothing' thing many times in the past. And I suspect I will do it many times again in the future. however, I am afraid I am anti-social and inconsiderate enough to walk, unapologetically, away. People really do buy some repulsive things sometimes. :)

However, I too am awful at shopping and have managed to force myself to learn will power but mainly because I've come to realise that what I'm buying, I rarely need. I find I have almost achieved mastery of myself...except where books and CD's are concerned...

Oh well. It's a start to be aware of one's faults, isn't it? ;)

Ms Melancholy said...

Hi there Bindi, the 12 yr olds are lying to you! My local Ikea has several shortcuts which I found on my last visit. Just follow the staff - if you can actually find a member of staff - who seem to naturally gravitate towards the exit. I wonder why?

Hi lovely Caroline, I so know what you mean about the whole outfit thing. The number of times I have bought an item, only to find it goes with absolutely nothing and then sits for months in my wardrobe, making me feel guilty. I have learnt my lesson. From now on it is a whole outfit or nothing. (Except shoes. I will make an exception for shoes.)

Oh, and definitely no leggings for the launch. Sorry! Hubby told me I looked ridiculous in them. (I had to press him quite hard for that word, by the way. I could just tell by the way he was hesitating that I didn't look gorgeous.)

Hi there anticant, ah, that made me smile! I love that your postman knows your postcode. I hope you give him a big tip at christmas. x

Hey l-q-s, yes I too make an exception for books and, less frequently thesedays, CDs. Glad to hear you put your foot in it loudly too. I sometimes have a lack of awareness that verges on the autistic. Nice to see you here again.

brumcunian said...

Haha a hatred for IKEA and the trafford centre. In some parallel universe I think I have just met my wife. IKEA freaks me out. I hate crowds and I hate feeling trapped and claustrophobic. So to be stuck in IKEA with a sea of gormless customers disturbs me and is not my favourite place in the world.

The same with The Trafford Centre. I'm easily spotted in the trafford centre. I'm the grumpy one with elbows out marching at full speed knocking all the gormless people hovering and hesitiating infront of me out of my way.

Ms Melancholy said...

Hey Brum, a match made in heaven, indeed. Well, apart from the obvious of course :)

Prada Pixie said...

The thing with Ikea is it's better than MFI cause it's trendier. And you can get cool gadgets that you'll, or more accurately I will, probably stick in the drawer for some time before putting in the charity bag. And you can get fab plants to take home and nurture or kill depending on your abilities. And they sell Dime bars or whatever their new trendy name is. Why do things change their names -what was wrong with Immac?

Janejill said...

I thought Immac was the stuff you strip off hairs with?? If it's not, it has put me off the choc bar anyway...
I think manufacturers have gone out of control - true addictive behaviour Ms M? I can imagine streets upon streets - no, towns upon towns all over the world, especially China, with huge factories full of tiny little figures bent over huge sewing machines, 24 hours a day, just churning out unquantifiable amounts of tshirts, jeans, leggings, whatever; all colours, shapes and sizes ( though more and more outsize, oops, I mean Plus size...) They have gigantic, computerised containers waiting at the end of chutes and all the garments pile in in; another machine seals it up and off it goes to the ships which carry it to us. There, the mobs are waiting, slavering -ugh ...doesn't it put you off? I try very hard to decide what I need before going out, or else I buy lots of books in the charity shop and try to justify the addiction.

Ms Melancholy said...

Hi Prada Pixie, thanks for dropping by. I am rather fond of a Dime bar myself. Do they still call them Dime at Ikea, or do they have an unpronounceable Swedish name by now? I shall check next time I am there. Which should be sometime around 2012 when my milk frother packs in.

Hey Janejill, yes, I see that too and it really does put me off. Quite a lot in fact. Good to see you again x

Janejill said...

Being very sad I have just reread my post and I sound a total prat. I forgot to add that 99% of the time I am out there buying for England (or Ireland)- it is just the very odd time I restrain myslef. That feels better

billie said...

Timely post as we had to go out and buy a new dishwasher, vacuum, and coffeemaker this weekend.

I'd been doing w/o the vacuum for several months - sweeping like mad to keep up with corgyn and cats.

The dishwasher we had is very very old and we weren't able to put a number of things in it b/c it just didn't clean them.

Coffeemaker (double unit/cappucino and regular coffee) was twenty-something years old and doing strange things - getting very hot - which made me nervous.

It was mind-boggling in the store, although I had done a bit of online research ahead of time and knew what dishwasher to get. The vacuum was tougher and the coffee machine was purely impulse - grab the one that looks nicest and is in our price range.

I do most shopping online and a bi-monthly run to the thrift store and the dollar store to see if they have anything we need.

Leggings! I am smiling about the come-back. I wouldn't go out and buy any now but I'm getting my revenge wearing riding tights, which are necessary, after all, to ride my horses.. :)

Thanks for the great read this evening!

b said...

I saw this article today and thought of you,,2090217,00.html

And I'm rubbish at shopping too.

austin said...

I hate big department stores but I really enjoy my local grocery (lots of discussions held about the state of the world), buying my cup of coffee and sweet thing from one of my wonderful local cafes, and the occaisional swoop on a local clothes shop.
I avoid bathroom modernisation discussions and have a little bodum milk shaker, which with some active hand action creates good froth for chinos and lattes at home.
PS I am a stationary freak

Reading the Signs said...

You know, I've always felt that my daughter's consumerist tendencies were somehow my fault, perhaps I'd been too much of a hippy etc. but your ref to "core relational needs" has made me feel guilty Ms M! Perhaps I have failed her at some deep level and this is why she must have Clarins skin products rather than Boots - and it is my responsibility therefore to finance such - help!

Liz said...

I'm convinced that the music Ikea plays has some sort of subliminal messaging embedded in it, telling us to buy something, even if it's as small as a milk frother. To my eternal shame, I've never managed to walk out of there empty handed!

Janejill said...

Hi Ms M - could the colour be descibed as wet sand?? If so, I have just bought a pair of trousers very close in colour; I console myself that the colour 'works' much better in clothes than it might in a sofa ( I am such an optimist, or just very good at covering up my mistakes)

enidd said...

enidd thinks you've discovered the new kind of retail therapy - retail aversion therapy.

ps enidd hates ikea too. if there was a god, he could punish her for her numerous sins by putting her in ikea with screaming children and an infinite shopping list.

Ms Melancholy said...

Hey janejill, you so didn't sound like a prat! And yes, wet sand is probably a good description. I think it is fine in trousers - but the sofa just looked like the cat had been sick on it.

Hi there Billie, I too prefer on line shopping. I think I am just averse to crowds really.

Hey b, enjoyed the article, thank you. I do wish they would find a journalist who actually seems to know something about therapy though!

Hi again Austin, I so agree about the local grocery stores. I used to shop regularly at a Turkish grocers, and he started to offer me a Turkish coffee every Saturday morning after I had finished my shopping. It was bliss. And such a lovely way to connect with one's neighbours.

Oh lovely Signs, please don't feel guilty. We are drip fed this stuff from the minute we can walk and talk. (And I've heard that Clarins skin care really is good!)

Hi again Liz, I think you might be on to something here. Do you have lots of bags of tiny candles littering the house? I do.

Hey there enidd, yes, Ikea with hoards of children and a very long shopping list is actually now a Japanese game show.

Reissurääpäle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reissurääpäle said...

Hi Ms Melancholy

Now you have a possibility to validate this study :)

Charity calls for ecotherapy to boost mental health is valid

You can reach it by google. Sorry I couldn´t manage to make a link straight to text.

Ms Melancholy said...

Hey Reiss, thank you so much! I appreciate it......

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