May 3, 2013

"I have to say that Target in particular engenders in me an instant version of what some hyper-lefty Germans called Konsumterrorismus..."

".... a total panic caused by the option of limitless shopping.... In my case, this phobia is compounded by the lighting – especially in Target. Aaron took me there once and I could not really get past the doorway. It was just horrifying. If I go to Hell, I will not have my ankles licked by fire. And I will not be lit from below. I will be subjected to giant, constant, overhead fluorescent lighting – what Michael Cunningham once called less lighting than the 'banishment of all darkness.'... All darkness must be banished to promote and encourage the purchase of things. This is what a huge amount of our culture now rests upon: the purchase of things. I guess you have to banish the literal darkness to disguise the shallow yet impenetrable darkness our shopping civilization represents."

The fear of shopping. Do you have it? If so, is it about the extreme excess of free choice? Or is it about the strong lighting? Or is it the fear of encountering strange people who are intimidated by choice and overhead lighting?

Me, I just want to have the choice to buy incandescent bulbs because I hate fluorescent lighting at home, but I don't mind strong overhead lighting in stores. Drug stores, grocery stores, hardware stores — these places would seem dingy and dilapidated if the conventional bright lighting were missing.

But I do understand the feelings of dissociation that can envelope you in a store, especially a large store with long aisles full of colorfully packaged products and lots of slow-moving customers pushing their carts. It can make you think of what Hell might be like, perhaps because of a nagging sense that acquiring material goods is sinful, perhaps because you're vaguely conscious that the minutes remaining in your life are ever fewer and yet here you are expending them shambling around in a windowless box.

Shallow commercial message: You can remain seated in aesthetically dimmed light and shop very quickly at Amazon, leaving you more time to do things you love, such as, perhaps, reading this blog, which you can feel good about having made a contribution to, at no cost to yourself, unless it's somehow deemed sinful when we reach the final reckoning.

57 comments:

El Pollo Real said...

My wife likes Target. Sounds like Sullivan's does too.

mccullough said...

Target is the new agora. The ancient Athenians would have liked it.

Beta Rube said...

My aging eyes appreciate well lit spaces, including Target Stores.

Ralph Hyatt said...

I don't enjoy shopping and therefore when I do it I do so in the most efficient manner possible. I know what I want, I find it, and I purchase it.

I do not browse (except in book stores which my wife wishes that I would stay out of because I have stacks of books in my "to read" pile and we have no room for any more.)

However, with that said, I find this meme of "too much choice" that has been going around for a few months (years?) to be offensive. I get it, you are hip (is that the current word?) because you are opposed to "consumer culture."

God, how long has that pretentious bullshit been going on. At least since the 60's, with antecedents going much further back when engaging in commerce was considered to be beneath the nobility.

Only exceedingly rich people would ever complain about having to much choice. That is not a complaint you hear from truly poor individuals.

Mitch H. said...

Poor psychotic Andy. Still afraid of Americans after all these years.

SteveR said...

Some people don't like to go to certain stores because they are snobs. They'd like you to believe its something like the lighting or some fear of choices, whatever. Too many common folks, too many products from evil companies like ADM, tuna with too much mercury that kind of stuff.

Amartel said...

The shallow yet impenetrable word fog in which we examine minutely the quotidian annoyance of shopping, blow it completely out of proportion, and thereby convey our superiority to mass consumerism.

Personally, the only thing that bugs me about shopping is finding parking. First you must get into the parking lot of the shopping center, then you nav into the parking lot within the parking lot for the particular store, then you have to wait for someone who thinks it's okay to pause while someone loads their car because they want that spot not the one six spots down. Once parked I feel obligated to make the trip count and not just get the one or two items that inspired the trip.

creeley23 said...

George Carlin warned us years ago that excessive choice when shopping wasn't healthy.

But big stores like Target and Wal-Mart -- frequent targets for upscale commentators like Carlin and Sullivan -- are such a boon for the regular folks that I file that sentiment under oikophobia as Roger Scruton defined it:

"the disposition, in any conflict, to side with 'them' against 'us', and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably 'ours.' "

Nonapod said...

I love the times we live in. I love the well lit, big box hypermarkets with rows upon rows of crap I don't really need but can buy if I so choose (as well as stuff I might actually need). I love online shopping. I love modern consumerism. It's awesome and I'm not afraid to admit it.

I know I'm nothing but a rube or a trog to most liberal snobs.

Mitch H. said...

I'm not fond of Target, BTW. Their food section is a joke, and I just don't buy enough clothes to make the rest of it worth stepping into the store.

traditionalguy said...

Finding what you want is nearly impossible outside of a WalMart or Target. The general merchandise selection is there and not anywhere else.

But Amazon seems to do a better job at product availability than those do lately. And the free shipping in Amazon Prime, with no sales tax either, has made looking at the front door step my favorite shopping experience.

Sorun said...

"This is what a huge amount of our culture now rests upon: the purchase of things."

Yes, we need stuff like socks and cat litter to prop up our culture. That's what Target sells. If you're in a store selling stuff you don't actually need, a softer sell is probably more important.

When you're in a Target, you never forget you're in a Target. I like it -- all the red and bright lighting keeps me moving. I'm fast and efficient.

creeley23 said...

Yes, it's horrible that the proles can get pretty nice stuff for themselves at big stores, instead of having the decency -- as well as the time and money -- to shop in several tasteful boutiques with high prices.

Ralph Hyatt said...

I agree with what Traditionalguy said about Amazon.

I read an review of "Monster of Florence" yesterday, ordered it from Amazon immediately and it showed up on my door step this afternoon.

What's not to love.

(My wife also wishes I would stop ordering books from Amazon>)

Bruce Hayden said...

Not quite sure where Target is supposed to fit in, market wise. Seemingly much more tightly branded that K Mart (if the one across the street is any indication), but not with the price image quite of Wal-Mart. My problem is that I probably don't shop at quite Target's price point. When I want to shop purely for price, I will go to Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Costco, or even Kroger's (whatever the local chain of theirs is called) for food. And, I don't seem to need former models or actresses picking out styles for me, and don't see that allure of their brands. I am not their target market, but not sure who exactly is.

With Target, someone noticed the lights. What I notice is the color red (and, I have made the mistake before of asking another innocent shopper wearing that unfortunate shade of red for help when shopping there).

Ralph Hyatt said...

Also, I find it somewhat amusing that someone ordered men's shorts through the Althouse portal.

Ralph Hyatt said...

Bruce - my understanding is that Target (pronounced Tarzhey) is the upscale WalMart, much like CostCo is the upscale Sam's Club.

cold pizza said...

1st World Problem. -CP

David said...

Target does that to her?

She must avoid Costco and Sam's club. They might cause her to explode.

Bet she just loves Trader Joe though.

Conformist.

chuck said...

Someone find that man a cave.

robinintn said...

What I dislike far, far more than shopping or the lighting in Target is people who wrap their phobias in a cloak of moral superiority, or, even worse, invent phobias in order to appear morally superior to those lower entities who are so insensitive as to enjoy browsing a nice selection of inexpensive products in good lighting.

edutcher said...

If he has that kind of reaction to Tarzhay, don't let him near Burlington Coat Facotry.

Ralph Hyatt said...

Bruce - my understanding is that Target (pronounced Tarzhey) is the upscale WalMart, much like CostCo is the upscale Sam's Club.

Tarzhay is so 80s, man.

Wally World is the Gimbel's of everything.

Shanna said...

Target is an easy place to pick up a variety of things, cleaning supplies, garden rakes, medicine, etc in one trip. Places like target (and walmart) don't only save you money, they save you time! That's important.

(Yes, amazon saves you time too, but sometimes you want things right away. and maybe there is a ritual to shopping that is enjoyable for it's own sake that amazon can't replicate.)

As for books, you could have them immediately on a kindle. That is the best, and worst, thing about kindles.

ed said...

What fills me with dread is the endless aisles filled with similar products that is my local Wegman's grocery store. They built this enormous building that could house 1.5 Costco's and then tried to fill it with their products. All they accomplished was to take a reasonably decent store and make it nearly impossible to do any shopping in under 2 hours.

ed said...

Target? *shrug* meh.

Anything I could get at Target I can get from Amazon. And since I have a Amazon Prime membership I get it shipped to me for free in 2 days. So why bother going to Target?

I can stay home, shop at Amazon, drink some coffee and get some work done. Or I can take a couple hours go to Target, find parking, deal with the lines, load the car, get out of the parking lot and drive back. Bleh.

Palladian said...

Too much fluorescent.

The only box-type store that I like is Home Depot, but that's purely because of the goods.

Palladian said...

All those box stores smell like being locked in a shipping container full of vinyl shower curtains during a month-long sea voyage from China.

Sigivald said...

I was going to ask "who is this hyperbolic, cant-spewing idiot?"

Then I hovered over the link ... and, oh, it's Andrew Sullivan.

That explains it.

(Substantively: Stuff is a Good thing, Mr. Sullivan. Material wants are not insignificant or "less real".

Material satisfaction is a good in itself, for many reasons, not limited to making more room in one's limited energy and time for non-material satisfaction.

"Why buy all this stuff?" - because it is useful in satisfying a desire. Apart from a few people with mental health issues, we're not buying stuff because of some freakish "compulsion to shop".

That tool has no place trying to criticize "our culture" - he knows nothing about it at any level, nor any valid grounds for criticism.

Move the hell on, you giant hack.)

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Enh. I hate going out to shop (though I do it, because I have to). But it's not because ZOMG too many choices!

Ralph Hyatt, I'm with you on the "consumer choice" business. ISTR a prominent book on the subject several years back, arguing that the more choices we were offered, the less we could choose, or words to that effect. Truer words were never spoken by the person who, confronted by a wall of all-slightly-different toothpastes in a supermarket, didn't just take the cheapest one from the bottom shelf and go.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

traditionalguy,

Finding what you want is nearly impossible outside of a WalMart or Target. The general merchandise selection is there and not anywhere else.

But Amazon seems to do a better job at product availability than those do lately. And the free shipping in Amazon Prime, with no sales tax either, has made looking at the front door step my favorite shopping experience.


Ummm ... probably best not to announce to the world that you're a tax cheat. Me, I can use Amazon guilt-free; there is no sales tax in my state.

Kirk Parker said...

Shanna,

Oh come on! What "ritual of shopping" could be more profoundly satisfying than the one that goes CLick, Click, Click, Click, Done?


Sigvald,

Funny, I had the same reaction. Looks like the previously-quoted piece is Sullivan's once-in-a-decade return to sanity, but now we're back to his regular programming. :-(

Paul Zrimsek said...

The people who derided advocates of the war in Iraq as "bedwetters" may have had a point after all.

cold pizza said...

Many years ago when I lived Yuba City, the mall there was an empty, shell, roamed by a few, disparate and despirited shoppers. Where I live now, the two local malls are constantly crowded, happening places.

Last weekend, I had to get my car repaired while I was on the road and I stopped at a Sears in Newark, CA at the NewPark mall. The place was twice the size of the mall near my house, but had less people in it (Friday afternoon) than any other mall I've ever been to. At no time did I see more than 4 or 5 people in the cavernous galleria, or in any store, or in the food court. My local Tar-jzhe had more people. Still, it was only a statistical sample based upon 1 visit and YMMV.

Malls, like magazines, need to offer what their consumers want.

BTW, the guy running the counter at Sears Auto was an older Filipino gentleman who got the starter replaced on my car in about 1/2 hour after I started joking with him in Tagalog. I can converse on the level of a bright 4-year old and then revert to nod-and-smile. -CP

Lydia said...

Time to bring back sumptuary laws?

Christy said...

Wasn't a book about the disjointing effects of overwhelming consumer choice published in the 70s with several different covers to choose from? Big seller.

dbp said...

I shop sometimes at Walmart and at Target and like Target a lot more.

At Walmart if feels like they make the place drab on purpose. Maybe they want to reassure their customers that no expense is being wasted on frills. Target is not the most elegant place in the world but they clearly put some effort into giving it a sense of style.

I'll still go to both places but when I leave tar-zhe, I am happy, when I leave Walmart, I feel emotionally exsanguinated.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Actually, clean & safe stores reliably filled with inexpensive merchandise to make daily life easier, safer, healthier, and more sanitary is a real human achievement.

It takes a really oikophobic asshole to whine about a retail system that provides readily available and inexpensive food, vitamins, toilet paper, bleach, toothpaste and over the counter meds to families who need them. Maybe it's because I've travelled extensively overseas in places that would kill for a nice clean Target, but that still seems like a minor miracle to me.

Rabel said...

"The fear of shopping. Do you have it? If so, is it about the extreme excess of free choice?"

My immigrant wife in her first few years in the States had a negative emotional reaction whenever visiting a large mall. It had something to do with the seeing all the pretty, shiny things and knowing that she couldn't have them all. I never fully understood, but learned not to go with her to the mall.

Harold said...

Work PT in a big box selling appliances. Sometimes a customer will exclaim, "Why are there so many choices? No one needs all these choices!" And I will agree with them, and happily state no one needs more then an 18 cu ft top freezer fridge- we could all get by with one. But- we have all these things because someone wants them as evidenced by the fact we're selling them. If the mighty government had their way, and controlled things to be utterly efficient, all we would sell would be 18 cu ft fridges, all identical, available someime in the future- and only ONE ON THE SALES FLOOR for you to look at. You would have to get on a waiting list to actually get one.

After thinking about it for just a second, most people get on with the choosing.

As for the person above who dislikes Wegman's- HUH!? Even the smallest Wegman's I frequent on a regular basis has more then 20 varieties of cheese to choose from- which is great. The bigger ones have a larger variety of exotic fruit, many of which I purchase and bring home for the kids to sample. Just recently tried Dragonfruit. My wife and kids loved it. Not available at Wal-Mart, Tops, Aldis, Big-M, Shir-Fine, or anyone else around. But Wegman's has got it.

I like local corn and tomatoes, ans especially local apples in season, but kiwis, guava, and even lowly bananas come from elsewhere. Can't enjoy a huge variety of foods and be a locovore.

Michael said...

One wonders what THINGS the jackass writer has at hand. A computer for sure but there on her granite top is a french press, a THING thing that makes delicious coffee that she likely brought back from France itself, but whcih can be acquired in the THING department of the very store she mocks with her sophisticated disdain for THINGS. What an asshole.

bgates said...

It can make you think of what Hell might be like

Yeah, it'll either be Auschwitz or Target.

If I go, I hope I get sent to the Target part.

AprilApple said...

Andy Sullivan is a stuck up bitch.

AprilApple said...

The only reason I shop at various stores is because I need stuff. I'd love to have the stuff I need magically appear in my pantry. Toothpaste, TP, paper towel, food, feed, etc..

Does Andrew have a personal shopper?
If so - he's a bitch.

kentuckyliz said...

You sound like Ashley Judd who is overstimulated and freaked out by pink socks on the racks.

Paeonia said...

I've always hated shopping in physical locations. Malls give me a migraine, Target and especially Walmart, torture. Garden centers however can be quite pleasant as well as fabric / hobby stores. I went to a Fleet Farm and left the store almost immediatly because of the smell of car tires.

Online shopping of groceries, clothing, shoes and a multitude of various goods has been a god send. I adore eBay and Amazon.

Dr Weevil said...

When "hyper-lefty [West] Germans" coined the term "Konsumterrorismus" they were desperately trying to defend East Germany by pretending that West Germany was just as bad in an equivalent, thoug opposite way.

East Germans had no choice in what to buy, and had to wait in long lines to get whatever shoddy crap was temporarily available. The only way to make West German abundance look equally bad was to pretend that an abundance of choices is somehow just as bad as no choice at all, and that being asked to make up your mind between (e.g.) a dozen varieties of crisp fresh apples is somehow just as bad as being offered one variety of blotched overripe pear when you really just wanted an apple, or having to decide between a VW, Audi, or BMW was somehow just as bad as having to wait 15 years to get to the top of the waiting list for a Trabant.

It's the same kind of moral equivalence that alleges that for the U.S. to build a (still hypothetical) fence to keep visaless Mexicans out would be just as bad as East Germany actually building a fence with minefields and machine guns to keep their own citizens in and kill those who tried to leave. Does the equivalency actually sound plausible to you? If so, do you think putting locks on your apartment door to keep strangers from walking in without invitation is exactly equivalent to keeping someone locked up in your basement against her will, as in Silence of the Lambs? If you can't see the difference between fences and locks that exclude, and those that imprison and enslave, you may be a "hyper-lefty" . . . or a moron, and the same goes for the difference between lack of choices and abundance of choices.

Harold said...

What Dr. Weevil said.

The Godfather said...

I miss Target. When we lived in Fort Lauderdale there was one 5 minutes from where we lived. Now we live in NC (better than south Florida in so many ways!) and the nearest Target is an hour and a half away. We have a Wal-Mart, but that's really not the same. I know the snotty people who mock Target; they either have more money than sense, or they act as though they do.

AprilApple said...

What Dr. Weevel said, x2.

stlcdr said...

Dr. Weevil is selling something, there...

Clyde said...

Why am I not surprised that Sullivan is so in touch with his inner East German?

Clyde said...

And scrolling up, I see that Dr. Weevil already nailed the Ossie angle. Having seen East Berlin and the Spartan offerings on the department store shelves, I know exactly what he was talking about.

Mitch H. said...

I went to look up who coined this "Konsumerterrorismus", and it turns out he mangled it, it's actually Konsumterror. And it was coined by Ulrike Meinhof. Yes, children, that Ulrike Meinhof. How does one go from waving the banner of George Orwell to approvingly quoting a founder of the Red Army Fraction in ten short years? Somebody should really adjust Sullivan's medication, he's gone crazier than a shithouse rat.

ken in sc said...

Hell is other people, says Sartre. Sullivan doesn't like Target because there are other people there.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Bill Whittle wrote an essay a few years ago comparing the Great Pyramids vs a 7-11 store, as cultural achievements. Well worth reading, especially for those living in ignorance in the soft cushion of well-maintained, sanitary, and safe civilization.
This disdain for shopping in, and customers of, places like Target, is often diagnostic for people who believe in magic instead of reality, in other vital aspects of life.
Read up on the history of sewer systems, or famines, and then tell me how awful civilization is.

leslyn said...

I have a rational horror of shopping at Walmart, where I would end up paying them twice: first, as part of their $15B profit (no kudos for "discussing" the Bangladesh horror, BTW); and second, with my taxes to help support their myriad employees on public assistance.

Kirk Parker said...

Leslyn,

That you have various horrors, I have no doubt--but rational? Ah, don't flatter yourself.