Acquisition syndrome in Best Buy, or why the economy keeps on rolling
My home answering machine was beginning to look pretty stodgy compared to the ones at my friends’ houses. Time for an upgrade, I thought as I drove to the mall and its newest mega store, Best Buy, hoping that it would live up to its name. From my parked car, I enjoyed a quiet stroll through the frigid, inky evening, the sounds of other shoppers and traffic muffled by a recent layer of heavy winter snow.
As soon as I pushed open the store’s huge glass doors, I walked into an abrupt wall of 110-volt ambience. The low electronic rumble of the place started resonating in my bones. Every item in the store seemed plugged in or powered up and was playing, and playing loud. The thrum, rumble, chirp, ring, and whir of the devices made it sound like a digital jungle.
This was shopping on a grand scale, with aisles and aisles of sleek new products built to make my listening, viewing, and communicating life easier. Phones, televisions, radios, laptop computers, digital video cameras and personal digital assistants were on display. And I don't mean two of a kind, like in Noah’s Ark. No, I mean ten or twenty of a kind, likely to cause choosing amongst them a task worthy of a summit meeting.
As I walked the aisles, tempting sounds, like the Sirens used to lure Odysseus astray, lured me to investigate products I hadn’t anticipated purchasing. The store had taken on a personality and was romancing me. I felt the credit card in my pocket begin to oscillate and heat up. Given unrestrained budgetary resources, I’ll bet I could have increased the nation’s monthly retail index with the purchases I started to consider. “Hmmm, I wonder how that cool surround system would sound in my living room?”
I began to luxuriate in the sheer variety, endless design, and advanced technology within those aisles. Like I’d been mainlining a consumer drug, I began to enjoy it as a sensory experience, submissively allowing the technological wizardry wash over me and play me like an instrument of pleasure.
Who said shopping was a chore? I marveled at how many ways there were to design a radio that produced rich bases and trebles while either playing a CD or locked onto my favorite radio station. With other shoppers fiddling with dials and knobs, the auditory Babylon created by about seven genres of music emanating from the radio aisles was almost comic. Pushing on in my expedition, I stopped in my tracks as I rounded the corner in the television aisle and beheld Steven Spielberg-like color and sound emanating from three plasma television screens the size of a basketball backboards.
Nearing the final rows of the store, I came across two huge rows of telephones. A non-digital alarm chimed in my head, reminding me of the reason I’d come here in the first place.
Of course, there were dozens of phones to compare. Digital, call waiting, one line/two line, caller ID, corded/cordless; and something for every budget, from the practical, no frills models to the types which could serve as mission control for a space launch.
I had come to this mega-store to replace a six-year-old telephone answering machine, which had been at the leading edge of technology when I bought it. Now its features reminded me of an old-fashioned rotary dial phone. Remember those? If Yogi Berra were still making remarks that made him the most widely quoted catcher of all time he’d say, “Boy, new things get older faster these days!”
I began thinking the same thing. Over time, all of the choices we make today will inevitably become out of date, or may lose their luster. They may even become valuable for reasons different from those that drove us to seek them in the first place. Figuring out what to discard and what to keep is the enduring question. Goodness, the last thing I expected to reap from this excursion was a trip down the philosophy aisle.
My internal shopping circuitry was on sensory overload. I needed a recharge before I could make a decision about which phone was for me. I needed to walk over to the Friendly Ice Cream store on the other side of the parking lot. As far as I could remember, they served only two kinds of coffee, regular and decaf. Now that’s a decision that I’d have no trouble making.