Sunday, December 10, 2006

I'm a degenerate consumer

Yes, it is true, I am a degenerate consumer. What does that mean? It simply means that I don't participate in many of the consumption activities characteristic of the "average" consumer.

  • I don't watch television.
  • I don't have a radio.
  • I don't listen to or buy music.
  • I don't have a CD player.
  • I don't have a DVD player.
  • I don't cook or buy groceries.
  • I don't have a car or even drive.
  • I don't have a cell phone.
  • Without a TV, I don't have cable.
  • I don't subscribe to any newspapers or magazines.
  • I don't have or even want a broadband Internet connection.
  • I don't play games or video games.
  • I don't make many long distance phone calls or even local calls.
  • I'm not married.
  • I don't have any kids.
  • No pets.
  • I don't own a home or even want to.
  • I don't even have any furniture.
  • I don't have any jewelry or even a watch.
  • I don't wear glasses or contact lenses even though I am a little nearsighted.
  • Spending $6 on a sandwich is usually out of the question.
  • Although I am 52 years old, I take no medications, other than an occasional aspirin.
  • The list goes on.

In fact, I can walk through a shopping mall without buying anything, or even wanting to buy anything. It all seems do foreign to me.

Judging from the norms for consumer behavior, I simply am not normal. As a consumer, I am... degenerate.

Now, to be honest, there are still a fair number of traditional consumer activities that I do participate in, including going to the movies, eating in restaurants, buying linen and toiletries, and basic clothing. I have a notebook PC and dial-up internet service and an old Sony PDA, but nothing fancy, I occasionally buy paperback books, and I do have a couple of credit cards.

My point is that as a consumer, I am not a very good representation of what an "average" consumer is like or how they behave. In fact, when I read descriptions of "consumer spending" and "consumer behavior", I have to shake my head and assume that I must be from another planet. If I have a few extra bucks in my pocket, my question is not what to spend it on, but how quickly I can put it into a savings account of some form.

The real question I have is whether going forward the average consumer will be even less like me, or even more like me. Will the average consumer trend towards spending more, or spending less?

Or to put that question in more operational terms, how will the spending patterns of a young person a year out of school evolve over the next few years?

For myself, I expect my consumption behavior to continue to degenerate. "Ever simpler." That may be my motto. On the other hand, I may be rapidly approaching the point at which opportunities for further frugality and simplicity are either not readily available or not particularly palatable.

-- Jack Krupansky

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