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Down your throat consumerism

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Could Kipp be alone in thinking that we need to change the perception of consumerism in our society? Ads, promotions, marketing and sales everywhere you go...

July 25, 2012 11:52 by

Around the time when i would usually have my morning coffee i received a phone call and the number was unknown. I answered the phone with a tad of trepidation and it was my bank telling me they would like to speak to me about my credit card. For a moment, my heart stopped and i reached out for my desk drawer as i prepared to hear the words: “Your credit card was stolen, sir.” But those words never came.

No, it was just a promotional phone call encouraging me to take an advanced loan on my credit card; telling me all the benefits of it; how incredibly LOW the interest rates are and how easy it is to be done. That’s usually the key word in any marketing strategy in this day and age by the way; easy.

I am not going to get into details of the promotion nor mention the name of the bank (wouldn’t you like to know!) and it isn’t about promotional offers or marketing strategy. But it did get me thinking; during this time of the year, retailers are literally beaming uncontrollably; and making more revenue than they normally would in any other month.

Year after year, retailers, travel agents, service providers, shop keepers, malls and every other business you can think of attempt their best to squeeze every  drop of money possible. The allocated advertising budget during Ramadan is usually more than any other month and they constantly use the name to sell themselves. Would you like to fly this Ramadan? Would you like to book a hotel this Ramadan? Call your family perhaps this Ramadan?

Aren’t they taking advantage of customers with the jam-it-down-your-throat advertising policy and injecting greed into a hungry culture, i thought to myself.

But i don’t see anybody complaining, as people correctly pointed out to me. Customers love spending more and retailers love selling more, promoting more, advertising more and raising awareness for their brands. Let’s push our PR campaigns down their chimneys, they think. So if retailers advertise madly this month and customers buy madly so what is wrong with that?

Well, call me old fashioned but i see this as a classic Chicken or the Egg question. Only in this case we would restring the question to who tricked who, the retailers or the customers? Are we buying more out of our own celebratory will or is it the cultural perception that brainwashes us to believe we need and want certain things?

I have been making observations of the number of emails, newsletters and SMS messages that i have received in the last 10 days and comparing it with the amount that i would normally receive throughout the year, on a regular 10 day period. On average (don’t quote me on this), i may receive 4 promotional SMS messages per month, although even that would be a stretch. However, in the last 10 days i have received 14 promotional messages, either pushing me to buy something, visit somewhere or sign up for something.

What is it about this culture that makes it acceptable to push services and products in our faces? Don’t get me wrong, everybody’s got to make a living but on the other hand there does not seem to be a perspective behind the process. Is it really as simple as; they will buy more so let’s spread it out more?

Let’s take a look at an example given by the Ministry of Economy, where they had issued several warnings, regulations, rules and guidelines that clearly stipulated that the prices of many essential items should not be raised during this month or until the end of 2012; do you think the retailers listened? The DED had been monitoring the prices of essential food stuff over the 15 days up to Ramadan and noticed price increases on items such as flour, cooking oil, sugar, fruits, vegetables, poultry, lamb and veal.

The department found out that many retailers had almost instantly hiked up their prices anywhere between 2% to a whopping 50%. These retailers will now have to face the fire of the Ministry of Labour and pay hefty fines. Wouldn’t it have been easier if they had just followed the rules? After all, why has it become an acceptable culture to monopolize yourself whenever you get the chance?

The good news is that the Consumer Protection Department has encouraged all residents to report to the DED if they find an unlawful price hike, overcharging or any vendor who fails to display stock prices; so keep your eyes peeled!

I will objectively add though that if retailers notice a gap in the market, why wouldn’t they fill it? How much blame can they take for wanting to hike up their revenues and profits. The change in culture needs to come from within (not to sound too preachy), and perhaps we need to adjust our perspectives if we want to get rid of a norm that revolves around an obessesion with materialism.

Behavioural scientists agree that in a society dominated by consumer culture there is a general acceptance of such norms as being the more you spend the more prestige and status you acquire. Consequently Dubai is ranked second globally in luring luxury brands, followed by London, New York, Paris and Moscow in third to sixth.

“Good afternoon sir, would you like to bu-? No, thank you, i would not.”

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