We don’t watch a lot of TV with commercials around here. We’re down to two elderly TV shows, with a long enough life and established enough fan bases that watching them online seems completely fair. The commercials in online streaming tend to be completely irrelevant (diapers? a car I’ll never buy?).

I’m still inundated with requests to buy things, though. The “Commerce” folder in my e-mail, which is set up to filter most of these messages, gets 15-20 messages a day, sometimes more. There are always stragglers, too, hanging out in my regular inbox.

I don’t check the physical mail every day, but when I do check it there are, on average, at least five catalogs. If we go too long, our small post office box will be completely full, entirely of catalogs and flyers. Some companies send separate catalogs to both of us, one in each name.

These things bother me, each in their own way. Physical catalogs are a nuisance. They’re extra paper that I have to cart to the recycling. I ask to be removed from mailing lists, and companies answer “It may take a few months, because the addresses are printed in advance” and then I forget which ones I still need to cancel. As a lure to purchasing unnecessary items, they aren’t too bad, because there’s no quick fix. Something I see in a catalog might get a mental note of “oh, that’s cute,” but by the time I’m done sorting the mail the thought is gone.

The e-mail is a subtler enemy. All of the e-mails advertise sales, you see. “50% off, today only!” Or, “Gift with Purchase!” It’s easy to get caught up in this, because (unlike whatever catalog mailing list we got on) all of these e-mails come from online retailers that I use. My husband’s favorite T-shirts. My career wear. Dog food. Vitamins. Books. I think “Oh, while it’s on sale I need to get a [thing X that we use regularly.]” You click through right then to the website, buy the thing that you (might) actually need, and then “while I’m here, I’ll go look at . . . ” or “I’m only $10 away from free shipping, and shipping is $7.  It would be like getting a $10 item for $3…” (My Amazon Prime membership easily pays for itself by cutting out “filler” purchases.)

It’s a consumerist sink hole.

On the other hand, I hate to unsubscribe from the e-mail lists, even though the link is Right! There! because I don’t want to miss the legitimate benefit of the sale price on something I would have bought anyway.

This is how corporations win, I guess. I’m going right now to sort through that “Commerce” folder and unsubscribe from 90% of those lists.


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