I’m in a hurry today. I’ll be at the store today, and doing some customer service for my business, and have a show to do tomorrow, and somewhere in there I need to do the grocery shopping, plus the computer work.
I was also at the store yesterday. I was creating alluring vistas of toys. I rarely do this nowadays. It is a peaceful occupation, creating order from chaos.
It made me think of my pantry at home, though. Some of the newest gifts from Central Office are too big to fit in my cabinets, so I’ve just sort of been tucking them into the pantry.
I’ll think about that later.
Apart from my unfortunate pantry, the rearrangement of the toy section made me think of the fact that people aren’t buying toys for children so much this Christmas. Partly it’s the fear of Chinese toys, following a number of recalls of toys for lead contamination and whatnot.
I have to say that this is the direct result of the American consumer’s decision to put price before all other considerations. If you are determined not to pay enough to cover the cost of the raw materials, you will have to expect that the raw materials that end up being used are not going to be what they should be. When parents decided to buy three poor quality toys instead of one good one, and became outraged at the price of good toys, they made it almost impossible for any company to avoid outsourcing their toy manufacturing to China, where workplace human rights abuses are commonplace and safety rules are considered economically unfeasible. Consumers who are now seeking for someone to blame should look, if not in the mirror, at least at the person next to them at the toy store who said, “I can get practically the same thing at Sam’s for half that much!”
But aside from the toy safety scare, it is also the continuing trend toward buying electronic stuff for children at ever younger ages. The big products for preschoolers this Christmas are MP3 players. I’ve bought an MP3 player this year, but for my 16 year old, not for a 4 year old. Little children, and schoolchildren as well, spend way too much time interacting with electronic devices. They should be interacting with each other, with their parents, with the natural world, and with figments of their imaginations.
What’s more, my electronics buying plan has still not been put into effect in the electronics stores of our nation.
I proposed this plan a couple of years ago. It is very simple. Electronics stores or departments should be laid out like zoos. All the music-producing devices should be in one clearly labeled area and all the DVD playing things in another and so on, so that no person, however unhip, would have to fear walking out with a phone when they meant to get a camera or vice versa.
There should be interpretive features, just like zoos, such as signs with lots of information, and buttons to press that will play an informative tape (well, file, then) explaining the objects in view. It should be very clear what they do, whether they have special needs (if they can only be used in a car, for example, or will require a $35 a month subscription, or if there are legal issues with their use), and why there is such an incredible range of prices for what seems to be the same item.
Then there should be a bin of buttons or stickers that consumers could put on to identify their level of tech-saviness. Staff would then immediately know whether a particular customer should be handed the item most likely to please their grandchild, or entertained with lots of stats.
Okay. Off to work. If you go to this page, you can hear an advent carol called “Followers of the Lamb” which has a frenetic quality suitable for a day like today.
And even as I write that, I am thinking that today really doesn’t have to be frenetic. It’s a matter of attitude. It is a hurried and busy day, to be sure, but that Shaker tune can be perceived as exciting and dramatic, and so can a busy day. With sufficient self-discipline and oatmeal for breakfast.