Time is right to con­sider a con­sumer diet

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - LUKE LEITCH

Half of us plan to lay off the booze this month, while the other half want to lose weight. Af­ter an ob­scene, belt-strain­ing hol­i­day gorge-athon, per­son­ally I’m aim­ing for both. When you com­bine the com­mu­nal Christ­mas af­ter­shock with that nig­gling the-fu­ture-is-upon-us tickle of a new cal­en­dar year, what you get is Jan­uary — a per­fect storm for hawk­ers of juicers, gym mem­ber­ships and jog­ging shoes.

What few seem to be lay­ing off is shop­ping. In Lon­don this week, Re­gent Street, Ox­ford Street and Bond Street have been ab­so­lutely teem­ing, as dense with peo­ple as they ever get, even their deep­est pave­ments spilling over with shift­ing rivers of shop­pers. Shop­ping cen­tres across the land are re­port­ing a sim­i­lar rush to re­tail.

The sales are on, so this makes sense: bag­ging a bar­gain lends the plea­sure of shop­ping an es­pe­cial pi­quancy. What does seem a lit­tle odd, how­ever, is that the pre-Christ­mas pre­rog­a­tive to buy, buy, buy — or to give, give, give — gen­er­ates scarcely the whiff of a hang­over-in­duced pe­riod of ab­sti­nence. Even on Christ­mas Day, when the bricks-and-mor­tar shops have their once-yearly mo­ment of dark­ness, Bri­tons made 114 mil­lion vis­its to re­tail web­sites for a spot of re­cre­ational brows­ing and buy­ing.

The first-ever “mall” had 150 cov­ered shops, was de­signed by Apol­lodorus of Damascus, and opened in Trajan’s Fo­rum, Rome, in AD112 (a factoid I filched from a small boy’s Christ­mas-stock­ing copy of Guin­ness World Records). Whether it’s La Gal­le­ria in Mi­lan, GUM in Moscow, the Dubai Mall (the world’s big­gest, thanks Guin­ness), many of the world’s most im­pres­sive, com­fort­able, and cos­mopoli­tan com­mu­nal spa­ces are given over to cen­tres of shop­ping.

That’s not just be­cause shop­ping gen­er­ates fat prof­its for the stores and their land­lords — it’s be­cause we, the con­sumers, love do­ing it. And why not? With such an enor­mous amount of hu­man in­ge­nu­ity now given over to mak­ing in­ter­est­ing things and then of­fer­ing them for sale in in­ter­est­ing places, it would seem churl­ish not to have a browse.

There is, how­ever, much to be said for sav­ing money.

And the best way to do that isn’t nec­es­sar­ily to get up at 4 a.m. to be first in line at the sales. In fact, I’ve ac­ci­den­tally hit upon a method that al­lows you to revel in all the plea­sures of re­cre­ational shop­ping, with far less of the fi­nan­cial pain. For a few years now, part of my job has been to in­spect very nice things, mostly clothes. At first, any­thing I loved, or even vaguely liked, I wanted to have. Much of it — in­clud­ing too many pairs of beau­ti­fully bur­nished shoes — I got. Hav­ing only ever re­ally gone shop­ping to buy things, I was help­lessly in thrall to im­pulse. Soon my heav­ing Ikea wardrobe looked as healthy as the liver of a French goose, and my fam­ily was ag­i­tat­ing for a bor­der clam­p­down. Yet temp­ta­tion, through work, was un­avoid­able.

So now I try to trawl the shops and fash­ion-house show­rooms with the mind­set of a birder, rather than a big-game hunter. Should that rare bird, some­thing much more mar­vel­lous than “meh,” ap­pear in front of me, I feel it, try it on, note down its de­tails, ad­mire it, and then walk away. If some­thing re­ally pulls, I’ll come back for another visit — but take it home? Hardly ever.

When Coco Chanel coun­selled that “el­e­gance is re­fusal,” she prob­a­bly wasn’t urg­ing her cus­tomers to spend time en­joy­ing her bou­tiques while re­sist­ing their very rai­son d’être: to in­duce the urge to buy her clothes, bags and per­fumes. None­the­less Chanel’s as­cetic adage ap­plies nicely to 21st-cen­tury shop­ping. The higher you set your per­sonal bar for any ob­ject’s ac­qui­si­tion, the bet­ter dressed and bet­ter off you will be. The more time spent in­spect­ing some­thing be­fore you buy it, the less time spent re­gret­ting it — or re­turn­ing it — once bought. The height of that bar shouldn’t, though, equate to the ob­ject’s ex­pense or la­bel.

Af­ter all, there is far more over­priced garbage in the shops than there are supremely made steals.

Not spend­ing the money, though, makes the “what could have been” twinge of leav­ing the ob­ject of de­sire lonely on the hanger, feel al­most like a vic­tory. And how lovely, later, to avoid the de­feat of re­al­iz­ing that an item pur­chased in some wan­ton haze of shop-floor ex­cite­ment is some­thing you didn’t re­ally want — and cer­tainly never needed — af­ter all.

Sebastian Kah­n­ert/AFP/Getty Im­ages

Post-hol­i­day shop­pers in­dis­crim­i­nately grab up bar­gains — maybe not giv­ing in to con­sumer im­pulse is more grat­i­fy­ing than buy­ing. -

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.