I was at dinner the other night with another marketing guy, a VP of Marketing to be exact, who is much more of a consumer than I am (he drives a Benz and shoots $4000 custom pistols). Even he agreed that the point of our jobs was to convince people – paraphrasing Tyler Durden – to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.
I’m not saying don’t buy anything. That’s impossible. I’m saying buy what you want and need. Don’t let guys like me, or the VP above, or Don Draper, or commercials, or advertising agencies, or your neighbors and colleagues decide for you. Be intentional about what you own.
This blog is basically a list of why I’m a deplorable consumer. Let’s start with my car, that ultimately American yardstick of success.
My deplorable car
I drive a 2007 Honda Fit. It’s small and ugly, but then again, it is small and ugly. It has over 171 thousand miles on it last time I looked. The paint is faded and the clearcoat peeling from ten years of the Arizona sun. It’s covered in dings and scratches and rubs. The other day one of my colleagues apologized to me because he’d bumped my car with the door of his nice, late-model pickup. I laughed and asked him if he really thought I cared about how my car looks. I haven’t even washed the thing in a year. It rains occasionally, even here in Phoenix.
My little Fit gets me back and forth to work. It hauls my groceries every week. It still gets great gas mileage, and I fill up for well under $20 once a week (if that). Remember when gas was $4 a gallon and everyone was crying about gassing up? I was laughing at the people with giant pickups, feature-laden SUVs, and fancy sports cars.
Once or twice a year I need to be seen at industry events where my car wouldn’t fit with my company’s image. I rent an SUV and expense it to the company.
Aside from routine maintenance and expendables like wipers and tires, I’ve replaced not so much as a light bulb in my old, long since paid-for, little Honda.
My colleagues laugh at me. They drive giant pickups, custom lifted Jeeps, shiny new sports cars, sleek black BMWs, and get new Audis every two years. They pay a service to come to the job site and wash their vehicles every week. And they make payments to a bank every month.
I know, I know. I’m supposed to want a new car every three or four years so I can impress my colleagues, my in-laws, and some nebulous neighbors who may or may not be aware of my existence. But I have no ego investment in my car, nor do I have any desire at all to replace it. And I certainly have no desire to borrow money for a new one.
Don’t even get me started on my wife’s hoopde, a 2003 Corolla.
I am a deplorable consumer.