Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Of uncertain times and lipstick

Have you heard about the Lipstick Effect?

No, that's not the thing going around awhile back that pointed out how much lipstick the "average" woman might ingest during her lifetime (anywhere from 4 to 6 to 9 pounds, depending on who you believe).

This Lipstick Effect says that during uncertain economic times, certain kinds of products will continue to be consumed.
"But in the face of uncertain income, the logic goes, we still need indulgences, however modest. And the lipstick effect was one of the more popular ways to express that. It goes like this: In times of economic uncertainty, certain products still prosper. Lipstick, as a cheap pick-me-up alternative to the more extravagant retail therapy offered by, say, a new pair of Ferragamos, was one of these."--Murray Whyte in The Toronto Star, Jan 27/08
Or ties rather than new suits. One could take this idea to quite ridiculous extremes: pine-tree air fresheners become the hot item rather than new cars. Bookmarks rather than books. Soothers rather than babies.

The article also points out that Mrs. Fields Cookies were introduced during a recession--but did very well, one must assume because of the same "little indulgences" mindset.

This would seem to fit in with the recent advice that we may all have to tighten our belts and shell out for Botox only once a year, not every three months.

Mama Squirrel's mind goes off in several squirrel directions at once at this point, so like the Confused Philosopher...

...she will finish her thoughts with a few unrelated questions.

1. If I have never eaten a Mrs. Fields Cookie and I don't buy lipstick anyway, how will I know we're into economic uncertainty? (Possible answer: look for the picket signs.)

2. What do I make of this story from Hungry Planet?

"....We took a 40-foot longboat three hours up the Pomats River to the village of Sawa [in New Guinea]....It was a small, poor place deep in the rain forest, a collection of wooden huts without running water, electricity, telephones, or roads of any kind....As we were talking, the older boy pulled a dry brick of instant ramen noodles out of its wrapper and munched it down."

3. What if your big indulgence is peanuts to me? Or vice versa? Do most of us really need to be encouraged to indulge ourselves more than we do? As the Deputy Headmistress has often pointed out, just because you're on food stamps doesn't mean you can't spend your share on pop and chips; and as Mr. Fixit often observed during his years in the service industry, just because one is on welfare and lives in a place with mold growing on the walls, it doesn't follow that one lives without cable TV; in fact, one is probably more likely to want it because (overgrown lipstick effect) one needs some entertainment.

4. We often read Proverbs 31 but skip the first seven verses, especially verse 7: "Let them drink and forget their poverty and unhappiness." Ah, the lipstick effect--sounds much nicer than saying the booze/smokes/drugs effect, doesn't it?

Have a cookie, on me. (Or some liverwurst and a cracker...) And a smile--it's free.

1 comment:

Sebastian said...

When we lived in Washington DC the housing bubble was growing at a ferocious rate. One of the things we noticed was that many of the cars our friends drove were very high end. We decided that people who had no way to afford the house they would have liked chose to put their money into their car instead. And given the commute times, they probably spent more time in the car than awake at home anyway.

I am surprised by the number of people who are already spending the US economic stimulus checks (both mentally and in real terms). And even more surprised by the number who say that they know they should pay down their credit card debt but they really want . . . a trip, a tv, ect. I can understand the lipstick pickme up. The trip as a reward for a tough time (when you already have a high debt load) seems to be what got us into this mess.

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