Buying Experiences and Not Things

Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

Related Post Roulette

126 Responses

  1. trizzlor says:

    I chortled at this suggestion from the article: “Maybe we should destroy our material possessions at their peak, so they will live on in an idealized state in our memories?“. And it actually gets at the blurry line between an experience and a thing that offers you experiences.

    I agree with your misgivings, but I think if we read the article generously, we should be looking for purchases (either experiences or things) that maximize the criteria you outlined. The research suggests that experiences are more likely to offer this, but I agree that it is incalculable on a dollar/value scale.

    One unique advantage of experiences that you didn’t mention, however, is the anticipation benefit: every time I plan to rent a bike I’m experiencing joy that I would not otherwise get from taking out the bike I own. This obviously sets up perverse incentives to rent vs. buy, but I think it’s important to figure anticipation into the cost of things. For better or for worse, I know people who have avoided purchasing club memberships because individual attendance (while slightly more expensive) made them value the experience and anticipation more.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to trizzlor says:

      Rent and Lease vs. buy is another way that the poor suffer though. I just saw an article about why the poor end up paying 4150 dollars for a 1500 sofa or a lot more for car tires because they can lease but not buy outright.

      • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        A $1500 sofa?

        These people who want my sympathy need to start shopping at LL Bean. Get a sofa for $449, plus $60 shipping.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki and I passed a couple tweets back and fourth about that article. My feelings about it are mixed.

        On the one hand, I can appreciate that sometimes there aren’t many options. I think delivery in particular maybe an issue here.

        On the other hand, I wonder how much of it is because they wanted a nice sofa that they couldn’t afford, and ultimately spent the money on that basis $1500 is a lot for a sofa, if you’re hard-up.

        I happen to think Rent-a-Center represents just about everything that is wrong about our economic culture. But I have a lot more sympathy for people in Category #1 than Category #2.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Maybe she didn’t have the money for that either but I see your point.

        That being said is there are a part of you that doesn’t think a sofa should cost 1500 dollars? Suppose someone had the money to buy a 1500 dollar sofa outright, do you think they should still get the LL Bean one for moral/ethical reasons?

        There seems to be this implication for various things: A pair of jeans, pants, shoes, and maybe sofas should not cost more than X whether a person can afford more than X or not. I am trying to get the psychology behind the statement. Expensive clothing and furniture does seem to put people in an uneasy state even if they are of a libertarian-capitalist mindset. There does seem to be a vague notion that it should maybe get no fancier than J.Crew or LL Bean.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        I agree. I am more sympathetic to people who need to lease tires to get to work than I am for someone who wanted to rent a 1500 dollar sofa.Report

      • I was past 30 when I first bought something that could function as a “sofa”. And actually it was a futon, and I got it so it could double as a guest bed.

        Additionally, the ReStore has a bunch of used ones. Or you could check Craigslist and find a bunch available for free if you are willing to pick them up. Granted, they aren’t in the best shape, but they are better options than paying $4150.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Crazy talk time: if you don’t have the money for a $450 sofa, you don’t have the money for a $1500 sofa.

        I mean, we’re not even talking about stuff like health care or medication or whatever. “This artificial leg will help my husband walk. But it’s $1500 and we can’t afford that… so we pay on installation and we’re paying $4000 for a $1500 leg!”

        You know what? Suddenly I’m stuck sounding like a jerk when I talk about maybe getting a $400 leg and doing without until you can afford that.

        Instead, I’m reading the article and seeing paragraphs like this one:
        They were perpetually behind with their Buddy’s installments and had taken to skipping one week and then catching up, with a $5 late fee rolled in. To make matters worse, those payment trips to Buddy’s put them eye to eye with more temptations. One week, they added a smartphone to their order. Another week, some Samsung speakers. And suddenly, the weekly payments to Buddy’s were $110.

        Yeah. A month of those weekly payments? You’ve got yourself an LL Bean couch there.

        AND WHAT THE HELL IS THIS ABOUT LL BEAN NOT BEING FANCY!!! LL Bean is seriously awesome.Report

      • At the Buddy’s in Cullman, some 75 percent of items are returned or repossessed within weeks of the transaction, store manager Angela Shutt says.

        If this is true, then $4150 for a $1500 couch actually sounds on the low side. If most customers are basically renting the items for a couple of weeks, they probably do need to make almost all their money on the few who hold onto the items.

        I’d be interested in seeing this company’s books. I’d guess that they might not be doing as well as the headline quotes suggest they might.Report

      • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        After reading that Wapo piece it seems clear to me those people were not really the best example of that the writer wanted to show. While they had some of classic struggles of poor people they clearly spent beyond their means. Of course that is easier if you are poor, but a lot of poor people will tell you they really know the value of each dollar since they have so few of them. They spend them as well as they can. They may have fallen for the predatory pitch for the rental company which is unfortunate.

        Of course rental/sale companies are fairly predatory they are trying to get people with little money to pony up with a deal that sounds almost to good to be true “get this fancy thing for just a few easy payments and if that is problem we’ll find a way to help you out.”Report

      • @vikram-bath I’d be surprised it if were particularly lucrative. Despite all the hooplah, payday lending isn’t particularly lucrative.

        I find it interesting when various people say “Look, these places like McDonald’s and Walmart are struggling, but these other places like CostCo are doing well, and the difference is that the latter pays their employees well! Actually, the difference is that companies that sell to people with lots of money are doing better than companies that sell to people with less money. This is the product of something we should not be celebrating.

        What were we talking about? Oh, yeah, rent-to-own and payday lending. It can be expensive to try to service the poor. There is a difference, to me, in that I am not convinced that payday lending is inherently unethical, but I’m pretty close to believing that about Rent-a-Center. I don’t think it should be outlawed or regulated out of existence, but as I said time ago:

        The existence of Rent-a-Center brings out an unpatriotic side of me. {…} A more stunning indictment of American consumerism/capitalism does not come to mind.


      • McDonald’s and Walmart are struggling, but these other places like CostCo are doing well

        It’s actually a bit more complicated than even looking at the customer bases. Walmart sells way more sku numbers than Costco, like by a factor of 100. Costco just puts pallets of stuff on an aisle. Walmart has a pallet in the back from which workers stock tiny shelves with the right number of any given item. That’s a lot of labor that Costco just doesn’t bother with.

        And it’s hard to look at Costco “doing well” and say Walmart isn’t. They aren’t even close to the same size. Costco is only “doing well” relative to Walmart if you look at the recent trajectory of the companies on certain metrics. Walmart remains the far more valuable company.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Maybe McDonalds is suffering because people realize that the food sucks?

        Every other fast food burger chain is significantly better and roughly as expensive as McDonalds or slightly more. I can go to Shake Shake or the Cafe near me and get a burger and fries for around 8.50 that are actually good. I can get two slices of pizza at a local pizza shop for the cost of a meal at McDonalds or a burrito that is hand-made, go to a Chinese take-out place (and I love greasy spoon Chinese), etc. McDonalds is simply not very good food.

        Also I think Vikram has some good points about CostCo and how they handle business. Wal-Mart is doing well enough that the family still occupies several top spots of the wealthiest Americans list. To say they are struggling contains a really interesting use of the word struggling. You can go to law school if you can pull off using struggling in that way.

        Wal-Mart will be struggling when the shut down many operations, stop expanding, etc. Not everything can grow forever, and tastes change.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        After reading that Wapo piece it seems clear to me those people were not really the best example of that the writer wanted to show.

        What’s the deal with that, anyway? I see this same pattern over and over, where a story that’s presumably intended to evoke sympathy makes it abundantly clear that the subject’s own screwups contributed significantly to the problems he or she is now facing. It leads me to suspect that they couldn’t actually find anyone who got into that situation purely through bad luck.Report

      • @brandon-berg,
        I noticed that too. Even when journalists try to find perfect victims, they often fail. Almost no one is a perfect victim. #noAngel, after all.

        Part of the reason I appreciate writers like Katherine Boo is that she doesn’t try to hide it. Rather than write a morality play where a perfect victim is kept down by the man, she shows to some extent how systems and victim behavior both conspire to keep people in their shitty situations. It’s the difference between writing a morality play that obscures the truth so as to support your preferred policy interventions and actual, honest reporting.Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        stop that. McDonald’s routinely gets in the top 20 french fries in America. That’s not just for fast food. Now, maybe you don’t go out for french fries often… but McDonalds, in at least that one respect, is better than it’s competition.

        Walmart is currently developing a business plan to take them more into the line of Costco, and less where they currently are. I think we ought to pay attention when a company starts making large and significant changes to their business model.Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        how many people you figure actually read all the paperwork for buying a house? I know someone who got out of an ARM (that he had specifically asked NOT to get), because he read the damn paperwork — every single word.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        I think McDs fries are too salty. I do have a soft spot of Proustian memory for Chicken McNuggets though.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        If you’ve got 3 minutes to spare, you can order them with no salt. As a bonus, they’ll be piping hot/fresh. At the McD’s near me I do this sometimes, because they often go absolutely crazy with the salt there. When I do, I find the fries pick up enough ambient salt from prior salted batches, no salt addition needed.Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    Sometimes I look at all of the magnificent stuff I’ve accumulated (we’ve got thousands and thousands of books in the house… stuff like that wonderful signifier of Middlebrowness: The Great Books Collection, the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Will and Ariel Durant’s History of Civilization, God only knows how many Bible translations, plus all of the fiction/non-fiction/comic books that just sort of show up…) and I think “if I got rid of all of this, I could go back to living in a $400/month apartment with a giant television and Netflix.”

    “But what about your seven different translations of Faust?”

    “Well, maybe I’d bring those along…”Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

      I’m getting old enough that I can anticipate an eventual downsizing of our housing, and books are an issue. I am (slowly, so very slowly) assembling the infrastructure to convert the whole damned collection to digital form. Pictures of the pages first, OCR’ed versions eventually. Storage is getting so cheap that the result should take almost insignificant physical space. A few dead-tree editions that have special meaning will get saved; the rest will eventually wind up in the recycling bin. Random thoughts:

      Copyright violations. Sue the grandpa, who’s not distributing, and the large majority of the books are out-of-print and not available in digital form. I’ll take my chances.

      Time consuming to scan. I am inspired by a University of Denver student I interviewed once, who said that with his rig he could mindlessly photograph a quarter’s worth of textbooks during the course of a Broncos game on Sunday afternoon. He carried his laptop to class instead of the books themselves.

      OCR errors. Yep. But the image resolution is getting higher, the software is getting better, and I anticipate collecting/writing algorithms to “read” stuff after the fact and recognize errors.

      But… the paper experience. As far as books, I already read far more on my tablet than on paper. Publishers’ design staff would hate me — the epub reader I use honors my choice of font/formatting rather than what’s specified in the book. I have some purchased epubs that I swear the publisher was going out of their way to make them unreadable.Report

      • Some of this is indicative of an emerging trend — more of the things and experiences that people buy are software and data.Report

      • Is information, like software or data or music, an experience or a product?Report

      • Both, or either. Game software and personalized data for it on a hard disk is a thing — it’s tangible, it can be manipulated in various ways, etc. Using that to play a networked game with a few or several hundred of your closest friends is an experience.Report

      • Burt, from KKG:
        Experiential purchases were defined as those “made with the primary intention of acquiring a life experience: an event or series of events that one personally encounters or lives through.” Material purchases were defined as those “made with the primary intention of acquiring a material good: a tangible object that is obtained and kept in one’s possession.”

        Software, data, and music are sometimes a tangible object, but now they are often downloads. They are usually obtained and kept in one’s possession, but some are subscription based and streamed from the web rather than “owned”.

        Software, data, and music are probably well-described as “an event or series of events that one personally encounters or lives through”, unless you are talking about attending a music concert. The only people who talk that way about their software is probably Microsoft.

        So, it sounds like it they could be a possession but are most likely not an experience.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

      One of the very great blessings that my wife brought to our marriage was the imperative to edit possessions periodically. Forcing yourself to get rid of things that you do not actually use causes you to value physical possessions less than you did before.

      Example: I spent a lot of money buying scuba equipment in the 1990’s and had a lot of fun diving, but I haven’t actually been diving in 15 years. How valuable is that equipment to me? And if it really isn’t that valuable to me, why am I letting it live in my house without paying rent, and giving it labor by maintaining it and lugging it about when I move? So, the scuba gear was sold, for me or pennies on the dollar compared to what I spent for it, to a young man in his 20s, who was thrilled to get good (if outdated) equipment at a bargain price. An economist would say this transaction maximized utility. Digging a little deeper, it seems to me that my side of the utility maximization came from the elimination of an anti-utility, and the lesson is that a possession that formerly generated utility came to consume it instead.

      Why did I hang onto the scuba gear for so long? Because of the experiences that I associated with using it. Because of the image of youth and adventure that I associated with using it.because of the fear that if I let go of the stuff, I would no longer be the kind of person who used stuff like that. But, I wasn’t. I wasn’t a kid in his 20s scuba diving for fun, adventure, and to scour for that point, I was a married man, living (at that point) in Tennessee, whose pleasures and hobbies and matured into other directions and interests. I wasn’t going to get together with my buddies, throw our dive bags in the back of a car, and carpool down to Florida for 14 hours, drink beer all night before falling asleep on the boat, then get up at six the next morning, dive for 10 hours, drink beer for the rest of the day, then get up at six the next morning, and do it all over again, before carpooling back home for another 14 (rather stinky) hours. The pleasure of the dives no longer seemed worth the toll on my body that such exertions would exact.

      On the other hand, letting go of the equipment created negative space in my garage, which made my garage easier to clean and use. Maybe when you’re 25, that isn’t all that important to you. I was 36. I liked having a clean garage.

      Having learned the lesson of the importance of eliminating that which is not actually useful, I have also learned the importance of the Buddha’s sermon about material wealth: own your possessions, lest they own you.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Co-signed. I’m a fan of minimalism to some extent and paring down. Practically speaking, I think the economic cost of the things we buy are a relatively small component of the total cost of ownership. You have to move, maintain, inventory, monitor, insure, dispose, and generally deal with the stuff you have, even if you got it for free.

        But I’d also note that kind of thing isn’t really what the experiences-not-things proponents are talking about. (not that you said that it was)Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Yes it’s a different thing, but I believe that what I’m talking about and what experiences-versus-possessions advocates are talking about dovetail into one another.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I guess I’m just still boggled that there exist “experiences-vs-things advocates”. I mean, I absolutely believe that they exist. I just can’t figure out why they exist. Even though I agree with the general idea of valuing experiences over things, I can’t imagine wasting my breath trying to convince someone who thinks otherwise that they’re doing it wrong. You want to spend your dough on Louis Vuitton luggage? Doesn’t impact me, so why should I care?

        I mean, I guess if you are really invested in the happiness of others. But scolding them into agreeing with you hardly seems the path to joy. I mean, maybe it is for the scold, but not for the scoldee.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Well, in their defense, if it really were a fact that 90% of Louis Vuitton purchasers regretted their decisions, then I think it would be appropriate to critique. They can’t say that for a variety of reasons (only one of which is that they appreciate a piece of LV’s advertising budget).

        My issue with the argument isn’t that it is nosy but that I think it isn’t the whole truth.Report

      • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Actually, people valuing experiences over things does affect you. The demise of the museum gift shop, for example.Report

  3. greginak says:

    The experience vs. thing advice has always made sense to me. Of course they exist on a continuum and some things are necessary for some experiences. If i want to ski i need skis. However i don’t need a new pair of skis every year. The new skis aren’t bringing me new experiences and may take away money i need to actually go skiing. It is the skiing that is key, i need just enough to allow me to make the experience.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:


      What I find interesting about the whole thing vs. experience debate is how much it hinders on specific things especially because the thing vs. experience debate seems to be a barely hidden proxy for income inequality.

      There seem to be certain things that signal income inequality but not others.

      Things that signal income inequality are: Isaia suits, Guidi shoes and handbags, expensive furniture, etc.

      Things that don’t signal income inequality: Home Entertainment systems, video game systems, tattoos.

      The thing vs. experience debate has the same problems with the debates over authenticity. When you say X is authentic, you are saying that its opposite is inauthentic. As far as I can tell what is authentic right now includes getting lots of tattoos for some reason. These make a person real and downhome. But does that contain a bit of inadvertent anti-Semitism because Jewish people are not supposed to get tattoos? Am I being inauthentic by keeping with thousands of years of history and tradition? We get that it is wrong to consider guys with guitars as being authentic because it implies that female pop stars are not authentic. Yet this does not get thought fully out. Authentic seems to be semi-rural and “down home” which is not how most Americans live or are raised.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Authenticity is such a weird value, especially in music. Before the 1960s, nobody ever seemed to really demand authenticity in their pop culture. A certain amount of artifice was accepted in music, books, movies, and theatre of all kinds. Nobody cared that most singers did not perform their own material or that theatre and movies were heavily stylized. Then something happened and at least for a certain sub-group in the population, authenticity in their entertainment. To be a real musician, you need to perform your own material and outside of deliberately campy productions, artifice isn’t accepted that much anymore. It wasn’t a gradual change either but a relatively fast one.

        The thing is that you can create false authenticity. A lot of musicians come from relatively prosperous and middle-class suburban backgrounds. Their entire schtick is just an act. just because a movie seems acted with a certain amount of realism, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of artifice behind it.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        When I hear the word authentic I reach for my gun.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Considering who said the original version of that quote, you might want to drop it….Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        But the original version was from a play! An anti-semitic play, to be sure…Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Maybe things don’t signal income inequality because they are not, in fact, signs of inequality.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Like having the star removed from your belly.Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Anyone with a Giant TV signals inequality.

        An important question is: why are you buying this? If you are buying the furniture because “it’s awesome dude!” then it’s probably not being used as a marker of income (other than the least of us probably can’t afford it).Report

    • greginak in reply to greginak says:

      I’ve not seen that part of the E vs T debate. When I’ve read stuff about this it wasn’t attached to all that baggage. It was framed more in the age old terms of what makes a good life or how do we live life. It wasn’t about such specific hot button cultural foo faw. Maybe that is just a peculiar slice of the discussion that i’ve seen. I don’t really see this as having much to do with income inequality.

      Being critical of consumerism is pretty darn wide spread phenomenon. It is not a solely leftie thing at all. There are many very conservative and religious conservative people who are against consumerism. It is as at once a potent part of our culture and widely derided on both sides and in the middle.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:

        Consumerism is what makes life less hellish and hard and we are embarrassed by it.

        The Middle Class was partially created by taking products of the rich like spices, chocolate, tea, coffee, etc and finding ways to produce them on a affordable mass scale. Central heating is a consumerist thing.

        I don’t get why people get so uneasy by civilization and think there is virtue in living in some Hobbit like structure with a wood-burning stove instead of a central heating system.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to greginak says:

        greg, I do think you’re right in that it’s never framed in inequality terms, but Saul is correct that it is a barely concealed subtext. The outlets that keep writing about it are very much interested in these other issues. If you read enough news, it’s hard not to pick up on the pattern.Report

      • greginak in reply to greginak says:

        @vikram-bath Okay. I’ll buy that.Report

      • Kim in reply to greginak says:

        I like the smell of wood burning? I like living in a well-built house assembled by hand, with people who loved what they were doing — rather than people who can’t be bothered to actually run heating into all the rooms, or other evidence of slipshod work?Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    Warning, the following will contain armchair psychological analysis.

    I think that for the most part people who talk about buying experiences and not things have varying degrees of anti-capitalist sentiment or at least are very concerned with income inequality and how expensive certain cities like New York and San Francisco are getting for all but the mega-rich. In my experience, they also tend to be outsiders to varying degrees and are still associating consumerism with the cool kids like the jocks and the cheerleaders.

    There is also a lot of thinking things out not completely. When people talk about anti-consumerism it can often seem to mean “Wah people are spending money on things that I don’t want them to spend money on.” Now there are a few proponents of the Frankfurt school that reject all of this but I think there are more people who can geek out and approve the guy or gal who spent a few hundred dollars to put together a killer Comiccon costume and/or approve the person who spent 2000 dollars on tattoos. These same people can dismiss someone who spends 2000 dollars on a really nice suit as being consumerist or X amount on a pair of shoes.

    I find it very interesting that people have very strong ideas on it being acceptable to spend X amount on tattoos but it the idea of expensive clothing is an ultra-evil. Or expensive art and furniture and housing.

    This is where my inner-libertarian/capitalist comes in. I don’t see a difference between the person who spends 500 dollars on tattoos, a comiccon costume, expensive shoes, or eating at a really fancy restaurant. Everyone is taking their money and spending how they see fit and to their preferences. Now the really wealthy might be able to do more or all of those things.

    There seems to be a big of magical thinking in the Frankfurt School and/or anti-Consumerist tribes and it goes like this:

    1. People stop caring about buying expensive clothing, handbags, jewelry, cars, real estate, furniture, art, etc.

    2. ????

    3. The world becomes a shiny and happy utopia where there is no such thing as judgement, all locations are affordable, we all work reasonable hours, and everyone likes things that I like.Report

    • I think that for the most part people who talk about buying experiences and not things have varying degrees of anti-capitalist sentiment or at least are very concerned with income inequality and how expensive certain cities like New York and San Francisco are getting for all but the mega-rich.

      Agreed. I debating adding some analysis to that effect. It’s no accident that I don’t remember seeing such exhortations in the Wall Street Journal (though the Journal does very much encourage travel, they don’t insist I do it instead of buying stuff).

      Agreed on most of the other stuff too. I think there’s a healthy bit of signaling going on with what are good and bad things to spend money on. It’s not like these writers had no opinions before the research came in. The research is simply being used to support opinions they already had.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I think that for the most part people who talk about buying experiences and not things have varying degrees of anti-capitalist sentiment or at least are very concerned with income inequality

      Maybe. But obviously that does not apply to me, and I’d like to argue for the experience over things position.

      Obviously the two are not entirely separate, and it may be that the key is that we buy things for the experience of them. I.e., my good friend has an old Miata. It’s hella fun to buzz around in the summer with the top down. Actually, it has no top, and it’s a bit dented, and the driver’s side mirror recently got knocked off. He doesn’t own it for status, or to stare at how beautiful it is, but because it’s a kick to drive. Likewise, I would expect that Vikram has cross country skis not so he can hang them on the wall in an X and stare at them, or spend all day polishing and caressing them, but so he can have the experience of cross-country skiing.

      But then maybe staring at them on the wall, or polishing and caressing them, would be the experience he’s looking for. Maybe my friend might start driving the BMW in his garage again, so he can have the experience of status that he doesn’t get from his beater Miata or his pickup truck.

      In my opinion–pause to emphasize that this is merely opinion and I don’t think it’s anything more–the problem with things is that often the experience isn’t what we expect it to be. That new car is fun, but it’s also a bit stressful because IT MIGHT GET SCRATCHED!! I personally miss my old beater pickup because I didn’t stress on any new dents and scratches in it. But I remember the first new car I bought, and how much that first big scratch in it stressed me out.

      Other things get set aside, and the experience disappears and isn’t even particularly memorable. This was what led to my wife and me reducing the number of Christmas gifts for the kids and shifting to taking a Christmas trip each year. I realized that I remembered exactly 4 Christmas gifts from my youth:
      1. A trip to the Indy 500, not just because IT WAS THE FRICKIN’ INDY 500!! but because when I asked my mom whether my present was bigger than a breadbox she said, “sometimes,” which drove me nuts for what seems in memory like months, although it couldn’t have been. When I got the small ticket for the big event, it all made sense.
      2. A Christian magazine about the rapture which scared the ever-lovin’ shit out of me–thanks mom and dad, merry fucking Christmas.
      3. A toy train set, because I loved trains and because my brother actually built it for me.
      4. Plastic goddam dartguns, but only because my brother and I accidentally stumbled across them before Christmas and got our asses whipped hard for the snooping that we weren’t actually doing.

      Everything else I ever got? Not a clue, except I’m sure it included lots of sock and underwear. All the crap my kids get from the grandparents? Lost and forgotten in odd corners of the house, occasionally found and delighted in for approximately 39 second, then set down and forgotten again. Some toys were never even played with (hello, rock polisher).

      The trips? The kids love the trips. Riding the el to Barnes and Noble in Chicago’s Loop, then going to eat Thai food–they remember that. Going up to the top of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indianapolis, decorated like a giant Christmas tree–that’s far better than yet another toy. The Eastside Market in Cleveland, and the hole in the wall Korean restaurant that was soooo good–the kids are begging to go back.

      So it’s not about things being bad, but about things not always giving us the experience we expect them to give us. Things can accumulate and become a burden. People often put a bunch of stuff in storage, and then it just stays there year after year. With experiences, sometimes even bad ones are valued, because they give us good stories to tell (IMO, the real point of life is accumulating good stories to tell). Like the time I fell down the glacier in the Tetons, or the time I stood by the freeway in Fresno for four hours in 100+ heat trying to get a ride. Those things sucked, but they’ve become part of the fabric of my life, who I am and what I’m about, in ways that very few of my possessions have (and most of the possessions that have are family heirlooms–not necessarily valuable ones, just old ones).

      Maybe that should have been a post, not a comment.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley says:

        I think Revelations type of stuff has done more to drive people away from Evangelicalism and/or Christianity than anything else. Man do I know people who were like you as kids and scarred of it.

        YMMV obviously and this is a big country so obviously there are going to be people like you. I was just speaking broadly of my observations.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

        From the mouth of one of the horses: Revelations stuff is remembered fondly (even the nightmares). It’s the uncanny familiarity with the mind of God (of the form “God says that I’m okay and you need to change”) that gets me frothing at the mouth even yet.Report

      • FWIW, I likewise am hardly anti capitalist, but could not agree more on the value of experiences over things.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley says:

        @james-hanley @mark-thompson

        I like experiences and traveling too. There just happens to be way too much calculation involved when you are a freelancer/perma-contractor like I am. PTO makes planning a vacation much easier. Yes sometimes PTO can get cancelled by higher ups but this is what I would need to do to plan for a trip:

        1. Wait until a contract ended and figure out whether I can take a trip then or whether I should be pounding the pavement for new work.

        2. Save up for how much I need for said trip.

        3. Save up for my expenses that need to be paid for while not on said trip like health insurance, bills, and rent.

        I suppose I could tell a boss during one of my contract gigs that I would like a week or two off unpaid but why should I expect to have a job for me when I get back? There are lots of other people out there that can come in and replace me. Issue 3 is a big deal as well and PTO covers that.

        Right now I am guessing it is going to be a while before I get to take more than a four day or so trip.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

        I likewise am hardly anti capitalist, but could not agree more on the value of experiences over things.

        The fact that this issue is even subject to debate is indicative of the underlying problem driving this discussion. Self-identification with *things* is silly. Self identification with an ideology promoting self-identification with the possession of things because doing so leads to a, b, and c is cataclysmatically, depressingly, uber-meta-ly silly.Report

      • Murali in reply to James Hanley says:

        Is the friend with the Miata Ridgely?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        No, but he seems like the type, doesn’t he?Report

      • If I could find a Miata-like car that could do snow duty, I’d be all over it. Arguably that’s the WRX, but that’s now a $30k car with gigantic insurance premiums.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Well, since the car has no roof, he only drives it on dry and not-cold days. And he bought it used for cheap.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:


        Re B&N Chicago, I relate. For me it was Borders but there’s something about browsing for books & drinking coffee in Chicago (it’s great everywhere else, but for some reason it sticks out for me in Chitown). Some of my most relaxing memories are in either of the Borders locations in the Loop – Michigan Ave. by the old pumping station or State & Randolph by the Chicago Theater. It’s a bummer that they went under. Ironically, it was in part due to overbuilding, which resulted in a store going up much closer to where I lived for a year in Uptown – opened during the year I lived there!

        However, as I for the most part just browsed, I’m not sure this testimonial goes to the buying-experiences-not-things idea. I’m sure I bought coffee, which certainly contributed to the experience, however. Come to think of it, right there is an example of a purchase that is often about the xoerince as much as the thing.

        Which raises another question which I think you were getting at: where’s the line between experience and thing? I’m think especially of food, in particular restaurant meals (maybe a play is an even better example, but that’s really clearly an experience not a thing, so it’s maybe not part of the questin here). At a restaurant you’re brought a thing, but is the thing really “the thing” you’re there for. Buying that thing different from buying a set of speakers and driving them home in your car and using them of a decade. But a meal is still a thing that you’re buying.

        The other thing I’d agree with you about is that the “buy the experience” idea doesn’t seem associated with anti-consumerism to me. Instead, it seems like one of the major innovations of the marketing field in the last, maybe, century that added an entire dimension to traditional consumer culture. It seems paradigmatically consumerist (which doesn’t mean “bad” coming out of my mouth) to me.Report

      • Damon in reply to James Hanley says:

        Me too.

        I’m a political outsider, given my libertarian bent, but I’m no way anti capitalist, and I prefer experiences. But it’s not quite just that way…. I have traveled a lot. I buy things from where I’ve been and frame pictures I’ve taken to put in my house. Those are both purchases and experiences. 12 years ago I bought a BMW. I have a long commute, and my commute was the single best, on average, two hours of my day EVERY day. There was nothing more enjoyable than getting in the car and punching the accelerator. The car handled like a dream. Did I compare my car to other’s BMWs? No, other than, “oh oh he’s got a M3 or M5 and I don’t. That must be fun to drive”.

        I think people go through phases: In the early years, as people are starting out, it’s about acquiring stuff. As we get older, it’s more the experiences…Report

    • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      *shrugs* I just see it as a demographic issue. Boomers were really “consumerist”. They like STUFF. In fact, 25% of American housespace is not being used. Boomers put STUFF in their houses, and don’t really do anything with it (this includes actually appreciating it) — people do usage studies!

      Millenials are pretty different. Much more interested in “talking to the artist” or “attending shiny party” rather than “buying art from giftshop”.

      This has actual effects on real businesses and non-profits.Report

  5. LeeEsq says:

    I see the difference between buying experiences and things negligible. A person can buy a car and go on to have a lot of really great experiences like a cross-country because of the purchase. Another person can buy an experience like a class with a world class chef and have it be a fleeting moment. The real test is how long do the memories last. Are these things that you are going to look back fondly on for years or decades.Report

  6. Kazzy says:

    “I rarely buy something solely to possess it rather than to use it.”

    I think this is the crux of the matter. People who do this — who think mere possession of something will bring happiness — tend not to realize the anticipated happiness. And while experiences can be similarly disappointing, my hunch is that collectively experiences of any kind will tend to trump possessions for possession’s sake in the happiness department.

    So I consider a TV that is watched, a car that is driven, and a dress that is worn to be experiential in nature. But the Picasso housed in someone’s attic is likely a waste of money.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

      “I rarely buy something solely to possess it rather than to use it.”

      Signalling is a use, innit? How is that not a perfectly good way blur the distinction between possession and use?

      This whole discussion is whack, I tell ya. Whack!Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater says:

        So are you posting merely to tell us someone and/or something is wrong on the Internet?

        You sound like the chronic drunk at a bar…Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Think about what I wrote Saul. If you can rise to that level. You’ll see the flicker, the faintly glimpsed glimmer of gold in there.

        I have faith in you.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:


        Does signaling provide value? Yes. My hunch is that it often doesn’t apply as much value as many people assume it does.

        I’m not interested in telling people what they should do with their money. That is their business and their prerogative. For me personally, I get much more pleasure out of experiences (and the things that allow for experiences) than the mere possession of things for possession’s sake. But that’s me. If other people feel differently, more power to them! I’d only advise people that they consider how much actual happiness they are getting from the choices they make and if it is less than they anticipate or hoped for, they should reconsider their choices.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:


        Also, the quoted section is Vikram’s words from the post, which I was responding to.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

        Out of curiousity, Stillwater, what made you decide to become one of the most insultingest commenters here? Didn’t use to be your style.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Dunno. Tho I think you’re assessment needs to be tempered with a recounting of your own history at this site. I think that might be relevant.

        Fact is, I actually have become attached to this site over the years, and the change in perspective and … well … fluff … that gets passed off for *serious comment!* lately has me a bit PO’d.

        That’s on me, no doubt. I fully realize that. Who am I to expect something from a site that I’m only a commenter at!!!

        That doesn’t mean I still don’t hold a bit of bitterness about it all. This place was a lot more fun once upon a time. The focus was on challenging our own beliefs. (DOn’t tell me you don’t remember those day, when you and I went at it and learned quite a bit about not only our own views but our interlocutors as well!!)

        Now, it’s all about bitching about other folks.

        That’s depressing to me.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

        What does my history have to do with it? Did I damn you or pretend I was a saint?

        Honestly, what you’re saying doesn’t resonate with me at all. I simply don’t see what you seem to see here. All I see is you acting more trollish and expressing bitterness because people aren’t writing about what you think they should be writing about. *shrug* You could probably get the same experience over at RedState.

        Or do you want me to attack you and start a big brouhaha? As I remember things, whatever kicks you may have gotten out of it, most people found it pretty unpleasant.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        No, James. You asked me a question and I answered it as honestly as I could. That you seem to want to make more of it than that is interesting to me.

        I mean, I answered your question, no?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

        No, I was just amused that you reflexively tried to make it about me.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        So, nothing about the substance of what I wrote, then? Just what you were amused by?


        So many people want to be clever in this ole world we live in….Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

        Curious. I thought saying that I don’t see what you’re seeing was addressing your substance. But maybe we don’t see the same thing on that, either.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:


    • Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy says:

      But the Picasso housed in someone’s attic is likely a waste of money.

      I don’t think anyone was ever saying it wasn’t in the first place though. They aren’t attacking Picasso in the attic. They are attacking Things. All the Things!Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Well, those people are idiots.

        More importantly, why do they care what other people spend their money on? Are people really that desperate to be a scold? I’m practically paid to be a scold and I do it as little as possible!Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Actually, if we let this discussion run it’s course, people *will* disagree that putting a Picasso in an attic is a waste of money. Subjective value and all that.

        And on that score, in this situation, I completely agree with them. If I have the cash to buy a Picasso with the purpose of burying it in my attic so that no one else but me can see it, then so be it.

        Course, that might decrease the overall value to society if I had chosen otherwise. But … why should I give a damn about that?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        In that case society should have outbid you. That it didn’t suggests either that society didn’t actually value it more, or more likely, that the concept of society is something of a polite fiction.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        Collective action problems.Report

    • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

      How many folks here use all their China? Even once a year?
      Most people have “good sets” of things — “good suit”, etc.

      My mom bought a pitzelle maker. she used it once or twice. pretty expensive for entertainment, no?Report

  7. greginak says:

    There is a lot of catty arguing go on above so let me pose an example. We recently spent a week with Parent in laws, bro and sis in law and nephews in the White in NH. Tons of hiking and stuff. It was all about experience, spending time with people we love or are at least loved by the person i’m married to. Lots o’fun hiking. Few things were needed to make the experience; good hiking shoes, water bottles, day pack, baby carriers, etc. Good solid and memorable experience. Aside from a lot of food, nothing was bought.

    I recently bought a new car. Well a new used car, a 2012 suburu. I could have spent a few thou more to get a new one, but it wouldn’t’ give me any more capabilities then the car i did get. The thing i bought gives me the stuff i need from a car. The money i didn’t spend on the car was available to be spent on an experience. An experience that is more special then having a newer car. Or we did not by a giant screen tv because it has little value to us; the experience it would bring has little value.

    Of course the calculation is different for others, but that irrelevant to the concept. It is all about having things that bring meaning and valuable experience and not spending on things that bring value.

    Last note. I was thinking about this while i was getting muddy on my mountain bike thing. I’ve heard plenty of low income folk say something along the lines of “i may be poor, but i’ve got a fishing rod and truck, so i can still do what i love.” Now whether what that person loves is fishing or sitting in the back of their truck getting drunk while talking about fishing does make the distinction of E vs T any less relevant.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:


      Here is another thing I find interesting about the whole experience vs. things debate is that that the experiences that people talk about all tend to be very nature and rural oriented. This is not necessarily a complaint but an observation. When people talk about experiences it always things like diving off the Great Barrier Reef, backpacking through Asia, getting all muddy on a biking or hiking trip.

      Very little of that appeals to me. I like nature but not camping. As one friend from grad school said I am an “urbanly inclined person.” When I travel I don’t need to stay in a super-fancy place (though that is nice) but I do like having my own room at least. Hosteling never appealed to me.

      I find this rather interesting as why experience seems to equal something that will get you very dirty and possibly get you malaria.Report

      • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        To be fair getting malaria is an experience. You could easily say going to the theater is an experience or reading a book about malaria. Is seeing a great play a meaningful and memorable experience? I think you would say yes.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Hmm, I was talking about taking the el in Chicago and eating Korean food in Cleveland. Maybe to a New Yorker Chicago and Cleveland seem rural, but to a farm kid like me they seem pretty urban! 😉Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        I would and I was just being a bit too sarcastic with my malaria concept. I just find it interesting that a lot of these experiences v. things articles say stuff like “don’t buy that Isaia suit. Go get really muddy by hiking in the wilderness for two weeks.” The examples they pick of experiences are almost always of a nature/roughing it/camping nature.

        It confirms my belief a bit that wealth and improvement in living conditions does really make people psychological uneasy and there is part of our brains that thinks we should always be roughing it.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I find this rather interesting as why experience seems to equal something that will get you very dirty and possibly get you malaria.

        Well, as a person who seeks out those types of experiences, I can tell you that the reason *those types* of things are appealing is precisely because they are non-cultural. (Or non-constructed. Or “natural”. I think you know what I mean.)

        One type of adventure is walking thru a super-dangerous ultra-urban neighborhood at night for the sheer excitement of it. The equivalent is going on a ten day trek thru the mountains with limited water and food supplies for the sheer excitement of it.

        In one case the danger is constructed. In another it’s not.

        That you continue to think that the naturalists are sneering at you even as you sneer at them is absolutely meaningless except as a property or your own psychology.Report

      • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @saul-degraw I’m a outdoors experience kind of person so they have a lot of value to me. I also love to travel so seeing fancy pants European cities is also high on my list. That’s just me, i’d rather ski or hike or bike or travel to beautiful or culturally rich places. Those things are a lot more worthwhile then most things. I would bet a lot of people would throw in time with their family or children as meaningful experiences.

        I can only hope people know and understand what they truly, deeply value and live towards that.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Your impression is way off. I am not an outdoorsman by any definition of the word. When I talk about experiences, I’m thinking about exploring the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sofia in Istanbul or navigating Vatican City or eating chicken-and-waffles in Harlem or having drinks with friends. Who are all the people talking about the Great Barrier Reef?Report

      • When I think of “buying experiences” I actually think of going to Europe before I think of anything outdoorsy.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        I don’t mean this to be insulting — really, I offer it as constructive criticism — but do you think you are particularly prone to confirmation bias? It just seems that you only seem to remember anecdotes that support you theories and seem flummoxed to learn of counterexamples that people can offer you readily.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        When I think of “buying experiences” I actually think of going to Europe before I think of anything outdoorsy.

        Well, the folks that I know who want to get all outdoorsy spend about twenty minutes filling up coolers with beer, sodas and food and the car with gasolina, then drive to the mountains/desert to experience some time in the wild. Is that more of an investment than a person makes to go experience Europe? I really dunno. I’ve never been there.Report

      • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        It turns out that a lot of Europe is outdoors. Even some of the good parts.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        “It turns out that a lot of Europe is outdoors.”

        This is truly a world-class sentence. One of the very best in the history of this website.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        “It turns out that a lot of Europe is outdoors. Even some of the good parts.”

        Had the Blitz gone on much longer, all of London would have been outdoors.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        …. all of Londoners would have been outdoors…Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Many hostels will give you your own room. Cost extra, but worth it to avoid nightmares.

        My experiences are pretty wideranging — and include being photographed as a “probable celebrity” by tourists in NYC (what? we were walking fast…). Or being up at the top of the Empire State Building at Midnight (and watching someone propose up there).Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Europeans think that there are good parts of Europe that are outside. For an American, the European outdoors is rarely worth the travel, as there are so many wonders to be seen so much closer.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to greginak says:

      @greginak ,
      Perhaps I’m reading things wrongly, but I think how you describe hiking with your family categorizes closer to “things” rather than “experience”. You had to buy “good hiking shoes, water bottles, day pack, baby carriers, etc.”, which are all possessions. Unless there is a park entrance fee of some sort or you hire a guide, you are not spending money on experiences. The researchers in question do not consider *using* possessions to be the same as purchased experiences. I think you are doing a great job of showing how that’s kind of silly. Hiking with family fosters social bonds, is tied to the self, and doesn’t evoke comparisons, but all the stuff that enables that are purchases of possessions.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        In this case, the research is indeed very silly.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        The researchers in question do not consider *using* possessions to be the same as purchased experiences

        We need better researchers! Who will decide this issue but *experts* in their field!Report

      • greginak in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        @vikram-bath Well we already have all the hiking gear we need. We use it often so hiking requires buying nothing new. It is an experience we can have for little to no cost without buying anything.

        Unless people are going to have experiences naked without any physical objects, and really what could people do naked without stuff that would be fun experience, it will require some type of matter. I think it is bit pedantic to point out that any type of experience might require using some thing. Yeah its true but seems more aimed at missing the distinction. Just going out in the winter in most places requires clothes or you will die. Some objects are necessary, that does not mean their isn’t some difference between spending money focused on doing things that bring joy and spending on objects which won’t. It seems to me all about spending on things that bring joy and meaning as opposed to spending any more than absolutely necessary on things that don’.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        The researchers in question do not consider *using* possessions to be the same as purchased experiences

        I don’t think they’ve thought that through well then. It’s hard to have a good mountain hiking experience without a halfway decent pair of boots.

        Of course I didn’t actually read the link.Report

      • From the article:
        Ninety-seven Cornell students (60 females, 37 males; mean age = 20.59, SD = 2.06) served as participants. They were given the definition of either experiential or material purchases (taken from Van Boven & Gilovich, 2003) and asked to think of an example of that type of purchase they intended to make “in the very near future.” Experiential purchases were defined as those “made with the primary intention of acquiring a life experience: an event or series of events that one personally encounters or lives through.” Material purchases were defined as those “made with the primary intention of acquiring a material good: a tangible object that is obtained and kept in one’s possession.” Participants then rated whether their anticipation of the purchase felt more like impatience or excitement, on a scale from ?4 (much more like impatience) to 4 (much more like excitement). They were then asked to rate the pleasantness of their anticipatory state on a scale from ?4 (extremely unpleasant) to 4 (extremely pleasant). Finally, they estimated the cost of the purchase and provided their age and gender.

        This is just one of the four studies KKG did, but I think it gets across the idea. In my reading, a student would easily identify hiking boots as “made with the primary intention of acquiring a material good: a tangible object that is obtained and kept in one’s possession”. Further, I think many people wouldn’t find shopping for them exciting or pleasant. The students aren’t asked about actually *using* the shoes.

        To be clear though, I actually liked the KKG paper overall. It’s clearly written, and I like the multiple studies that reinforce one another. I just think there are open questions that prevent me from saying I’m going to sell all my possessions.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        I just think there are open questions that prevent me from saying I’m going to sell all my possessions.

        Good thing those questions weren’t closed.

        Close call, no? I mean, that single study could have had a really radical impact on your life!Report

      • Relatively few people, I think, are in the habit of taking ideas seriously. That’s probably a good thing because if they did, many people would end up just going with whatever they had last read. Instead, most people continue doing whatever it is that they were doing even if they find the arguments to change convincing.

        But I’m not like that. At least not for things in an area where I feel I’m able to evaluate the evidence. If you’re able to convince me that if I walk off a cliff I will float, I actually *will* walk off a cliff.Report

      • Road Scholar in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        …and really what could people do naked without stuff that would be fun experience… [?]

        Well there’s at least one thing I can think of…Report

  8. Vikram Bath says:

    In a way it is. I mean, I think they are onto something, I just don’t think it is what they think it is. They are comparing waiting for an experiential good to waiting to *purchase* a product. They are *not* comparing waiting for an experiential good and waiting to *use* a product in an experiential way. So, the comparison isn’t between Greg going for a massage by himself or going for a hike with his family. It’s between getting a massage and waiting in line at the shoe store to find a pair of hiking boots that fit well. When you frame it that way, it’s no wonder that possessions seem to kind of suck.Report

    • Matty in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      I think you may be onto something, the experience of obtaining things can often suck and the enjoyment not come till later. I feel there is something profound to be said about delayed gratification at this point but it’s beyond my ability to say it.Report

  9. KatherineMW says:

    I find I get more short-term and long-term enjoyment from doing things and making memories than from acquiring additional stuff. There’s some stuff that’s valued precisely because it allows you to do enjoyable things (bikes, skis), but I don’t think that accounts for even close to the majority of people’s purchases of goods.

    My list of stuff I want to buy is pretty well non-existent at this point. My list of places I want to travel to just keeps getting longer, and I’ve loved most of the trips that I’ve taken.Report

  10. Saul Degraw says:


    I think out loud a lot….

    This causes problems from time to time.Report

  11. Saul Degraw says:


    It occurs to me that many advertisers and marketers have figured out that people are looking for experiences and not things and now the ads have been tooled to reach this fact.Report

    • Matty in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I think one reason, though not I hope the main one, that I value experiences of the ‘could get malaria’ type is that if adverts don’t work with me they really irritate in quite a deep way. I feel as I am being told “how dare you enjoy life without giving us money” and this causes me to push back by deliberately looking for cheaper pleasures.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Matty says:


        I think the advertisers and marketers figured out they need and how to work with people like you. I would say that they are really quite clever in what they do and are probably our best psychologists unfortunately. We might think ourselves immune but the advertiser knows at heart that we are not…

        Andrew Sullivan can rail all he wants against native/sponsered content and he still publishes a cool ad watch. Companies have figured out how to turn ads into viral on-line phenomena. They are quite and adapting. They can co-opt anything and commodify your dissent. Really the only way to truly avoid them is to go to the middle of nowhere and raise your own food and mend your own clothes.Report

      • Matty in reply to Matty says:

        @saul-degraw Oh plenty do work, the proportion that do may even be increasing but the ones that fail still act as a kind of anti-advert to me.Report

  12. Jim Heffman says:

    The problem with “things” is that anyone can have them, even poor people. My BMW (that I bought) is exactly the same as that poor person’s BMW (that they leased).

    “experiences”, on the other hand, require a lot of free time and flexibility–which is, these days, pretty much how rich people are able to display their wealth. They have the ability to blow off all their obligations and go have an Experience somewhere simply because they wanted to. Someone who works at Burger King might be able to scrounge up enough money for a trip, but they can’t just take advantage of an opportunity that arises. If their friend says “hey, we got a space on this Amazon kayaking trip”, they can’t just say “hey boss, see you in a month” and expect to keep their job.Report

    • Kim in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      Dirt poor authors can take a trip around the world.
      There’s always another burger king job (or arby’s).
      Hell, video game testers work grueling hours — and then get weeks off between jobs.Report