Trading culture for convenience

The rise of consumerism is the culprit of the death of culture


Amazon has a wide selection of books which allows consumers to find what they need quickly.

The blue light illuminates the darkroom, the click of the mouse as the book is added to the cart, then the disappointment that follows the message; will arrive in a week. A week? Who can wait a whole week?

Fast and convenient. That is what made online shopping a hit. Americans can rarely wait if it is longer than a week. But convenience does not come without a price. That price? Culture. 

From transportation, and groceries, to even bookstores consumerism has led to the untimely death of culture throughout the United States. 

Old mom-and-pop bookstores thrived up until the 90s. The great service by one of the two owners, and the presence of the owner’s pets made the book-shopping experience. Sure, the books have not been organized since the 60s and it is a bet if they have the new Lois Lowry book in, but that charm made small bookstores popular.

After visiting the local bookstore heading over to the grocery store was a treat. The hands-on service made prices higher, but the bag boy always opened your car door for you. 

You have your book and your food, now it is time to head out on your road trip. It takes you days just to get to the next state. The highway system has not yet been perfected so you have to stop in small towns on the way to your destination. The people in the town give you directions and chat with you while you eat at the café. 

But that was before Americans got the taste of convenience they became so addicted to. 

The highway system was implemented and suddenly a two-day trip became a four-hour one. Of course, this had its benefits. People no longer were forced to live close to their work, long trips were shortened, and traveling became easier.

Easier and more convenient. But as traveling became easier no longer did anyone have to stop in those small towns. To introverts, this was the real advantage, no small talk, this convenient highway system took away the charm of stopping in a town. 

Now, when you are tired stop and take the next exit, a hotel will be waiting to greet you. Hungry? Fast food restaurants are advertised on the sides of highways.

Even large chain supermarkets are easy to access. These superstores originated from the ideas of Virginia native Clarence Sauders. A supermarket. A place where shoppers could come in and find what they need efficiently. He knew having less staff would drop the price of the food, with a cheaper price shoppers flooded the supermarket. 

But Saunders slowly went bankrupt due to irresponsible spending, he had to sell his chain of stores. Sam Walton wanted to improve on Saunders’ idea, he added more products to his version of the supermarket and made it even more organized. Walmart was born.

With cheaper prices and the key factor of convenience eventually, Walmart was everywhere. Piggly Wiggly was slowly suffocated by its faster competitor. 

If you want to know more read The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green, a book bought from Books-A-Million.

Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, and Borders. The large bookstore chains used to be the enemy.

The enemy, to those small bookstores desperately fighting to stay alive. Many so-called, ¨hippies¨ refused to shop at these large bookstores in the 80s and 90s. But the convenience of being able to find the newest book at your fingertips was too hard to resist. 

The mom-and-pop stores were put out of business, and gone were the days of personalized customer service. 

Little did consumers know how un-personalized service can get. 

In 1994, Jeff Bezos had an idea.

He saw the rise of those big convenient bookstores, and he had an idea to make book shopping even cheaper, faster, and more convenient. 

Amazon. The enemy of small and big businesses alike.

Barnes & Noble shut down many locations, Borders ceased to exist, and Books-A-Million adopted a larger online service. 

Online shopping has only increased, with almost every store having an online counterpart. 

Instead of meeting strangers in a small town, chatting with the bag boy, or even reaching for the same book as a future friend, price decreases, ease, and convenience have become the new American experience.