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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Cell Sell Phenomena

With all that's going on--I really ought to be blogging more. But grad school and work demands are strong. And when they aren't demanding, someone else is.

After reading the article in Today's New York Times about the next big wave of the fiscal crisis hitting--that is the credit-card crisis. I can't help but feel a little validated. I've been writing letters to the editor, letters to Nancy Pelosi, Chris Dodd, the Times, and an assortment of websites and blogs about this topic. I call it the Cell-Sell Phenomena.

I didn't buy my first cell-phone. My parents got it for me because they could never get a hold of me. Either I was in class, rehearsal, meetings, or just not returning their calls. You can see the allure, put the thing in the boy's pocket, and let maternal guilt do the rest. By and large it worked.

When I moved to the Big Apple two years later, I learned a most amazing thing. Verizon 'owed' me a phone. This was literally something for nothing. I couldn't believe it. I took the opportunity and got a fancy new phone. And signed up my parents for another three year contract at a higher rate. Ooops.

Even so, here in New York, I kept seeing people with fancy phones. Brand new phones. People I knew, had a new phone every six months or so. Some had purchased them off Amazon, or Craigslist, or eBay. But I never understood it. Unless you've been on your plan for at least six months, you have to pay outright for a new phone. $100 to $300 dollars. If your phone broke, they'd replace it. For free. So who needed to buy phones that often?

You see the same thing with the iPod. A new release per year. We all assume that the technogeeks go out and get the latest and greatest, but when I see the dishwasher at my old restaurant sporting an iPhone, I have to wonder what's going on? This is the Cell-Sell phenemenon. The likelihood, that you or someone you know, is buying new consumer goods for no other reason than to have the latest technology in your pocket. I try not to reproach the sexier half of the populace, but I think that they are equally responsibile for this alarming trend. Fashion is notorious for replacing perfectly good clothing every season. It's ridiculous. Furthermore, and I fully admit this is sexist, but the propensity of women talking on the phone certainly made the Cell-Sell revolution occur much quicker. But there was one other thing, and this unlike women, fashion and cell-phones, is fairly well documented: People are buying these luxury items on credit.

Here's the thing: When I grew up, you used a thing until it broke. If the cost of repairing it was significantly cheaper than the cost of buying a new one, then and only then did you buy it. Think about the refrigerator. That is not an item you replace every year. And it costs a lot. But as tech prices have come down, and technology is cheaper here in the States than it is almost everywhere else. So you don't need a new phone, but it's so easy to get one, so why not? For years I've felt like a cranky hermit, wearing my T-shirts until they're threadbare, keeping my CRT monitor until it felt like even the mice in my building had thinscreens.

Whose laughing now? Whose laughing now!!