I enjoy shopping at Target. OK, I've admitted it. It's great to be able to make one stop and get everything you could possibly need. I can get milk, bacon, protein powder, a laminating machine, an HDMI cable, and a new set of towels all under one roof! If that's not convenient, I don't know what is... Even more important is that all Targets have a similar layout and similar offerings. This means that no matter if you're in Tuscaloosa, AL or Bozeman, MO, when you walk into Target, it feels like you're in your local store. Trust me when I say that my fellow trainers and road warriors appreciate and take full advantage of this!
As I was waiting in line to pay for the spoils of my latest trip, I saw a little boy try to sneak a toy into his mom's shopping cart. Busted! Mom picked up the toy and asked: "Don't you already have one of these?" In a very matter-of-fact way, the little boy said, "I broke it." I started shaking my head. Dude, don't you know that's not how you ask for toys?? You don't lead by saying you broke it; that's the kiss of death!
I brace myself for the tantrum that's about to start. I overhear mom say, "Oh, ok." EXCUSE ME?? She put the toy on the belt and proceeded to pay for the purchases. WHAT?? I can't believe what I'm seeing. That's not the way it's supposed to go down... Or have I become so out of touch with the world?
Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of extra money. If we broke a toy, we didn't get to buy a replacement. As a result, we tried to make everything last. To this day, I still take good care of everything and it bothers me when something is broken or in disrepair.
As I thought more about the kid and his mom, I started to think about the culture that we have. With technology, better manufacturing, and globalization, we're able to make things more cheaply than ever before. Big box stores like Wal-Mart, Amazon, and even my favorite, Target, have streamlined distribution so that those cheap goods are readily available to consumers. As a result of cheap manufacturing and sometimes, planned obsolescence, these goods don't last long and aren't easy to repair. All of this means it's easier to buy a new item when something goes wrong. And if we're going to end up buying something new anyway, what's the point of taking care of what we have? "Use it, abuse it, and throw it away" is the mantra that's sprouted from our convenience.
It's not just the obvious environmental issues that I'm concerned about. I'm more worried about the pervasive mentality that starts with this culture. When we are used to throwing things away, where do we draw the line? Is it ok to throw away a dirty shower curtain? How about an older-model flat-screen tv? A car that we haven't maintained properly? Do we get rid of a pet that doesn't behave? How about an aging family member? I'm not literally saying that I'm seeing Fluffy or someone's grandparents in a dumpster, but the mentality is there to easily drop a pet off at the pound or a grandparent at a nursing home and never worry about it. When you get into the habit of throwing things away, habits become awfully hard to break. But when do we take responsibility and make the effort to take better care of things? When do we realize that there's a price to be paid for our convenience? We can easily replace anything, so we value nothing.
As I stood in line at Target, I started to question whether I really needed that new laminating machine and new towels. My old towels work just fine and as cool as it would be to laminate some sheets that I regularly use at trainings, I could just as easily do it at Kinko's or Staples. I guess if I want to change the culture, I have to be more proactive about my own behaviors. Change starts with each of us.
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