ON Kilter: Stuff that works in lieu of buying new

OPINION –  Multi-billion dollar outdoor clothing retailer, Patagonia, has done the unthinkable, again: Rather than marking down merchandise and marketing its wares on Black Friday, Patagonia hosted parties at its leading stores nationwide inviting its would-be customers to celebrate what they already have.

The theme of Patagonia’s party was based upon its “Worn Wear” film produced by the Malloy family. It suggests “old” is good as “new.” Everyone was invited to attend dressed in their favorite used attire.

In light of the holiday of thanks that precedes Black Friday, and has now been invaded by Black Friday, we could take a lesson from Patagonia’s example.

To promote that the old is as good as new is anathema to the market-driven retail industry in which Black Friday creates an almost cult-like shopping frenzy. This year, it was reported that mobs of people would crowd stores for deals on junk made in China and would trample employees unfortunate enough to be in their way.

Identifying a problem without offering a solution is merely a complaint. While Black Friday is clearly a problem of sorts, Patagonia offers up an idea that is consistent with the theme of Thanksgiving. It is in essence saying: “Let’s all get together and celebrate what we already have.”

Not just the material possessions mind you, but the rich friendships, the tried and true family, the liberty we enjoy in this country. You know, all the things we say we are thankful for while we eat turkey the day before.

It is something worth pondering that the company likely loses significant sales for the day. And the fact that Patagonia is all but encouraging people to not buy what they do not need, including any of their own products, is unheard of in the retail industry. In fact, that was the company’s 2011 campaign verbatim: “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” The ad showed a current year’s jacket and asked that their customers consider repairing and reusing the jacket they already had and not buying a new one unless absolutely necessary.

This is pretty radical stuff in our consumer age but it speaks loudly to the priorities and values we as a culture have on the “Friday after” or, as we have seen this year, on Thanksgiving evening.

But it’s more than just minimizing our need to satiate our consumer desires. It is also about addressing our mantras of unending consumption and growth: business models, mind you, that on a very short timeline will fail us in a plenitude of ways from depletion of natural resources to destruction of the natural environment.

We are better than this.

Mountaineer and writer Aaron Ralston wrote:

We are not grand because we are at the top of the food chain or because we can alter our environment-the environment that will outlast us with its unfathomable forces and unyielding powers. But rather than be bound and defeated by our insignificance, we are bold because we exercise our will anyway, despite the ephemeral and delicate presence we have in this desert, on this planet, in this universe.

It is not our ability to turn a profit or to find a great deal on a trinket that makes us unique, or great for that matter; in fact, it is the obsession with such things that speaks to the opposite of uniqueness and greatness.

It renders us petty and trite simpletons who are far too easily placated by good marketing and carefully planned sales.

Suppose we took from Patagonia’s lead and chose to spend the Friday after Thanksgiving celebrating in a manner befitting the holiday weekend instead of jockeying for position at the box store? What would that look like?

And listen, as for possessions I will be the first in line to own up to having a bit more than I need. So it is I, too, who must aspire to what is being espoused here.

Something that has resonated well with me lately is an old folk song by Guy Clark called “Stuff that Works.”

Have a listen and see if resonates with you as well.

See you out there.

 

Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: dhyland@stgnews.com

Twitter: @dallashyland

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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Posted in Columnists, Opinion / Columns / ShowsTagged , , ,

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