Mike's Minute: Singles' Day is the height of distasteful online shopping

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Fri, 15 Nov 2019, 8:58AM

Mike's Minute: Singles' Day is the height of distasteful online shopping

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Fri, 15 Nov 2019, 8:58AM

COMMENT:

Singles' Day, as an exercise, is a wonderful example of brilliant marketing. It's a superb display of creating something out of nothing - it's smoke and mirrors for people who like to spend money.

I like to spend money, not the way I used to. But for a person who likes to spend money, for the first time I can remember I found Singles' Day (Alibaba's blitz on retail) just a bit distasteful.

I think it's the board, the lit up like a Christmas tree tally of what's being spent. If you haven't seen it, it's like the national United States debt clock, it's numbers spinning around at a furious rate.

This year the Singles' Day clock ended up well in excess of US$30 billion - reminding us yet again that although we seem obsessed with how much things cost, and how tight times are, there are clearly millions of people all over the planet that are more than happy to reach into the wallet, grab their credit cards, and exhaust themselves on stuff.

What I can't work out is whether the money spent on a single day like Singles' Day would have been spent anyway on other days, or whether these things actually increase overall spending, and how much of the spending was on credit as opposed to saved resource.

The number on that giant board ticking over seemed tacky because it represented nothing more than outlay. It wasn't connected with your personal pleasure of having got something new, unique, or cheap. It didn't congratulate you. It was simply a contest to see how high we could go.

And it wasn't even like a telethon, where as the number rises you feel good because it's all going to a good cause. This wasn't going anywhere except back-pockets of people who liked the idea of separating you and your money for profit.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. But it was just so overt, so callous, and so obvious.

In giant department stores such as Harrods, Selfridges, Barneys, or Neiman Marcus, you know the same thing is happening, maybe even more so. If you stop and look around you in retail wonderlands like that and think about it, you must realise the baubles, renovations and overall environment must have cost a fortune. And yes it's you that pays for it.

Someone is paying for the bloke who opens the door and treats you like a long-lost friend - and that person is you. But at least in those moments you feel like you're having a good time, the people serving you give a monkey's, and they may even have gone out of their way to help you. Or if you're at a place like Rodeo Drive offered you get some sparkling water. The fact the margin is eye-watering can, at least for a split second, be justified.

Online shopping has none of that. And when it arrives, there is no flash bag, no tissue, or scent sprayed in the box. It's plastic, vacuum sealed, Customs inspected, and squashed in, having been dispatched from mainland China.

In other words, the facade has been destroyed. There is no tease, no show, no dance, just 'hey, you want this? There's only 4000 left, and that'll be $239'. And up it goes on the board.

Given it was supposed to be anti-Valentines, it was supposed to make a single person feel better. Valentine's Day must have been a real bust, if what i saw this was some sort of upgrade on that.

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