Consumer Consumed by Modern Marketing


It’s a rare day when my mailbox isn’t stuffed with catalogs and solicitations. I sort through them quickly, placing most in a recycling bin. I feel guilty about the myriad of magazines and brochures I receive. They seem to multiply, especially around holidays and celebrations such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and summer.

In January we have New Year’s sales, Martin Luther King Day and the Super Bowl. That leads to Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter. Then we’re on to spring clothes, and bathing suit season on the Island. Not to forget graduations, Fourth of July, Grandparents Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah. To end the year, there are the tempting post-holiday sales.

Consider all those hallmark events (pun intended) that we celebrate such as birthdays, anniversaries, bar and bat mitzvahs, confirmations, communions, engagements, births, retirements and weddings. These are the red letter days for specialty catalogs. Think of jewelry, chocolate, wine and flowers. Add to the list Election Day, Back to School, white sales and whatever else I’ve forgotten.

I feel bad that my mail deliverer (a woman in my case) has to haul the weight of consumerism on her shoulders. Actually she has a truck now, but I still feel guilty. When I apologized to this wonderful lady from the post office, she said, “No problem, keep it all coming. Hardly anyone pays bills by mail or writes letters. Catalogs and junk mail keep us in business. It’s my job security.”

If you order online, as I often do, Big Brother or maybe the “cloud in cyberspace” is watching over you. I’ve used the Land’s End website and now get emails from every other clothing manufacturer in the U.S. I could take up shopping locally, but I live on Long Beach Island, where most stores are closed in winter. When you start browsing through websites to shop, the onslaught begins. Looking for a new toaster oven? Check them out on Amazon and you will be bombarded with offers on the web. Cyber mail is relentless, and it’s difficult to say “stop already!” I ordered a throw rug from L.L. Bean and now Groupon, Overstock and Wayfair are breathing down my neck. If I took time to “unsubscribe,” I would miss sale notifications. Life is just too complicated. My solution is to delete and zap my way through the mail every morning. 

I once spent a day on the phone calling 800 numbers to stop the flow of catalogs to the house. It was a massive effort. I was put on hold after wading through a very long menu. Push one to order, two for customer service, etc., etc. – you know the routine. By the time I got to number six, I had forgotten why I had called. You need the catalog in front of you to read off your customer number and source code. Apparently your name and address don’t suffice. It’s the blessed codes that count for identification. 

Most websites suggest you create a password to facilitate a faster and easier order. Easier? I have a book of passwords scribbled in haste, which I now repent in leisure. I was trying to book a flight to Florida and my password wasn’t accepted. I was sure I had typed it in correctly. Is there anything more frustrating? Security questions followed. My dog’s name? Hmm, I’ve had several. Was it my first dog or the last? The name of my elementary school? I attended two primary schools. I was stumped for the correct answer. I hastily grabbed my password book. I had scribbled user names, passwords and answers to security questions for multiple websites.

I started to daydream. One of these days I will get organized. I will put the password book in alphabetical order. I will list the names of just one dog and one elementary school. I will call the catalog companies to stop mailings. I will unsubscribe to solicitations on my computer. Right now I’m just going to scream!

Kathleen Donnelly lives in Beach Haven Terrace.



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