How to intellectualise shopping: Maslow – Part One

Shopping (along with post-its and Smart meters) is what sets us apart from the animals. History shows us that there is evidence of shopping dating back to earliest civilizations, but, like Pilates, it was mainly only undertaken by women (footnote: Pilates was not invented by Pontius Pilate but by his wife Tess). However, in 1943 something happened to change all of that.While people were busy fighting the Second World War and keeping all right minded people free of fascism, Abraham Maslow, the famous psychologist, put forward his theory that people shop on five different levels. (This idea of course was taken on later by shops who now offer shopping on many more levels, some of them basement). His life’s work culminated in our ability to understand how shopping can now be categorized and therefore be taken seriously. Psychologists usually love nothing more than a two by two matrix but Maslow, having visited Egypt wanted to find a theory that would work in a pyramid and thus his hierarchy of needs was born. In essence, he said that our needs have to be gratified sequentially and we cannot achieve our potential until lower order needs are satisfied. This, in short, means we can’t get excited about Cath Kidston if we want a Nando’s. (footnote: some of us never get excited about Cath Kidston. I once thought I had hypoglycaemia but I’d just inadvertently stumbled into a CK and was trippy on polka dots and roses)

Basic needs

Shopping in this category tends to be mainly supermarket based. The purpose of supermarkets is to ensure we don’t starve. Provided we have enough money, we are able, for example, to buy, in one place, everything to meet our basic needs for survival. This includes not just food, but wet suits and jelly moulds. Within the hierarchy of shopping, supermarkets also have their own sub-hierarchy. This is an effective tool that has replaced the now out-dated class system that was fashionable until the Thatcher years. Society can now be understood in relation to which supermarket we typically visit. The order, of course, is: Lidl, Asda, Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose (footnote: for Lidl read Aldi. They make you feel equally depressed). Within each are further sub divisions: for example, someone who uses Lidl exclusively would be classed as L1. But L1s who from time-to-time go to Asda for luxuries, would of course be known as L3. A casual observer will be able to quickly tell which category of person visits which supermarket: this is based purely on the degree of dandruff they have. It isn’t actually dandruff at all, but scratch card dust. There are of course aberrations – it is not uncommon to find a W1-3 happily in a Lidl or Asda , but they will be overdressed and looking for a decent Shiraz.

It is possible to buy food in places other than supermarkets. People who live in towns like nothing better than to visit a Farmer’s Market. A farmer’s market is a deli with no roof. This is where you buy local produce from pancetta farms, balsamic vinegar farms and cake farms. Cake farmers struggled to survive until relatively recently but have burgeoned since we discovered how much we all love a cupcake. Cupcakes are very big fairy cakes and are fashionable in America. Because we love all things American such as portion sizes, baby showers, good teeth, Disneyland and The Wire we fell on the cupcake. Also falling on the cupcake were a large cohort of women who thought it was possible to base a whole business model around your ability to use a piping bag. Sadly many of these non-businesses foundered and the only ones who survived were those who retrained and developed additional skills such as advanced whoopee pie and post-grad macaroon.

Security and safety

Once we are no longer hungry our shopping will revolve around buying stuff for our house and stuff for our garden. In the olden days it was possible only to buy individual raw plugs, but we have progressed so far that we can now buy bags of one thousand. Along with raw plugs, it is now possible for the average person to buy their own fire pits and banisters.

Homes now are more stylish than ever. Someone like my mother never knew how to make her home beautiful, as there were no home decorating magazines or TV programmes to tell her. Quite frankly she relied solely on her personal taste, a nice front step and a good deal of magnolia. Fortunately, there is no excuse now and so we would expect to see accent colours in most homes. You may choose your own accent but it should not be something common. Coordination is a tricky area, and may sometimes be referred to as theme or palette. My former in-laws favour the beige palette and although some will deride this in some ways it is an inspired choice as everything goes well with everything else – although it can be hard to actually find the sofa (footnote: it will always be in the space directly opposite the telly of course). Televisions are now more important than families. In fact TVs are so big that some families have literally lost sight of their own children. These large TVs are in many cases wall mounted. Fortunately, they can be safely anchored with a bag of 1000 raw plugs, but unfortunately families are finding that they are experiencing postural problems. Doctors refer to this phenomena as Oscar Wilde Syndrome. This comes from the well-known quote about people lying in the gutter and looking at the stars. TVs are now extremely complicated and beyond the wit of many older people who should have been allowed to die before digital technology was introduced.

Most of us now buy our furniture disassembled and we like nothing better than “building” a set of drawers (footnote: disassembling is very fashionable in restaurants who will offer a disassembled cheesecake. This amounts to a packet of digestives and a tub of Philadelphia cream cheese presented on a slate with a pickled strawberry. Disassembling should not usually be confused with dissembling although in the case of the restaurant pudding they amount to much the same thing). Disassembling stores make furniture and then take it apart so we can make it again. We love this and stores such as Ikea are quite simply a pleasure to visit as they offer not just furniture but napkins, meatballs and ball pits (footnote: in England we have really taken to the napkin. In the 1960s we had serviettes but these were only bought for buffet functions). It is a successful business model that is responsive to changing buyer habits: for example, until recently the Billy bookcase accounted for 87% of Ikea’s turnover. With the rise of the kindle and the ipod it became clear that we no longer needed such storage solutions, so Ikea decided to move into the DVD box set market and began to make TV shows such as The Killing. Vi älskar Seriel mördare

People who do not go to Ikea on Sunday go to a garden centre. Garden centres mainly sell Yankee Candles and fleeces. Some of the more progressive also offer begonias and dibbers.

Friendship and family

Shopping within this category will usually focus on gifts.

Gifts shops were virtually unheard of in Elizabethan times, and yet now we have come to see them as an intrinsic part of everyday life. Or at least as part of the exit experience from any theme park, museum, garden centre, art gallery or airport. All the guess work is now taken out of choosing gifts as they will always be categorized thus: Gifts for Him, Gifts For Her, Gifts from God etc (footnote: Gifts from God are usually fridge-magnet-aphorism-angel-based). As society has advanced we can be sure that, for example no man will ever be given a gift that is not related to beer, golf or DIY, and no woman should ever suffer the humiliation of receiving something in a colour other than pink. We love gift shops, with their quirky signs: Keep Calm and Pay Here, Keep Calm these toilets are only for the use of customers and Keep Calm and Disabled Parking Only Or YOU WILL BE CLAMPED. Gift shops attached to the National Trust, museums, art galleries and theme parks will always sell teddy bears congruent with the attraction you have just visited. Thus at Buckingham Palace teddies will be dressed as Pippa Middleton, at The National Space Centre as a Klingon, and at The Teddy Bear Museum, as a Viking (Vikings loved nothing better than a stuffed toy). You will be unable to leave an attraction without going through the gift shop. Most people think this is a cynical attempt to make money but it is in fact designed to help parents of small children who are bored and need an objective.

Gift shops are struggling to survive in this, the age of the online gift. The advantage of online gifts is that you have to give no thought or expend any effort whatsoever in choosing and delivering a present for a loved one. The disadvantage is that your friends will think you hate them.

Coming in Part 2 – higher level gratification (mainly clothes and Quinoa)


4 thoughts on “How to intellectualise shopping: Maslow – Part One

  1. I have never understood what ‘LOL’ meant till I read the latest missive from the brilliant pen/keyboard/quill of Gill Coad.
    I want to do it (ie LOL) again and again and everyone should know how to master this crucial technique it having read these blogs!

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