Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Declining Free (but Useless) Stuff

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows poster from Borders

Local San Francisco columnist Mark Morford reports on his experience turning down a free item.
Apparently, with any purchase of Rowling's final, thank-God-it's-over 20-pound doorstop, you get a free Harry Potter poster. A poster, mind you, of the exact book cover you just purchased. Because, you know, if there's one thing this book series needs, it's more promotion and hype.

As the nice cashier bagged my books, she decided to give me one more chance. "You sure you don't want it? You know it's free?" she was smiling a little sideways, not quite sure what to make of me. I couldn't quite tell if she was irritated or just a bit confused by the fact that anyone in the world would refuse anything at all, if it didn't cost anything.

"I'm sure, thanks. I really have absolutely no need for it." "Huh," she said, as if I was speaking Latin. . . .

It is, of course, the American way. We are not the slightest bit trained to care about waste, excess, the mindless accumulation of needless things. The notion of simplifying, of saying no, of intentionally and mindfully choosing to keep ourselves free of all the superfluous crap that's hurled at us by a product-drunk culture is so far from our junktastic ideology it is, as evidenced by my cashier's baffled reaction, nearly unthinkable.

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