Shoppers ignore call of Buy Nothing Day
By Jennifer McLarty, Victoria News
http://www.vicnews.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=36&cat=23&id=545365&more=Nov 30 2005
The cha-ching of cash registers sounded as usual in downtown stores Friday, despite growing recognition of Buy Nothing Day across Canada and the United States.
The anti-consumerism holiday encourages people to leave their credit cards at home, and reject the siren song of pre-Christmas sales.
But most shoppers at Victoria's Bay Centre didn't know about the day of protest. And even if they had, they probably would have ignored it.
"Any day is a good day to shop. Besides, it shouldn't count if you're Christmas shopping. It's not for yourself," said Edmonton resident Jessica McWilliams.
"It helps you get in the holiday mood."
Store managers also reported business as usual in the downtown mall Friday regardless of Buy Nothing Day.
But they agreed the 24-hour consumer fast has the potential to raise awareness about people's spending habits, even though they wouldn't say so on the record.
Last Christmas alone, Visa Canada processed $15.2 billion in transactions during December - a 10 per cent increase over the previous shopping season.
According to a 2005 study commissioned by The Vanier Institute of the Family - an Ottawa-based charitable group - those bills haven't been paid off.
The average total household debt in Canada, including mortgages, is now 121 per cent of disposable income, meaning the average person owes more money than they take home after taxes.
Buy Nothing Day - founded in 1991 by former U.S. ad executive Kalle Lasn - encourages people to ponder the hole they've dug, while also considering the broader repercussions of mass consumerism.
"Over-consumption in the so-called First World has ecological implications. It's one of the root causes of the ecological crisis we are in," Lasn told Wired News this month.
"I think it has psychological consequences because we have become consumer drones who live lives of consumption, suffering from mood disorders," Lasn said.
But BND advocates maintain the one-day detox isn't meant to shutdown the economy, but get people to think harder and spending habits.
Victoria resident Jim Young says he deals with those questions by only shopping with cash.
"I leave my credit card at home," said Young who was at the mall Friday, but wasn't toting any bags.
"I didn't know it was Buy Nothing Day. But when you're on a budget like me, every day is buy nothing day."
A Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce spokesperson couldn't be reached for comment before press time.