Today, I opened up my email to find another message from Office Depot. A glowing colorful reward offer, two pages long, that all I had to do was print out and then take with me to my nearest dealer when I went to buy my next whatever. 10% off on supplies, 15% off on furniture, $25 off on my next purchase over $75 excepting computer equipment. It would seem that Office Depot really does have my best interest at heart.
But two things about this offer cause me consternation. One, I don’t actually need anything from OD right now and the offer is contingent on a time frame. Two, I don’t know about you but I’ve learned over time that printing out pages of color docs is a quick way to use up my printer cartridge. Of course, at OD I can get a replacement cartridge for just $39. Hmmm? Is there some sort of covert op going on here? I’ve already discovered to my dismay that the cartridge dries up even if I don’t use it over time and now Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Office Depot, et al, all insist on sending me discount offers that require me to print them out in order to use them.
Actually, I don’t really suspect these companies of some subversive attempt to bring me to their door. I think that they are just using the online nature of the retail world to make a sale. No fault there. What I do think they are missing though is that keeping up a constant bombardment of sales pitches via ads and promos is bound to wear out and on the target audience. We all are showing the signs of the strain. Pepper Spray at the Australian Open. A 5 year prison sentence for a man convicted of cutting down his neighbor’s trees so he could see the Las Vegas strip. Bush offering $20 Billion in weapons to bribe the Saudis to lower oil prices.
I know that as an individual I can do things that will temporarily reduce the strain: Turn off my tv and computer, walk or ride my bike instead of drive, spend time thinking instead of talking, all of these things will temporarily give me some space. Automate my bill paying and bookkeeping. But the world, of course, isn’t going to go away. People will still jostle me at the check out line, the clerk will still look over my shoulder to serve the next customer at Starbucks after upselling me just in case, the road rager will still finger me out of her way as she races by to get into the freeway traffic jam, and someone will come up with a new blog I just have to add to my reader list.
The only thing that keeps me from wearing out on a permanent basis is something quite familiar to the personal finance world. By planning my time and sticking to that plan, I can screen the new information, categorize it and deal with it on my own schedule. By planning when and where and how I want to deal with things and sticking to that plan, maybe I can plan my own version of obsolescence.