Every Tuesday after school, my 9-year old daughter asks me for money. I should be prepared, but it surprises me every time. Probably because I never know what day of the week it is.
But the scenario is always the same. After she walks home from school and sets her backpack down by the closet, she’ll ask me for a couple dollars.
“What do you need the money for?” I’ll ask.
And she’ll respond, “Dad, it’s Tuesday. The ice cream truck is coming today.”
One of the benefits of being a kid in Phoenix is that the ice cream truck is available all year long. For our street, it’s Tuesdays. And apparently, when you are 9-years old, the appeal of the ice cream truck is too much to ignore.
I mean, it’s ice cream, in a truck, who could possibly resist?
The first time I ever considered the relationship between accessibility and consumerism was during a panel discussion with Graham Hill and Halina Brown on HuffPost Live. It was a simple connection—one I probably should have made earlier, but I hadn’t.
One of the reasons for rampant consumerism in our society is low prices (fast fashion, for example). But another, equally important reason for the steady rise in consumer purchasing is accessibility.
As more and more retail stores appear on more and more street corners, consumerist habits become more difficult to overcome.
My daughter would eat less ice cream if the truck didn’t visit our street each week. My son would make fewer trips to the convenience store if it wasn’t within a bike ride of our house. And we’d all shop at Target less if it wasn’t so easy to get to.
Some companies have built an entire business model on accessibility. Walgreens comes to mind. So does Starbucks. As does Amazon.
Amazon, actually, is a perfect example of how accessibility impacts consumption.
The New York Times once wrote, “Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon’s founder, ‘has been on a mission to eradicate every conceivable obstacle to shopping online since the 1990s when he patented Internet ordering with a single mouse click’.”
And now, with the invention of the Amazon Dash Button, they have made shopping even more accessible. Without leaving your pantry or laundry room, you can place your order for consumer products with the press of a button… like an ice cream truck permanently placed inside your home.
Accessibility drives consumption. At least in these cases (and many more).
It is important for us to notice how accessibility impacts our behavior. Because the principle extends beyond shopping.
In life, whatever is accessible, gets utilized.
Unhealthy accessibility shapes unhealthy habits in our lives:
- Keeping sweets in the home makes us more likely to eat them.
- Having televisions conveniently located throughout a home results in more watching.
- Placing your cell phone on your nightstand encourages late night browsing, early morning email, and even sleep texting.
But equally powerful, accessibility has opportunity to spur healthy habits as well:
- Keeping fresh fruit and vegetables in your home makes healthy snacking more likely.
- Having educational toys available for your children spurs learning.
- Spending more time together as a family encourages conversation.
- Removing vices from your immediate surroundings (tobacco, sugar, alcohol, television) is the first step in overcoming them.
What healthy habits are you trying to develop in your life? What unhealthy habits are you hoping to break? And how is accessibility influencing your behavior?
Allison Jimenez says
Eureka! I am so glad that my thoughts are confirmed through your writing. Our apartment lease will be up son and we are planning on downsizing from 3 bedrooms to 2. The area we live in right now is “close” to everything meaning it is a Mecca of Consumerism. I used to practically live in malls shopping and now when I am in the vicinity I feel the walls are like a prison cell beckoning for me to back and do my time like everyone else. My biggest hurdles that I’ve yet to deal with are clothes and eating out. I don’t buy new clothes anymore, strictly thrift shop and mostly for my growing kids; however, we eat out constantly and it’s expensive. I definitely hope we can find a place to live away from the hustle and bustle of all the “convenience” stores. I am frustrated that our progress is slow but Rome wasn’t built in one day.
I was thinking about this concept today as I played with trains with kids I babysit (or rather, pulled piece after piece after piece out of the box so there were workable track pieces available to assemble). I couldn’t help but think all the while, “if the basic track pieces were in their own container it would be much easier to play with this.” I understand the practicality of having it all in one big box (“put the pieces in the box” is a much easier instruction for a 4 year old to follow than anything that requires sorting, and one box is cheaper and easier to store than a whole organization system), but I was thinking that they may play with trains more if the pieces they need were more accessible rather than buried with all the larger specialty pieces.
Michelle @ TheseTwoThings says
I’m a big believer in having no snacks at home. Another rule I’ve imposed on myself is to always walk to the store if I want a snack. If I don’t walk, I don’t get the snack. If I do walk and get the snack, it’s guilt free. Thanks for a great post.
ZJ Thorne says
I’m lucky that food does not overly tempt me. I love it, but I can always just eat until I’m satiated and put the ice cream away. It impresses my girlfriend every time.