money, reading, shopping

Spending with Calypso

In his latest book Calypso, David Sedaris has a quote that stuck with me.

Disclaimer: David Sedaris is probably my favorite author. Top three if not number one. So much of Calypso made me laugh, and think, and compare to my own life. He is humorous, but he is also very thoughtful and reflective.

The quote that got me isn’t really funny, and it has probably been said by countless other people, but I had never heard it and it struck a chord with me.

“I’m not just a vehicle for my wallet!”

He says this in a short piece about how people, especially retail clerks, airline workers, hotel staff, etc, ask the same generic questions to everyone all day long, and don’t really listen to the answer.

Of course this is necessary – you want to seem friendly to your customers but you do it all day every day and can’t push yourself to get to know someone, nor do you have time to have more than a limited interaction. But Sedaris talks about the random questions he asks to start a conversation, and how they usually fall flat with these people.

He is quite quirky.

This quote made me think about buying things in person. You can still be upsold online, with ads like “Based on your viewing history, you might like:” or “People who bought what you just bought also bought:”. But it’s impersonal online anyway. In a store, especially drugstores, clerks try to sell you whatever little trinket they have next to the cash register, or ask you to donate to the charity of the week. (Not knocking charities, but I like to donate directly to them and don’t like being guilted about being stingy with my dollar at the drugstore.) Bigger stores ask you to sign up for their membership card or buy a warranty. Whether you do or not is your business, but the Sedaris quote made me think of all that differently. Honestly, I’m still thinking about it… I know spending your money is a way to “vote” so to speak, and that idea really tangles with this quote in my mind. I like it.

(All that being said, this was shortly after a piece where Sedaris describes buying countless ill-fitting, ugly, overpriced clothes just because he likes going shopping and buying things, so I guess we can take the quote with a grain of salt! I just like pulling it out to think over on its own.)

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