Beyond the Quest for a Living Wage, Could the Consumer Benefit?
When I wrote Shopportunity! I used consumer hypnosis groups to identify the similarities and differences in the unconscious drivers of the shopping experience among men and women. The similarities were clear and I coined a term, APPA, to describe the shared ideal: Anticipation, Pursuit, Prominence and Appreciation. For women, the perfect shopping experience was exemplified by the quest for her wedding dress: The Anticipation phase started as a child watching Cinderella. Pursuit launched once she had set the date. Prominence was how she felt in the bridal shop dressing room: Queen for a Day. The Appreciation phase? Not the “Oh! You’re so Beautiful” wedding comment. No, the finance and accounting type of appreciation: The dress became more valuable over time, as she brought it out and showed it to her daughter.
For men, the APPA model held, but the focus was different: It was their first car they held as ideal. Beginning with Matchbox cars, moving through their father’s agreement that they could buy a used car, through to the actual negotiation in the dealership and on to Appreciation. No man I’ve ever spoken to – if pressed – couldn’t tell me how much that car would be worth today, if only he’d put it up on blocks.
Not to be too, too blunt (or duh, obvious) but very few shopping experiences come anywhere close to the ideal. They are de-valued of meaning because the merchandise is poorly made, the sales staff bored, distracted, often petulant and occasionally more than obliquely furious and the shopkeeper has succumbed to the siren call of ‘cheaper is better.’
This all came to mind as I read the various points of view on the new minimum wage guidelines. What seems to me to be missing from all sides of the argument is a discussion of what more might the increased wages gain the consumer? My hope is that the call for a living wage will ultimately enable a shared perspective that now there’s a career involved that, one dares hope, one day ratchets up to a profession. The shopping experience has been denuded of meaning, but perhaps with fair wages will come a new Shopportunity! Even in fast food chains, if the work ceases to be something you do because you can’t do anything else, and becomes a more barista-like vocation with the attendant pride in craft, what a boon for staff, proprietors and us.