Monday, July 15, 2013

Home Shopping (History and Warning)

1940 New Mexico: Ordering from the Sears Catalog, because of the distance to the nearest store.
(Library Of Congress)

It used to be that every home had a Sears Roebuck Catalog.  This was a large book containing every kind of item you could possibly need.  It was a published mercantile for the home.   We would fill out order forms and mail in our order; Then eagerly wait for the postal delivery!   We children were often seen with the catalog, dreaming about the clothes, toys, and decorations we wanted.

Years later, they stopped publishing.  New ways of shopping were coming into fashion, and perhaps mothers at home were becoming more mobile - more able to go out to the stores. Mass shopping, for fun and recreation, was gaining popularity.   One of the saddest days in American family history, was the day Sears stopped printing their catalog. 

In the late 1980's cable television started appearing in homes.  This also brought a home shopping channel.  We were able to sit under constant sales pitches, and put under pressure, to order within the next 5 minutes or the item would be "gone."   Many bought jewelry, decorations and clothing through the telephone.  The panic of the ending sale played with the emotions and made us feel like we had to have it now.  . . This was the beginning of brainwashing (or brain-training) to turn the culture into a shopping- focused society, rather than a home- and- family focused society. Prudence, diligence, patience and hard work were being slowly eroded from our characters.

Today, we have Internet sales, and online shopping options.  This is certainly helpful for those who are generally homebound, or unable to get out much.  But we are still seeing the "buy now," and the "sale ending tonight" pressure that we never saw in the old Sears Catalog.  If we are not aware of these sales gimmicks, and are not armed with knowledge to fight off the fear of not "getting that sale price,"  we will be sucked into the lure of shopping for recreation; buying things we don't need, and of shopping without hesitation or prudence. 

Shopping from the comfort of one's home, with seed catalogs and Lehman's catalogs, while gathered around the kitchen table, are good ways of slowing down the spending process.  We may dream over the items, plan what we will do with them, and carefully come up with a wise shopping decision.  This is one way to counteract the consumer craze that has taken over our nation.

Mrs. White

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Mrs. V. said...

I love to shop with catalogs. You're right, catalog shopping is a much slower process with more thought and planning going into purchases. When shopping in a store, I might make a split second decision to make a purchase. But when using a catalog, I'll think and rethink about the purchase for days before deciding to buy or not. I had never thought about the difference before, but there is a very big difference between the two modes of shopping.

Mrs. B, a very peculiar person said...

I remember the Sears & Roebuck catalog. As a child, I remember pouring over the pages of toys, clothing, home furnishings, kitchenware, lawn tools, etc. I remember the excitement I'd feel each time a new one arrived in the mail.
Of course, being a child, I never actually ordered anything from the catalog. We were so poor I really don't remember my Grandmother ordering anything either. BUT I do remember her studying the fashions I seemed to like and trying her best to sew similar fashions for me at the beginning of each school year.
Nowadays, we have a shelf stacked with seed catalogs, Lehman's Non-Electric catalog, and a few home school curriculum catalogs. My own children study these catalogs just as thoroughly as I did the Sears & Roebuck so many years ago.

GrammyK said...

While growing up my girlfriends and I would gather up our Sears, JC Penny and Montgomery Ward catalogs, along with our nice thick book of house plans. We would spend HOURS listing pages and pages of what we would buy to decorate each room of our dream homes. I miss my catalogs even 30+ years later. Oh, I also use my garden catalogs this way--to plan each year the gardens of my dreams. :-)

Mrs. Laura Lane said...

I love on-line shopping, because I cannot buy the kinds of homemakery, homeschooling, and modest things that I'd like in local stores.

Blessings from Harvest Lane Cottage,


Carolyn said...

I remember looking through the catalogs, especially the Christmas one. My brother and I would turn down pages and circle items that we liked. I'm kind of sad that my son will not have the opportunity to do that. It was a lot of fun.

Wife, Then Mama said...

I think online shopping has its place. For instance, many items I want are hard to find in stores, or I can find it used (and cheaper!) online.

I also love catalogs, although I am pretty sure I have only ever ordered on thing from a catalog. I LOVE to pour over them and mark the stuff I want though. Plus I would probably just go online and order if I did decide to order. I have little to no patience :)

My grandparents used to have (or might still, I should ask) a very old Sears catalog. From what I remember seeing in it, it was probably from the late 1800's. I LOVED looking at it and seeing all the amazing old stuff. It makes me kind of sad that Sears is on the verge of going out of business, because they have such a history. Maybe they can revert back to catalog sales? I also miss the JC Penney catalog we used to get, I would spend hours looking at that thing.

Chrissy88 said...

I loved the Sears Catalog and was very sad to see it end. I think you are on to something when you say it slows down the buying process. We used to pour over it when it arrived for Christmas, but then my mom would say, mark a few items that are your absolute favorite. You didn't expect to get everything you wanted, like today's children expect to. And there wasn't the pressure the emails apply with "tonight only - free shipping!" I've learned that I am not missing out. They will send me more emails with the same offers in the next few days or weeks and I only get something if I need it and can't go to the store and get it. While I still love paper catalogs and many of them have nice products, I find most of them are expensive and the quality often no better than local stores. Most are not affordable the way the Sears Catalog was.