Musings: Spare Change and Bleeding Wallets

By Krishna Pamidi

Dissecting the art of shopping

Illustration by  Sujean Gahng.

Illustration by Sujean Gahng.

Thirty-eight dollars. That’s how much the new “Red Dead Redemption 2” cost me when I spent all of my two minutes and willpower to buy it. It was fascinating what just happened there. I wanted this fantastic piece of art so I popped over to my phone and went through a simple process to acquire it; I … shopped. It is an interesting process really and I’d have the multinational conglomerate to thank for that. Amazon has been helping an unprecedented number of people stay lazy and shop from the comfort of their couch, their bed or their toilet. It is an avenue for shoppers round the world to have their desires met. This begs the question: How do these citizens of the world shop for products? What challenges do they face and how do they think when faced with the enormous challenge of ... wait for it … shopping!

So as ever, let’s get on our favorite rocket ship and sail around the world.


According to Katie Allen and Sarah Butler of The Guardian, the U.K. is an experience economy. What this means is that the Britons, like people from many other Western countries, have shifted their interests from buying things to experiencing things. A senior Ikea executive was quoted in the article to project the waning demand for product ownership. This means that Western world citizens, Britons particularly, are not left wanting for material consumer items like jewelry, clothes, TVs, etc. According to Visa card group’s Kevin Jenkins, the managing director of operations for Ireland and the U.K., consumers are increasingly spending more money on experiences. These experiences include fancier holidays, cooler cars, better food, which all provide access to a better quality of life.

U.K. consumers have displayed a pattern of increasing recreational consumer spending, but they’ve also shown a strong demand for mobile gadgetry that connects to the internet. Devices like smartphones, smart watches, digital home assistant devices, etc., are enjoying higher sales in the U.K., although smartphone sales supposedly peaked in the third quarter of 2017. Nonetheless, the British market posed an attractive market for investing parties, according to Forbes, indicating a potential rise in demand from consumers.  


Chile is definitely an interesting and enterprising country. Analyzed by Santander Bank’s trade portal, Chile is one of the wealthiest nations in the region, basking in sunshine with a stable and growing economy. What does this mean for my counterpart, another handsome 19-year-old boy in Chile? It means that he will have more disposable income available to him (Hopefully, he will be more responsible with his money than his American counterpart and not blow it all on food).

Chileans are now material consumers. They are exploring a spectrum of ways to spend their money, increasingly shopping for clothes, jewelry, gadgets and all the other items that they associate with the luxurious lifestyle portrayed in American media.

Arguably, the most important spending trend in Chile right now is their increasing investment in quality education and better healthcare, which has led to a longer average life span.


The last stop on our rocket ship this week is Japan. A country of roughly 127 million productive people, Japan is a metaphorical giant in its retail brands and industries. But how do these people interact with retailers and brands? According to McKinsey & Company, the Japanese usually prefer high-quality, brand-name items. They often wouldn’t hesitate to spend more money on organic food, better quality apparel, a clearer TV or a smarter phone. However, as of late, this trend has been waning in favor of the Western trend where the value for price is given precedence. This is, in part, due to the declining economic condition, in contrast to that of Chile, that has forced households to be more price-conscious.

Japanese also value services and experiences rather than just products. This has led to the decline of local shops in favor of centralized malls, where services beyond just shopping, such as food and cinemas, are offered. Also, according to Santander’s market analysis, Japan’s population is aging, meaning that more people are buying healthcare.

The Last Two Cents.  

For me, shopping might be popping over to my phone to purchase the pair of shoes I’ve been eyeing or the game that I’ve been wanting. But what I and undoubtedly millions of others think about are the factors that make this kind of shopping possible in different parts of the world. What prompts the purchase of a $700 dishwasher in Chile might not be at play in a Japanese household. I’m not talking about the fruits of the labor of so many talented software developers, tailors or plastics manufacturers, but rather the economic and sociocultural trends that have led us to buy whatever it is that would make our lives better, be it healthcare or, in this 19-year-old’s case, an obsession-inducing video game.

In “Musings,” sophomore Krishna Pamidi shares a new adventure every week about the grand modesty that is called life by exploring the global twists to universal experiences.