I have been trying to think of an item that perfectly symbolizes consumerism gone wrong. You know, those things that are just absolutely unnecessary, wasteful, atrocious inventions. I need your help.
It’s tough. Everywhere you look, there are examples of gross consumerism that are enough to make you cringe that humanity came up with this thing instead of working on finding cancer cures or something productive:
- the suburban Hummer that gets 8 mpg’s to haul around groceries that could have easily been transported in the trunk of a vehicle one-fourth its size
- Keurig, with disposable plastic cups
- the electric can opener when you have hands that are functional to manually open a can with a few twists of a lever
- the $200 gas fume-spewing leaf blower used by a healthy individual, when equal time, no CO2, and a little exercise could have been had with a $10 rake
- about two-thirds of the items you’ll find in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond and 99% of what you’ll find in SkyMall
I could go on and on…
Here’s one that really stood out for me, for some reason: the VHS rewinding device. If you’re old enough to remember, back in the early/mid 90’s before DVD’s became the preferred video device, everyone had a VHS player. VHS players could play, fast forward, rewind, and even record new video. Some genius convinced the world that it wasn’t enough to have a VHS player that could rewind a tape. No! Instead, you should buy a stand-alone VHS rewinding device.
When you finished watching your VHS tape, instead of hitting the rewind button, you’d take out the tape, put it in the rewinder and it performed it’s one sole function – rewind that tape!
I think the pitch was two-fold:
1. “Why wait for your tape to rewind when you want to get started on the new one ASAP?!”
2. “Why put your VHS player through unnecessary wear and tear? Rewinding tapes wears them out!”
On that last point, we’ll just overlook the fact that the rewinders often cost as much as the VHS players themselves…
So rewinders were purchased by the millions and most of them broke down after a year or two due to being built from cheaper components than were used in the VHS players they were intended to save.
Remarkably, the damn things can still be found on Amazon. One commenter posted a gem of a review earlier this year that perfectly summarizes the plight of today’s modern VHS owners,
“I shopped everywhere including pawn shops, to find a VHS tape rewinder as the recorders I have, I do not want to kill the bearings in them prematurely. I kept looking and calling, etc. for over 3 months. I finally made up my mind to scout Amazon again. I found a good seller with a good price, delivered to me. I had it delivered over 2,000 miles in 1 week, via regular USPS shipping….”
Driving all around town, burning gas, and risking your life at pawn shops to find a used tape rewinder and then have a new $25 item shipped 2000 miles when you could easily pick up a replacement VHS player through Craiglist or EBay for $10 in the event of a possible ball bearing catastrophe? Understandable…
So, there it is… the VHS rewinder – although dated, you get my nod for the item that most symbolizes wasteful consumerism.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some good ones – help me out! Let’s make this fun. Submit your nominees and reason why you’re nominating. We can take a vote in a future post, and the winning item will forever be referred to on this blog in any reference to wasteful consumerism.