Consuming Desire examines Americans’ love of shopping. In particular, what motivates us to buy more than we need and whether this culturally sanctioned pursuit hints at darker aspects, financial or emotional, in our lives. Central to the story are six or so Chicagoans who present an array of behavior that may or may not be problematic, depending on the listener’s own point of view. These individuals “show” their collections of purses, pottery, designer clothes and more. They also talk about the exhilaration they feel when the buy, and also for some the negative emotions that come after binges. Their insights raise questions about the difference between collectors and compulsive buyers and how ephemeral and even addictive the “shopping high” can be.
Experts on collecting and compulsive buying place the sources’ stories in a broader context. As many as five percent of Americans now show signs of being compulsive buyers, according to a soon-to-be-published study. Issues around medical treatments, legal precedents and other newsy bits are explored.
Rounding out the story is a critical perspective of rampant consumerism given by members of a Voluntary Simplicity group in Chicago. One member invites the listeners to shop “frugally” with her: It’s for them to decide in what ways she’s different from the other shoppers, or if the emphasis she pays to frugality is perhaps itself extreme. I produced this documentary with Diane Richard.