‘Buy Nothing Day’ is annually observed worldwide on November 27, to remind consumers of their habits of overbuying and over-consumption. It is an international day of protest against unbridled consumerism, which is defined as a social or economic order based on the systematic creation of desire to purchase goods and services in amounts not needed.
The Network for Consumer Protection believes ‘Buy Nothing Day’ has a special significance for Pakistan where knowledge of consumers’ rights and observance of these rights is abysmally low. This year, the observation comes at a time when Pakistan is severely hit by unprecedented increase in the prices of food items. The day reminds the consumers of Pakistan that they can exert consumer power by opting not to make unnecessary purchases.
“As a nation, we should develop the habit of saving as Pakistani. By curtailing excessive and unnecessary buying, we could add to the saving pool of the country. The culture of ‘shop till you drop’ sits ill with a country, which is finding herself difficult to meet the basic needs of its people. The notion of shopping as necessary social activity has taken such a hold on middle classes that doing shopping has become replaced with going shopping,” The Network for Consumer Protection executive coordinator Dr. Arif Azad said.
Dr. Arif said in a country like Pakistan, where the middle class is fast shrinking and the gap between the poor and the rich is widening, unnecessary buying has created several social and economic problems.
The first ‘Buy Nothing Day’ was organised in Vancouver in September 1992, as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption. In 1997, it was moved to the Friday after American Thanksgiving, also called ‘Black Friday’, which is one of the 10 busiest shopping days in the United States.
Various gatherings and forms of protest have been used on ‘Buy Nothing Day’ to draw attention towards problem of over-consumption. For example, participants wander around shopping malls or other consumer havens with a blank stare and marvel at the expressionless faces of the shoppers. When asked what they are doing, the participants describe ‘Buy Nothing Day’ and explain its foundational principles.
Participants silently steer their shopping carts around a shopping mall or store in a long queue without putting anything in the carts or actually making any purchases. A strategy called the ‘Wildcat General Strike’ was used for the 2009 Buy Nothing Day where participants not only do not buy anything for 24 hours, but also keep their lights, televisions, computers and other non-essential appliances turned off, their cars parked, and their phones turned off or unplugged from sunrise to sunset.