Although I used to be officially in the employ of the advertising industry, I can’t say that I have much love for the whole business. I went into it with a love for art, imagining that advertising and design would be a viable way of combining creativity with earning a living, but it is hard to escape the incredible stupidity of most ad messages. Ad breaks are only 2 minutes long, but I can’t manage to suppress the groans of disbelief, the shouting at the TV screen, or the knot of tension between the shoulders that is created by the downward trickle of brain decay.
Having said all that, maybe the assault of technicolour inanity is something we have grown to need in our society. I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or a sad indictment on the character that we manufacture. Nevertheless, it’s been to my benefit lately.
My long-serving set of golf clubs were bought for R50 off of a goodly deceased gentleman in the Natal Midlands about 10 years ago. He might have bought them when he was 20 for all I know. The one brand of my mix-and-match set were named after a golfer I’ve never heard of. They’re very old. (OK, so a long-overdue Googling suggests that their namesake was in his prime in the 60s).
Having been encouraged to pick up my clubs again recently, it soon became clear that some more beginner-friendly clubs were necessary. Being unable to afford said upgrade, I decided to dabble in some second-hand goods trading to see if I could profit enough to get a set for free. I now have three decent sets and R350 left over.
How? I bought golf sets, cleaned then up, and resold them to the same market often at double what I paid for them.
As you’re probably doubting my integrity now, let me defend myself. Almost without exception, I was not the ‘early bird’ who spotted all the bargains, dusted them off and resold them at a profit before anyone else could get in a bid. Everything I bought had been advertised for some time and ignored by all purchasers. It was the stuff no-one wanted. In one case, I actually told two buyers interested in my stuff to rather buy a set in their own suburb that was cheaper and better than what I was offering. Eventually, after they clearly ignored me and no-one else took it for another fortnight, I did. One set I bought cost me R400. The seller had had it advertised for weeks with no takers. I bought it and had eight buyers interested in paying R950 for it within 48 hours of advertising (I took R900).
The ‘trick’ boils down to advertising. The stuff that I buy is invariably being sold without a photograph or with a particularly crummy one. People look at the ad, and they have imagination failure. They are unable to distance themselves from the photo quality, and to assess what they actually see. Seeing that golf is above all a sport for poseurs who need to be seen with their arms around a ravishing beauty (I’m still talking golf clubs), a photo that stunts their ability to see beauty in the item will undoubtedly fail. [The crummy photo above pictures a set advertised at R600. After a month of no buyer, I emailed him to tell him what I’m telling you – take a pretty picture outside – or let me buy them for R300. He took the money.]
So I buy these sets and I clean them, I fix what is fixable, and I photograph them in such a way as to assist those with a stunted imagination. I put them in the sun, on the lawn, in a place that looks like a golf course. I take as beautiful a photograph as I can muster. As a result, the prospective buyer is able to picture himself on the links in front of his friends with a good looking set. Voila! Sold.
So my question to myself is, ‘Am I just pickpocketing people?’ Buyers are happy to pay what I ask because they approve of the deal. I haven’t got a monopoly, and there’s no gun to anyone’s head. So probably not. But I still wonder. Unlike much of the advertising you see on television, at least I’m buying what is not valued, and simply exposing the value that is actually there, rather than cajoling people into devaluing themselves so that the product can fill a void that the advertisers themselves just created. So I’m not skippering the shiny capitalist juggernaut just yet.
But perhaps I’m being too harsh on advertising. For good or bad, our society now puts massive stock in feeling valuable. It is not advertising that created that desire, however much it might stoke the fire. If people are too lazy and near-sighted to seek out value that is just below the surface, then advertising is providing a legitimate service (at least when it’s not exploiting said dopes). How we cure society of laziness and imagination failure is another matter. And perhaps there’s some good in exposing beauty and presenting something in such a way as to draw attention to value that otherwise might pass unnoticed? ‘If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.’ Yes indeed, but the world would certainly be poorer if in the mere fear of excess we blinded ourselves always to beauty and value.
Also, I have cool golf clubs now.