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Author and New York Times columnist

SS: Have there been many instances where you’ve written about something and in the process impacted a company’s approach to marketing?

RW: No one calls you and says, "That was a catastrophe for us." You don’t get that phone call. I know there are things I write that get widely emailed in the marketing world, but whether there has been any impact is hard to know. I know that when I wrote about word-of-mouth marketing in the New York Times Magazine there were people wanting to have [more] legislation established.

SS: How does the current economic climate impact your feelings about writing about consumption?

RW: I’m sort of on this mild dystopia kick right now because I feel it reflects the mood. I feel I will change what I’m writing about somewhat. The economy changes the context. It’s probably good for me as a writer to have to adjust. I don’t want that to sound like I’m rooting for the Great Depression — like what an interesting challenge that would be — but it has some effect.

SS: Do you ever wish you could switch off that critical thinker in you that evaluates what you consume? And do you feel completely disillusioned by the world of marketing?

RW: No, I don’t. Every once in a while I’m appalled. I feel like I’m being conversant in a language: I enjoy seeing what people are wearing, going to someone’s house and seeing what stuff is around. It's this huge sort of conversation going on all around us that we’re not paying attention to. Most people are just turned onto their own dialect of whatever, noticing the other people who maybe are dressed like you. Crocs is a good example, being like, "Oh my God, these stupid things," but then seeing this other kind of person in this situation wearing them. I guess there’s sort of a crossing over into something else, and what is that about? I get tired of the rhetoric of the marketing industry itself and how it’s about empowering consumers. I’ve heard that so many times.

SS: What impact has writing about consumption had on your attitude toward your own consumption?

RW: The interesting thing to me is that it’s given me this kind of excuse to do a lot of reading and interviewing people about psychology. Again, I don’t think people should torture themselves about everything they do, but I do want to make people think, "Why do I care about this and should I care about this? And maybe I should care about something else instead that will be more satisfying in the long run than this quick-hit purchase."




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