Caddebostan, a community on the Marmara Sea, in the municipality…
Years ago, I remember being surprised and amused to see people removing paper shopping bags from the trunks of their cars to go walking and shopping on Bagdat Caddesi, a famous street on the Asian side of Istanbul, sort of like an Eastern Champs-Élysées. I was baffled….why would you carry a shopping bag with you when you are going to shop? So I realized after living here in Istanbul for a while, that the inhabitants of this city can be quite superficial, and one is classified and rated according to where one shops. So, in response to this unwritten code, it becomes a necessity to appear similar to the “privileged others” frequenting the area, when in fact, everyone is pretending.
The paper shopping bag, sporting an “elite-ish” label, is the next best thing to a designer handbag or briefcase, and so people cannot resist the allure of an instant status upgrade. I couldn’t believe that one would rather carry around a paper sack with a department store name like The Brand Room, or Vakko than a nice, but brand-free tote bag. However, flash forward five years, and here I am, just as anxious subconsciously as they are. Even though I understand social psychology, I am not immune. You get better service at restaurants and stores, when you carry high-end labels in this city of over 14 million people. I understand that it has become somewhat of a survival strategy for workers. As the foot traffic is relentless, they need to pay attention to who they believe are their serious shoppers and customers for their tips and commission. What I don’t understand is the blatant rudeness of Istanbulites towards others showcasing less conspicuous consumption. It appears they respect money more than intelligence, education, insight, achievement, and goodwill.
It’s also interesting to observe the global proliferation of brands through the rapid rise of social media. We all seem to possess a subconscious need for status and membership to a group, and social sharing just delivers the feelings of inadequacy advertisers capitalize on: selling us things, we don’t need, that much more quickly. Stores like Bloomingdale’s are now offering exact copies of their Medium Brown Bag disposable bag, but in a now reusable PVC, so wherever you go, people will “know” that is where you shop. I saw a Turkish woman on Bagdat carrying the Brown Bag, so these are two things we now “believe” we know about her 1. She frequents upscale stores 2. She has the right connections that allow unfettered travel in order to shop in the United States. Advertisers are banking on our perceptions becoming reality without any analysis whatsoever…why don’t we stop lining their pockets, and start filling our own.
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