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I recently broke up with one of my favorite stores. Or, at least I thought it was one of my favorite stores, but when I really reflected on it, I realized that actually, I’ve been disappointed with them for years.
This store has beautiful merchandise (and is beautifully merchandised). Clothing like art, housewares like heirlooms, and jewelry you’d expect to find in a fairytale gypsy’s wagon. But it comes at a price (a literal, hefty bill), and usually some compromise (like not-so-flattering cuts or odd combinations of fabrics that require different care).
This realization got me thinking about marketing, loyalty, and value. Part of what captivated me was the vision of myself as the owner of this merchandise. If I had that dress and that set of bedding, I would be a classier, more glamorous, and worldlier version of myself who always smelled amazing, looked good in everything, and vacationed in Majorca. I liked the way the store made me feel when I was in it, but whenever I got home, the fantasy of who I could be fizzled, and I’d be left with a bad case of buyer’s remorse.
But I didn’t stop shopping there. I was a loyal customer, constantly pinning their pretty products to my Pinterest boards and using my birthday discount every year to get myself a special disappointing treat. But it turns out I was buying the feeling (though fleeting), not the product, because that’s what I actually valued.
If that’s true–and I completely believe that is (was)–then where else am I guilty of this? What other stores or brands have sold me a fantasy instead of their actual products? It’s time to reassess and become a savvier consumer.
In case you’re looking to do the same, I recommend checking out the Center for a New American Dream, an organization that “envisions a society that pursues not just “more,” but more of what matters—and less of what doesn’t.”

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