A lesson in consumerism

On further investigation, it would appear that Warhol did indeed have a thing about feet so, perhaps, he wouldn’t mind me associating him with them. Given that consumerism also featured in Warhol’s work, I wonder what he would have made of my kids’ first school trip.

My first school trip was to Hornsea Pottery. I don’t remember too much about it, other than my mum came along and I got very jealous of her talking to any other children. However, I’m guessing it was chosen as it provided a range of activities for 4 and 5 year olds, and it wasn’t too far away. It seems that, in the 21st century, school trips have changed somewhat. My girls have been doing topic work on Bears this term, and so the school is taking them on a trip to Build-A-Bear. Nowhere else, just to Build-A-Bear.

If you haven’t been or don’t know what Build-A-Bear is, congratulations! If you do, you have my deepest commiserations. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. It is a great example of taking a simple idea (that of a child’s love for a teddy bear) and exploiting it to make as much money as humanly possible. As the name implies, kids get to build their own bear by taking an empty bear carcass and stuffing it themselves. They also get to put a toy heart in, after giving it a rub (to fill it with love) and make a wish. On the face of it, this sounds very lovely and magical and, to be honest, I would have loved it as a child. But when you stop and think about it, what they are getting you to do is pay over the odds for a half-finished bear and then get you to complete the job. If this wasn’t enough they then stock a myriad of crap (sorry, accessories) to go with it. Genius! I’m envious that I didn’t think of the blooming idea myself.

If the children were learning about how to create a successful business using a capitalist model that relies on consumerism then – Bingo! – this trip would make perfect sense. But really, couldn’t the school have thought of something less commerical. The next topic is Autumn so why couldn’t they have had a nature trip to the park? Surely, it is much more healthy to be communing with nature outdoors than stuck in a shop.

This is not really my real concern though. My real concern is that I have volunteered to go along as a parent helper. I have visions of 30 four and five year olds having a major meltdown at not being able to buy anything whilst visiting the shop. To quote the Kaiser Chiefs ‘I predict a riot’. Actually, this is not my real concern. My real concern is that one of my daughters will be the one having a screaming, hissy fit. My children are well aware of Build-A-Bear as I was stupid enough to take them in about a year ago. When I told them that they weren’t able to buy anything on this trip, one of my girls looked at me in utter disbelief and announced, ‘Nonsense’. God, help me!

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