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    Can Money Buy Unhappiness? (2543 words)

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    Happiness is probably how most people struggle throughout their own daily life, asking how it makes people happy? A standard answer would be money because of its ability to buy a larger house, fancy clothes, and maybe even a designer bag. These selfish behaviors are carefully thought about luxury items or products that not extremely important to everyday life but provide worth other choice means. Unfortunately, luxury products come at a high price, both financially and physically. Because they are sold at a much higher rate than usual things of value, many people need to work much more to purchase luxury products. In his book Walden, Henry David Thoreau suggests that luxury items also bring a mental hardship to those who try to buy them. He describes them as ‘not only indispensable but positive interferences to the elevation of people’ (Thoreau, 13).

    He believes that rather than spending time trying to obtain these interferences, a person should focus on himself and develop qualities such as simpleness and independence (Thoreau’s 14). Thoreau assigns the term “quiet desperation” to describe the state that many people, those who focus on unnecessary things in life and are unhappy with their situations, as a result, are in. The state of quiet desperation still exists 150 years later. Yet, given the changes in luxury items and technology, Thoreau’s philosophy in Walden should be re-evaluated to changed to make better to modern times. In current suffering, this because remind people that present in such a condition is the increase of contemporary innovation, which has triggered the social pressures of purchasing such luxuries by controlling with two significant luxury issues: social standing(class) and superficiality.

    The social class shows the weaknesses of focusing on high-earnings people and of underestimating a lower-class people, which literally makes up a large proportion of the population. First of all, it’s essential to acknowledge that in Thoreau ‘s time and modern days, the desire for social standing(class) and the effects of social influences remain. Thoreau provides a brief description of a team leader helping a regent who claims to be honest and competent.

    However, the squire is actually always in fear of losing his social status, and he spends every day sneaking around to not let the public see his nervous self (Thoreau, 7). This tale demonstrates that Thoreau recognized that the need for social status was an issue in his time. Iain Davies, Zoe Lee, and Ine Ahonkhai, in their article “Do Consumers Care About Ethical Luxury,” find that, unfortunately, this problem still exists in modern times. The authors first establish the rise of ‘an ethical’ movement, “where more and more people who use products are shifting aware of the decent suggestions of the products they buy and are adapting their purchasing behavior accordingly” (Davies, Lee, and Ahonkhai 37).

    However, As most research studies on low prices were performed, the authors have carried out a survey to determine whether moral issues also play an essential part in luxury purchases. Hundreds of participants, divided between gender, income, and age, were asked to recall a recent luxury purchase and a recent commodity purchase. They were then asked the ubiquity of 8 different factors-these were “quality, fame, price, product content, self-image, brand preference, ethical conditions of production and convenience”-in their decision to purchase the good (Davies, Lee, and Ahonkhai 43). They found that what separated luxury and commodity the most was an influence: “The most important difference between the two acquisitions in the study was fame (2.93/5 for luxury and 2.12/5 for a commodity) showing that the social judgment of the state of a brand is far more valuable in luxury purchases than in commodity buying” (Davies, Lee, and Ahonkhai 43).

    Because not everyone can afford luxury products, expensive items can provide an icon of social status. The prestige of certain luxury brands is essential because more people value a particular brand, the more that brand becomes a symbol of social standing. The relationship between brand and social status becomes far less critical as the good becomes cheaper, since more and more people can afford it, so prestige is not essential for commodities. Thus, it can be established that a primary reason people buy luxuries is because of its influence and that customers feel a need for social status.

    A further problem surrounding luxury products is whether customers buy and use them for selfish and straightforward reasons rather than primary products. Davies, Lee, and Ahonkhai found that not only was the second most significant difference in The buying requirements between some of the luxury and the products right conditions of production; however, this factor ‘was founded on the average purchase requirements list’ (Davies, Lee, and Ahonkhai 43). The authors found that while ethics were reasonably crucial in consumer’s decisions to buy commodities, the same was not valid for luxury goods.

    This difference suggests that consumers are more superficial in their reasons to buy luxuries. A second question asked of participants in the survey was how important specific ethical issues influenced their purchasing behavior for luxury vs. that of commodities. Again the results showed that ethics were less relevant in luxury purchases: “The issue of moral intensity in luxury purchases identified a significant barrier to ethical luxury because luxury products got comprehensively more inexpensive on all standards of right intensity and significantly cheaper (at the .05 level’) on three” (Davies, Lee, and Ahonkhai 47). The two elements of purchasing that rated lower ethical products but above noble motives for luxury are reputation. When it comes to luxury, consumers tend to care about more self-centered and superficial factors instead of factors for the greater good, whereas it is the other way around for commodities.

    Again, Thoreau seems to have identified this issue in his time: Thoreau discusses who has been in this text his intended audience for Walden. His utilization ‘apparently rich’ and ‘manage to accumulate scuffs’ indicates that he believes that people working very hard only to earn money for superficial things of the little worth may as well as be ‘terribly emptied.’ But not only are these people don’t only solve the problems and issues of life, but they also face difficulties, so that all of it is wasted on the superficial argument of luxury. Thoreau believes that these people are in a state of calm desperation. Because social status and superficiality were synonymous with luxury, and both concerns continued over time, it is worth researching how technological complexity has made these issues much more apparent in customer behavior.

    A new crime has emerged: counterfeiting by the growth of new luxury products. In an article by ‘Why are customers buying manufactured luxury brands?’ Wilcox, Hyeong Min Kim, and Sankar Sen analyze the growth of fraudulent crime in the 21st century and study and advertising in order to buy counterfeit luxury goods. Counterfeit products are characterized as reproductions of items that are usually high in the market (Wilcox, Kim, and Sen 247) ‘illegal, low-cost and sometimes poor quality.’ Money laundering is not the same price as the original labels, is in violation of the policy, and rarely offers. One might wonder how many other people purchase things with all of the other negative impacts of fake products. Unfortunately for luxury brands, the answer is far too many: ‘There are an estimated 12 billion dollars of counterfeiting in the industry market efforts, according to the International Chamber of Commerce (2004)’.

    The author discusses three studies to determine why customers are consciously purchasing fake products. Both of them activated issues by watching Tissot, a valuable luxury company that 83 percent of respondents had not aware of before, one of two commercials. One commercial was a value-expression commercial that encouraged viewers to ‘wear a Tissot to show yourself, display the individuality and communicate your values,’ and the other was a social change commercial the instructed viewers ‘to wear a Tissot to note, to be admired and enhance your social standing’ (Wilcox, Kim, and Sen 254). Then a photograph of a fake Tissot was shown at a reasonable price and asked for the false to be bought. Once the object has argued initially that the buying of counterfeit products was unethical, they purchased the social change commercial, on average, 50% more.

    Similar findings have been found in the two other studies. The result is, for social reasons and other superficial motives, many people buy expensive goods. Those who watched the ad that promised they would fit in if they bought a watch were more likely to purchase the counterfeit version than those who attended the announcement about values, even when they initially thought that buying counterfeits was unethical. They were more concerned about achieving specific social goals, then they were about the morality of counterfeiting. Through the studies, the authors found that “these social motivations guide people’s propensity to consume counterfeit brands” (Wilcox, Kim, and Sen 248). Thus, the rise of counterfeiting as potentially “the crime of the 21st century’ exasperates the existing problems surrounding luxury goods by providing another medium for consumers to purchase superficial things like social status (Wilcox, Kim, and Sen 247).

    Superficiality and self-esteem are two states that can drive to a lot of pain and suffering. Therefore, a person that only cares about superficial things and is egotistical is about to live a life filled with unhappiness and regret. Secure purchasing also allows the problem of purchasing luxury products even more important nowadays, for superficial reasons. Bernadette Kamleitner and Berna Erki’s article “Payment Method and Perceptions of Ownership” examines the idea of the pain of payment. Some way they do so is by evaluating credit card charges to equal cash payments: ‘Payment in cash is the different ‘comprehensible’ means of payment for consumers who are fully aware of the amount of money they are using. (Raghubir and Srivastava 2008)” (Kamleitner and Erki, 58).

    In contrast to cash, credit card purchases require only a thin card, no matter how expensive it is. It is much easier to forget about how much money you are spending when using credit cards, and so you feel less pain from paying: “The central primary importance of cards’ reduced cost prominence is a decrease in the experienced ‘passion of payment’ (Soman 2001) and price sensitivity (Monger and Feinberg 1997)” (Kamleitner and Erki, 58). The primary benefit of card payments is that the customer does not really feel connected: ‘People allow customers to have more physiological assets if they pay in cash than if they pay by card’ (Kamleitner and Erki, 61). These differences in payment methods present worrying trends in another of Jones and Ryan’s observed trends, “On-demand; any time, any place, anywhere” (Ryan and Jones, 17). The authors discuss that as digital media becomes more and more advanced, “the corresponding acceleration of business processes means that consumers can satisfy their needs more quickly, more easily and with fewer barriers” (Ryan and Jones, 17).

    One issue with fewer barriers to purchase is that besides requiring payment through a card or a bank account, it also removes the need to travel anywhere to make a purchase. These two factors will decrease the pain of payment, a deterrent that may have stopped some superficial luxury purchases in the past, significantly. Besides, as mentioned by Kamleitner and Erki, the facilitation of acquisition will decrease consumer attachment to the good. This means that a consumer buying a luxury good to achieve a particular social status will be even less attached to the actual product and, thus, rely on the social status that the luxury provides. While less hassle for purchases may seem like an excellent enhancement for consumerism, for luxuries, it may serve only to make the problems associated with them even more evident in modern times.

    One more reason that luxury problems are becoming more important today is the vast number of technological advances that have transformed how selling and purchasing can be done. In their book Understanding Digital Marketing: Marketing techniques for digital creation, Damien Ryan and Calvin Jones explore the rise of online marketing, and how new technological advances require customers to share more than before manufacturers and products. Since the newspaper and mail ads from the 19th century, marketers have experienced considerable changes in technology that have transformed the advertisement field, including radio, television, and, most recently, the internet. Technology affords marketers “new and exciting platforms that allow them to connect with people in increasingly diverse and relevant ways” (Ryan and Jones, 13). For example, ads on the internet can be filtered so that a specific web page will only show ads relevant to that page’s contents. Unfortunately, technology can also serve as a double-edged sword.

    The authors discuss seven ways in which new digital technology has influenced consumer behavior. One trend that ‘they notice is that micro-publishing of personal content is blossoming” (Ryan and Jones, 16). Digital media is taking the chance to create personal evaluations, blogs, and other information available online. Because of this content’s accessibility, it has become standard to see consumers “consulting the opinion of their online peers before making purchasing decisions” (Ryan and Jones, 16). However, certain online content publishers have become much more influential than others. These dominant players become an issue, especially when it comes to luxury products. Social pressures to purchase a specific luxury item become even more pressing when someone influential writes about that good. In turn, that luxury becomes a more significant symbol of social status, and more people will struggle to afford one.

    Consequently, Thoreau encourages his readers to agree, ‘the weak dictator of popular opinion relative to our own moral views’ (Thoreau, 7). Concerning what other people think, the social status problem in luxury products has started to emerge. Unfortunately, this idea of rejecting social influence becomes harder as time passes. In modern times, anytime you browse the internet or turn on the television, you may find an advertisement that tries to convince you that you need the product to fit in. Still, accepting the premise that all that matters is what you think of yourself is the most crucial step to leave the state of quiet desperation behind.

    Because of the rise of technologies and digital media, there may be a more significant percentage of people in modern-day quiet desperation than in Thoreau’s time. Thus, it is essential that they understand potential causes and how they might combat the contemporary era’s social pressures. It is important to note that this essay does not aim to criticize the age of technology, nor does it wish for a less advanced period. It merely wants to shed some light on what may be obstructing happiness for people in modern times and how technology, from a luxury perspective, may add to such an obstruction. In the end, however, It is for also every individual customer to make choices according to their own comfort to purchase.

    Work Cited

    • Thoreau, Henry David. “Walden and other Writing.” New York: Modern Library, 2000.
    • Davies, Iain, Zoe Lee, Ine Ahonkhai. “Do Consumers care about ethical-Luxury?” Journal of Business Ethics, 106, 1 March 2012.
    • Kamleither, Bernadette, and Berna Erki. “Payment Method and Perceptions of Ownership.” Marketing Letters, 23(1), 57-69, 2013.
    • Ryan, Damain, and Calvin Jones. “Going Digital the evolution of marketing”. Understanding Digital Marketing: Strategies for Engaging the Digital Generation. London: Philadelphia: Kogan Page, 2009, Print.
    • Keith Wilcox and Sankar Sen, Hyeong Min Kim. “Why Do COnsumaers Buy Counterfeit Luxury Brands?” Journal of Marketing Research 46, no:2, page: 247-259, 2009.

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