Friday, August 08, 2008

Now college students may have to furnish their dorms on the cheap

Welcome to yet another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. I am starting to think that some of these practically write themselves. With serious problems in terms of the economy, the latest sign is that college students have to buy "basic" things for their dorms. According the linked article, from The Washington Post for August 5th, apparently some college students this fall have to buy cheaper stuff for their dorm rooms. Well, boo hoo hoo. I guess not having those monogrammed towels may be putting a crimp on some people's style.

Now, before someone out there says I am being mean, or that I have something against people with money, let's clarify that. If you have the money to spend, and you choose to do so, by all means live it up. You earned it, so go spend it if you feel so moved (even if I think some of your choices are less than bright). However, putting yourself in debt and living outside your means just to maintain your lifestyle or because you want matching trash can and desk set for your dorm room is not right. Learn to live within your means and stop whining about it. Articles like this, and the one I linked to previously on the rich having to cut back remind me of an old quote:

"You have no right to own a yacht if you ask that question."
-J. P. Morgan Sr., in answer to a question by Henry Clay Pierce on how much it costs to own and run a yacht.

If you can't afford it, then do it. Pure and simple. Anyhow, let us look at some of the ridiculous items from The Washington Post article:

  • Incoming freshman Shira Rosenthal has a big decision: deciding which trash can for her dorm room to buy. "There is one from Pottery Barn spinoff PBteen that costs $29 and is painted in pastel colors and emblazoned with catchy eco-slogans like 'Think Green.' Then there is the plain white wastebasket from Target for just $4 -- less than the cost of a gallon of gas. Rosenthal went with the latter."
    • Are you freaking kidding me? It is a trash can. You put trash in it. Heck, I have in my home office some cheap plastic trash can bought at Wal-Mart ages ago, and I use those plastic grocery store bags to line the trash can. When I went to my dorm, I just used whatever trash can came with the room. I am so sorry for you the $4 trash can is just not as attractive.
  • But at least Ms. Rosenthal made a small sacrifice. A pity it may cramp her style. "In recent years, students stocked up on bold bedspreads, matching clothes hangers and iPod sound systems to outfit dorm rooms that increasingly resembled urban lofts, driving double-digit increases in sales in the emerging back-to-college market."
    • Back in my day, I had to "steal" a couple of towels, a twin sheet or two and a pillow case from my parents' house for my dorm room. Clothes hangers? Wal-Mart or the local thrift shop. Sound system? I was lucky if my roommate had a tv, which he brought too from his parents' house. Give me a break.
  • It is truly tragic that the days of pimping your dorm room may be at an end. Now we are talking serious sign that the economy is bad. It's not that a family may lose their house due to a bad mortgage. It's not that gasoline prices are high. The sign of the moment is that no longer will dorm rooms compete for a spot on MTV's Cribs. But don't take my word for it. Marshal Cohen, an analyst for NPD Group that does consumer behavior research, says the following: "'I don't think it's going to be about pimping up your room,' Cohen said. 'I think it's about making sure the basic essentials are up to speed.'"
  • And you know things are really up the creek when you can't even afford to have a poster in your room. Just ask 18 year old Jeff Blazer. He is having to do with the basic look of the chair, the desk, and a bed. The humanity!
Go on and take a look at the rest of the article. There are details of how some retailers are dealing with the possibility kids may be spending less (they are providing coupons and having sales. Surprised?). Of course, if mommy and daddy are doing the shopping, it seems the kids are bit less considerate. Take the example of Gia Teppers, the 17 year old headed to Rutgers this fall:

"'If I know I'm getting it, I'm probably going to get the cheaper thing. But if my parents are getting it . . . ' she said, trailing off. Well, that's a different story.

"'They have steady jobs.'"

That's nice to know Gia. We'll see if your kids say the same thing when your turn comes to send them to college.

Update note (8/18/2008): On a follow-up, Ms. Rosenthal actually sent me a note to my Facebook. She stated in the note that the monogrammed towels in question mentioned in the article were a gift, a fact that the reporter left out of the article. Just adding in the interest of balance.


Matt D. said...

Hilarious... If you're living in a dorm their is no reason to ever buy anything other than Target supplies. Now on the other hand if you start finding that Target is too expensive, I don't know what to tell you

Angel, librarian and educator said...


If some people time things right, they don't even have to shop at Target. Wait until the previous year's residents leave. They often leave behind tons of stuff they can't take with them, from lamps to couches, in very good condition usually. I know back in my day, I managed to get some good things scavenging. Best, and keep on blogging.