Experiences.. Things that Cannot Be Bought

10 October 2018

Inspired by "Tucker Fort", part of "TANWEEN" Talks.

Corporations have started selling experiences instead of products.

In the past, it was easy for people to distinguish themselves from others by their ability to buy certain commodities. That was even the basis of certain advertisements (that it is not affordable to everyone). But this type of materialism does not impress the world of today anymore. We live in a small world, today, where people share their lives openly, and where you can look into people’s lives and see their valuable belongings -that usually take center on their social media pages- on your smartphone and without any boundaries. This ruins the rarity factor of those commodities, and hence, lessens its appeal. Not only that, but flaunting one’s ability to buy expensive things has become a trait that invites more criticism than praise. 

This leads to a new type of materialism, the materialism of unique experiences. If owning things is not enough to satisfy you anymore, you can now invest in a temporary experience, without having to spend a lot of time planning or to take risks and change your lifestyle. All you need to do is to research corporations, which offer certain experiences such as climbing mountains or camping. They will provide you with all the services, equipment, transportation and a guide, who will accompany you and help you during the trip. Your only obligation will be to pay them. Many new travel and tourism companies are specializing in this growing market. According to a research made by the Boston Consulting Group, the global spending total, on luxurious commodities in 2016, has exceeded 860 billion Euros. 542 million Euros were spent on experiences and activities; and the number is growing. 

This increase in spending on experiences is largely attributed to the feelings of happiness and satisfaction that result from it, regardless of how expensive the experience is. That doesn’t necessarily happen with valuable purchases, whose emotional value is directly connected to its financial one. Paradoxically, a number of these paid experiences are publicized for their spirituality, and sometimes their criticism of materialism. A substantial number of trips to mountain tops, remote islands and deep forests take pride in the requirement of people to disconnect from modern life, even though they (the trips) guarantee the tourists’ safety, comfort and leisure. This way, they provide their clients with the feeling of being immersed in primitive life and nature, without putting them in the dangers associated with that life.

However, the growing number of people taking part in these experiences deprives it of its rarity. Hence, a new market for more scarce experiences was started for the wealthy class. Some of these companies only offer their services for people with annual memberships. They design special plans for each client according to his requirements and physical and psychological needs, and without any strangers lessening the joy of the experience. When you are experiencing something with a group of people, you rarely feel the same kind of attention, you tend to be forced to compromise and sacrifice for the sake of others, or stick to a schedule that doesn’t meet your desires. Expensive companies that take time to plan the client’s dream trip avoid all of this. They might plan a day that imitates the client’s favorite movie on his birthday for example. The positive side is that unique experiences are getting more and more common and attainable everyday, but no one knows how this obsession will develop in the future.