Sunday, 17 June 2007

Devolution of the bean bag - the powerful forces of rampant consumerism

Consumer Heaven?

Earlier this week, I attended a consultation at which some time was spent discussing the effects of rampant consumerism and its effect on quality of life. On Thursday, I went to the BBC Good Food/Good Homes/Gardeners' World Summer Festival, otherwise known as Rampant Consumerism Is Us.

Three massive NEC halls were given over to selling all sorts of things for which very few people could possibly have a need or, in a sober moment, a want. To accommodate the overspill, a massive marquee had been erected in the grounds and stalls spewed out of both the halls and the marquee to guzzle up almost every available patch of land. Despite the rain, the event was packed.

I was at the show primarily to have a day out with my mother and secondarily to gorge myself on food and drink tasting opportunities. I love trying different foods. Sausages. Olives. Chocolate. Yum. Ginger/Sun-dried tomato/garlic stuff. Nougat. I bought some nougat. I don't have a sweet tooth, but this stuff was seriously, seriously good. Gooey good. Softly, enticingly good. By the end of the afternoon, I also had pockets bulging with Canderel sugar-free chocolate which I picked up in a state of slight fuzziness brought on by too many alcoholic samples. Hic. I wasn't the only one. The hordes of people gathered around wine stands bore an uneasy resemblance to swarms of flies and freshly dead meat. It was not a particularly edifying sight.

Having sated my need for novel food items, my attention (or what was left of it after the sampling session) turned to other attractions. I was looking forward to gawping at the pretty plants and flowers, and if I'm honest, I was intrigued as to what one might find in a Good Homes exhibition. Top quality bricks and mortar, perhaps? Happy families galore? Well, no. What one finds, amongst other things, is branded bean bags costing £200, which had thoughtfully been provided in a chill out area for those consumers who were weary of leg and/or fuzzy of mind.

£200? For a bean bag? I can feel a rant brewing...

Bean bags used to be fairly simple things - sacks of material approximately half filled with polystyrene beads, allowing the bag to adopt the conformation required by any object pressed into it. This function makes them rather comfortable things to sit/lie/sprawl on. Manufacturing a bean bag is not difficult - a couple of slabs of material, a suitable filling and a sewing machine equipped with sufficient thread to hold it all together is pretty much all which is required. Those of you who took the advanced textile class at school might consider adding a zip opening, and if you are thinking of ever washing your new creation, putting the beads inside a cotton/similar liner bag inside the cover material is a jolly good idea which saves a lot of emptying and refilling of poly beads.

Anyone who has enjoyed the wonders of bean bags will realise that things get spilled on them. Things such as: wine (red and white), beer, pizza, spaghetti, chinese, balti, etc. It is therefore incredibly handy that most beanbags come with an inner liner that contains the thousands of poly beads whilst the outer cover can be removed and chucked in the washing machine following inevitable mishaps. This is one of the very few clever things about most bean bags. Their form follows their function - better make it easy to get them washed. If that means having a bag-in-a-bag, so be it. The £200 sack of poly beads I sank into was extremely comfortable and satisfyingly sturdy. It would be a nice thing to have at home. But... it costs £200 and despite this, conspicuously lacks the inner liner bag. Should I feel the need to purchase one of these, use it and spill curry or beer on it, I would want to wash the cover. This would entail laboriously emptying the little beads into some other bag/container, washing the cover, and transfering all the little beads back once the cover was clean and shiny again. This is extremely unclever and inelegant. In fact, it's a complete waste of life which could be avoided by having a small amount of additional thought and work in the design/manufacture process.

Mind you, I suppose it could be argued that having spent £200 on a bean bag, you might be more careful about where you eat your takeaway and not run the risk of chicken vindaloo coming into contact with the precious mother of all bean bags. In fact, if I'd have splashed out £200 on a bean bag, I'd be avoiding lounging on it whilst having a beer and curry. I'd probably put it inside a glass case to be admired from a safe distance far from risk of accidental staining. This priciest of bean bags is not only an evolutionary throwback, but also unfit by virtue of its primitive engineering and overblown price tag for the purposes to which bean bags are traditionally put. The only thing I can find to say in its favour is that by removing £200 from the people daft enough to be buying these bean bags, they might possibly prevent them from being able to indulge the makers of the singing toilet seats, massage chairs or indoor-only bamboo elephant sculptures who prey on the rampant consumer.

Sigh. End of rant. Just don't get me started on the patio heaters, concept picture frames, hot tubs and showers which not only take your temperature and adjust the water mix accordingly, they also sing you lullabies if they sense you're a little stressed. Now if you'll excuse me, I feel the need to sprawl on the sofa.


Anonymous said...

But a bean-bag's for life

Pixie said...

You go girl, that has had me hysterically giggling for ages.

I keep re- thinking about you've said.

Very, very funny.

Do they come in many colours i'm seriously intrigued now??

But Why? said...

Such kind comments - thankyou!

Different colours? Yes, Yes! How could they possibly justify the price tag of £200 for a monotone bean bag? No, that would be unthinkable. The £200 version comes in three multicoloured designs. The monotone version (and the camouflage one) is a comparitive bargain at £150.

If I'd paid £200 for a bean bag, I'd be deriving every possible drop of value from it. I'd not only have it for life, I'd leave instructions for it to be cremated with me and its ashes used to cushion mine for the rest of eternity.

Pixie said...

I think I'm in danger of loosing the plot here.

I cannot believe i am wanting more conversation about bean bags, it is just too silly.

So instead is it ok if i put you on my blog roll cause you make me laugh so much?

But Why? said...

Thankyou, yes, please do. I don't think you're losing the plot at all, merely belatedly discovering (if not yet embracing) your inner geek.

But x