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Keeping Up With Average Joe

Here in Britain, there are a lot of very confused middle-class people wandering about with glazed fearful expressions right now. Not because they don't understand the highly complicated and pointless Particle Collider experiment in Switzerland - but because they have suddenly started going into shops where 'normal' people shop.

Imagine a scene from The Stepford Wives - women with fixed stares, steadfastly not making eye-contact and shuffling in a embarrassed manner along the aisles of stores with a 'pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap' philosophy. You see, cheap food retailers and even cheaper clothing outlets have seen a surge in these wealthier customers who are desperately trying to make their paychecks stretch further.

The reason is known to us all - collapsing economies and higher prices. Our average annual spend has rocketed by more than three thousand dollars a year. And that's not including a single luxury! Gas, water, electricity, local taxes and mortgage payments have all soared above our incomes. The statisticians report that 57 percent of us are cutting back on our spending but I think that figure is much, much higher.

I don't know a single person who is thinking of buying a car or planning a foreign holiday right now. Everyone is trading down and some are even returning to the 1970's idea of renting items such as cars and TV's. It is even becoming trendy and more than acceptable to boast about a cheap outfit and cut-price food. We are beginning to return to the post World War 2 days of self imposed rationing and 'making do'. How long this will last is really anyone's guess, but what is certain is that we can't shop our way out of this misery any more.

And there's one more casualty of this newly-found austerity -- environmental concerns, and in particular, organic food. Up until a few months ago, it was all the rage in our trendy stores. But now sales have collapsed. In these very difficult times, we're more inclined to think about saving money than saving the planet.
By Petrie Hosken