Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Steven Levitt is My New Hero

I am trained in marketing; I have my MBA from a reputable university.  I am an intelligent woman who often sees publicity, advertising and any media attention for what it is, shameless marketing.  Even the heart wrenching news stories that captivate us are really just a marketing ploy to get us to "buy" or watch the local news or click on a CNN link online.  We are bombarded with marketing and advertising all of the time, any time we leave the house, read a magazine, watch TV or go online.  We get phone calls, emails, snail mail and people knocking on our door.  You would think that I would have been able to spot it, but I didn't.  I was duped by fear along with a lot of other people.

I just finished reading SuperFreakonomics by Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner.  I also loved Freakonomics and highly recommend it; it is shocking and thought provoking.  I read them both at the speed of a romance novel.  They are well written, interesting and funny.  However, I was again shocked when they dropped the bomb on me - car seats are frivolous expensive extraneous gear that we have been programmed by the car seat manufactures to cling to in our safety induced stupor.  After the age of 2, the crash tests reveal that an adult seat belt is as good as a car seat or booster seat.  Although I realize it is illegal to not use these devices, we are actually not benefiting our children AT ALL by using car seats or boosters after children reach the age of two.  Now some people are going to simply not believe this, but I challenge you to read this book.

Not only have the manufacturers duped us and our legislators into believing we need car seats and boosters up until the ripe old age of 8 in the state I live, but they also have duped many of us into buying the top of the line.  We spend money on something that does not contribute anything to the safety of our children, actually giving a false sense of security.  We all know that parents are suckers for safety items, don't even get me started on toilet seat latches and baby knee pads.  But I must say this is a travesty.  I spent a lot of money on my son's first car seats.  His forward facing car seat that he used was at least $50 if not $100 more than a basic model.  What could I have done with that $50?  What could we all do with that $50?  Not only that, but then we all must purchase boosters, at least when I bought my first booster I no longer had the financial luxury available to buy the top of the line. 

This is tantamount to drug companies selling us drugs that we don't need or to the diet industry selling us on the next fad diet or exercise equipment.  When we would be as good or better off without a product that is being pushed on us infuriates me.  There are so many reasons to not spend money on extra stuff, when our hard earned dollars could go toward future education for our children, paying down a mortgage or giving to a charity (or heck, just buying a new pair of shoes, at least you know what you are buying).  This lesson has made me put back on my marketing pants (that I haven't worn for awhile) and be hyper aware of the salesman that is constantly trying to sell me a refrigerator in the arctic. 

There are a ton of other reasons to read these books.  Global warming, global cooling, teachers and Sumo wrestlers who cheat, reasons to not use realtors, drugs, sex and rock and roll.  I promise it is all that and a bag of chips.

Levitt has a blog that is marvelous.

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