Sunday, December 04, 2005

Linguistics; propaganda; "Dad, I need 80 bucks...."

I don't know what you think of that "Dad, I need 80 bucks.." Ameritrade commercial running on CNN and the other news channels right now; I know what I think of it. It turns my stomach.

When the teenage girl tells her Dad she needs 80 bucks for a pair of jeans that she has to have because everybody has them, Dad asks her who the designer is, runs to his laptop and orders 100 shares of the designer's stock, and turns over the 80 bucks -- which, needless to say, he has right there in his pocket.

Not even one of the dialogues below takes place [and should be what really happens].

TEEN: "Dad, I need 80 bucks."
DAD: "You don't need 80 bucks. You want 80 bucks."

TEEN: "There's these jeans....."
DAD: "And you have to have them."
TEEN: "Yes."
DAD: "You don't have to have them, you want to have them."

DAD: "Do your friends have them?"
TEEN: "Everybody has them!"
DAD: "Then shame on their parents."

DAD: "Like you don't have enough jeans."
TEEN: "So, can I have the 80 bucks?"
DAD: "Absolutely not. All the kids in this world that don't even have clean water to drink, and you want 80-dollar designer jeans? No way. Go wash your mouth out with soap."

Quoting Ozarque.

Do you ever worry that your kids will grow up spoiled? I fear it.

BTW, for a good charity (when you are looking for something to remind yourself of why you are grateful):

Donations for the Pine Ridge problem would go to the Link Center Foundation, P.O. Box 2253, Longmont, CO 80502-2253, with the check or money order marked "Elders Heating Fund."

I can't vouch for the charity personally. The information comes from a Native American source. There's a website for the Link Center at

Direct Link to the project.


BTW, I do have a teenage daughter and when I talked with my wife about this commercial it was more on the line of but gosh, that is a funny thing to see on TV.

A lot of it is relative. My current boss used to work in men's clothes. He just can't bring himself to pay retail for clothing. I've lost a fair amount of weight, but I buy my non-work clothes from Wrangler ($15.00 a pair for pants) and my dress pants from Lands End. But, I know that sometimes, if you want fit and appropriate clothing that is going to last, you can end up paying money. Might be $20.00 for a dress at Nordstrom's Rack, might be ten times that (or more). I know that things I think of as essential are someone else's luxury.

I've read Shantaram and my parents served most of one of their missions in Tanzania. But, the issue, of how not to spoil your children, is significant to me.

We used to share our chapel with a ward that had pro sports players (active and retired) in it and others at a similar income level. People that buy the $200.00 jeans and think of the $80.00 ones as the cheap ones. Some of the people were great, but some walked out on their turn to do the dishes at girls' camp. I don't want my children to be like that, especially now that we are better off than we were.

Anyway, just thinking on the topic of kids wanting things, "needing" things, and being a parent. My teenager is preternatural. It is the five-year old (almost six) who worries me, who always asks for things. I worry about raising her.


Sarah said...

That commercial makes me laugh, because I can imagine all the ways that my father and stepfather (and, for that matter, my mom and stepmom) would have reinforced that that was the easiest thing I'd ever said, if I'd said such a thing to them. I mean, I'm 25 now, but I'm pretty sure that even if I'd been a YOUNG teenager and had said that kind of thing, they'd still never let me regret it. It'd be brought up every few weeks at dinner, every time my sisters asked for anything, every time it was time to pay the rent, and every time I went shopping. Forever. They'd probably assign people to read about it at their funerals, and moreover insist that I buy all my clothes from Goodwill for the rest of my life. At my 25th anniversary they'd give me cards that said "We were going to get you a nice pair of $80 jeans, but you KNOW that's just not like us..."

Anyway, yeah, no sane parent would act like that parent, the commercial is evil, America is going down the tubes, but gosh, that is a funny thing to see on TV.

(this isn't to say that my parents are mean or ungenerous... it's just that "all my friends have it and I NEED to have it and it costs more than I've ever made in my life but that's NOT the point" is a one way ticket to lifelong mortification in both sets of parents' opinions...)

This is, by the way, neither especially uncommon nor, as far as I'm aware, a recent innovation in parenting. In my elementary school (admittedly in Los Angeles -- so we had an even mix of dirt-poor kids and the offspring of Hollywood types) it often seemed that my two best friends and their immediate friends (four girls total) were the only ones not allowed the various insane kid expenditures of the day: we weren't allowed Nintendo systems, the latest basketball player sponsored Nike shoes, Game Boys, etc., and were often made fun of ('no one will want to come to your party, there's no Nintendo;' 'geez, where'd your dad get those shoes, from someone's garbage can?') A few of the kids who had Game Boys confiscated, actually managed to get their parents to buy them replacement Game Boys (even though the toys had been confiscated by a teacher because they were playing with them during class, and they knew they'd get them back at the end of the school year.) I assume this was some kind of proxy for other kinds of parental generosity (perhaps generosity with their time?)

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the commercial yet, but just for the comment of Stephen, here is my comment:
How about both? Giving $80 for the jeans, and giving $80 for charity?
I don't think anything is wrong with giving $80 for a pair of jeans if you have the money. But I would tell my daughter I will only buy that jeans if she like's it, not if she want's it because everybody else have it. I would teach her the principals of the gospel:
"Neither shalt thou adesire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou bcovet• thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s."
Money is not infinite, so why not give to our children time to time that they want if they deserve it, and why not give regurarly tithing /10% of your gross income/ to your chuch or to your community or where ever you desire to help.
We all should pay tithing no metter what level of income we have, but if we can't afford the $80 jeans our kids would know that already before they ask for it.

Anonymous said...


I assume you don't have a teen age daugher.

If you have one in the future, my humble suggestion is that you just give her an annual or monthly budget for clothes and write her a check for that amount (warning: it will be more than you think, but your wife can explain that to you).

Then let her spend it how she likes. If she wants to spend a big chunk on a pair of $80 jeans and do without or scrimp on other things, so be it.

She will learn how to make her own choices and you will avoid both the dialogue in commercial and your alternative (which, I'm afraid, she will find less pursuasive than you do).

Stephen said...

Hey, I can finally reach my blog again -- it was down for hours (so the only way I could respond to posts was to edit the existing post -- Blogger would let me do that even if it wouldn't let me access my page).

Unknown said...

This story reminds me of an experience I had at Sears. First off, I was trying to find a parking spot and this big Cadillac SUV just about ran me off the road. I grumbled about that for a few seconds and found a spot. I ended up following the guy into the store and he and his son went directly to the shoe department. He then declared to the worker in the shoe department "Get this boy some Nikes, he's not happy unless he has Nikes."

I was sickened by the whole scene and walked away. It is amazing to me how material people can be. I see less fault here in the boy than the father. Here was a father actually teaching his son to be materialistic!

I don't care how much money I amass over the years, I will not pay an ungodly amount of money for clothing (or anything else I might add), and I will not do the same for my kids. I hope that by the time my children get to the age where they want to pick out their own clothes, they will not be materialistic either. That is if I do my job right.

My mother used to work in a sewing factory. One time they were contracted to make T-Shirts. They made two kinds of the same shirt. One had a pocket, and the other did not. Only difference between the two was the pocket. Included on the pocket was a Nike swoosh. The retail value of the Nike shirt was about $15 dollars MORE than the other shirt, which was the same exact quality.

People who buy name brand just for name brands sake are foolish in my opinion. Sometimes you will find better quality. One thing I have noticed though is that, regardless of quality, the peice of clothing will not be worn long enough to wear it out anyway, being tossed in favor of the next faddish peice of clothing that comes along.

In many cases, the quality issue is only a straw hat.

In my opinion.

Anonymous said...

There is something profound in the purpose of our laws when seen in this
context. Even the criminal laws are there to unify us in obedience to
those laws and, in the event of a breach of the criminal law, to
reconcile the offender with the rest of society, to reconcile that
offender through enforcement of the law.

Scripture recognizes that this is the purpose of the civil law. By
"civil law," I mean the secular law. Doctrine and Covenants 134:6 says
of our laws:

We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and
magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and
the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men show respect
and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by
anarchy and terror; human laws being instituted for the express purpose
of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and
man; and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual
concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker
(emphasis added).

What is meant here? Harmonize? Bring peace between human beings? The
purpose of the law, according to scripture, is to unify us.

Ralph R. Mabey, "Just Lawyers", Life in the Law, p. 188

Anonymous said...

Sad thing is, too many females are insecure followers. This commercial screams that. Someone else has it so you want it. What a joke, next thing she will be hanging out at starbucks and driving a volkswagen...pathetic.