Marketers have been selling “experiences”* for several years now, so it’s cute to read about American consumers turning to free or low-cost experiences. It’s clearly due to the recession, though perhaps popular psychology has made some inroads into mainstream culture as well:
Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. … Psychologists have been saying for years that shared experiences like vacations lead to more long-term happiness than the latest bauble.
—Damian Cave, “Americans Doing More, Buying Less, a Poll Finds,” NYTimes.com, January 2, 2010
[*Here’s an example of “experience” marketing gone bad: my head nearly exploded a few days ago, when I sat down at a P.F. Chang’s and our server demonstrated mixing a special sauce out of three condiments, including Chinese mustard. Yuck. That’s like making Thousand Island dressing out of ketchup, mayo and relish, only worse because the diners get a whiff of ethnic experience, and it’s being repeated thousands of times over in franchises around the country. It offended me, and probably would have offended my family.]