Marketeers have an amazing capacity to manipulate consumers into buying things. One very effective way is to convince them that they NEED something, without which life will be less gratifying. Sometimes the things are frivolous. Other times they seem reasonable.
Consider “hand sanitizer.” Think back a few years. Do you recall ever seeing any of this stuff? Wouldn’t it have seemed weird if someone was pumping some sort of gel onto the hands every now and then? Wouldn’t you have assumed that maybe they’re a little paraoid or OCD?
But now it is perfectly normal behavior and there are bottles of the stuff everywhere. It reminds me of the bottled water craze. Who could have imagined 20 years ago that we’d spend billions of dollars on tap water in plastic bottles?
The hand sanitizer craze is particularly silly because the stuff doesn’t work. Studies, even those sponsored by the companies that make the stuff, show it to be ineffective in preventing the transmittal of the common cold or the influenza virus. Arguably the stuff actually lowers our resistance to these bugs, by preventing the kind of low level exposures that facilitate resistance.
In any event, I suppose we should either applaud the genius of the folks who came up with this idea and persuaded American consumers to waste billions of dollars on it, or be saddened by the fact that all that money could have been spent doing good and worthwhile things.