General Question

xgunther's avatar

What's up with the word "consumers"?

Asked by xgunther (446points) December 16th, 2008 from iPhone

I can understand the term consumer in an economics or business class, but wouldn’t “people” be a better word? Isn’t everyone a consumer? When I hear “consumer” in every news report these days, they make it sound as if consumers are a group of people and that there is a group of people who don’t consume at all.

“Special Report: Consumer spending is down”


“Special Report: People aren’t spending as much.”


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5 Answers

critter1982's avatar

IMO the word consumer represents people and organizations. So your title would need to say People and organizations aren’t spending as much. It’s efficient to say consumers.

richardhenry's avatar

Consumer spending being down tells us that spending is down on consumer items. It’s not talking about a group of people. Spending in professional and business transactions are intentionally not covered by the statement “consumer spending has decreased”.

dynamicduo's avatar

When I hear “consumer” in every news report these days, they make it sound as if consumers are a group of people and that there is a group of people who don’t consume at all.

Well, that’s pretty much true. There are people who choose not to engage in needless consuming of resources, buying only what they need and not buying the newest tech gadget or designer purse or what have you. So by saying “People aren’t spending as much” you would be including the people who don’t spend much regularly, which makes the statement less accurate if one is talking about retail sales figures.

I think part of it simply has to do with tradition. The word “consumer” has been used for many years to describe someone who regularly purchases non-critical-for-survival items. It makes sense to keep using the word with its connotation, even though it is true that people who wouldn’t be considered “consumers” are also tightening their spending belts. So by saying “consumer spending is down”, what they’re really saying is “the people who used to spend lots of money on various items are not spending as much as they usually do”.

wundayatta's avatar

It probably comes from the names of inflation indices. They needed to distinguish the Consumer Price Index from the Producer Price Index. A “People Price Index” is too ambiguous.

Then, since the word is on the consumption side of things, the term “consumer” gradually took over in the context of the economy, where there are producers (who sell) and consumers (who buy). This also either reflects and/or perpetuates the notion that this is a society based on constant spending.

Hey! It’s Christmas! Pull those wallets out and start spending, damn it!

Schenectandy's avatar

I don’t know. It’s accurate and specific as economic jargon, but I agree with xgunther about the extent to which it is used. There was this ‘How it’s Made’ show about frozen dinners and the manager talking about the ‘product’ as it made its way through the cooking and packaging.. when you’re at a assembly line designer’s convention, maybe it’s convenient to call it product, but for goodness sake when you’re in public call it food.

no more Stouffer’s for me after that show, btw

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