What’s wrong with consumerism and materialism? Lots

Earlier this year, I started volunteering at my local library for a couple of hours a week. I'm a big fan of libraries, and I wanted to find a way to give back. And for some odd reason, I felt compelled to do something good. I couldn't really pinpoint why, so I chalked it up to getting older.

At the library, one of my duties is to make sure one of the weekly programs doesn't go over capacity. Most buildings have occupancy regulations, and the library is no different. I politely tell people, “Sorry, we're full for this program. But we have another one starting soon.”

You'd think people would be understanding, and for the most part, they are. But each week, at least one person throws a fit, says awful things, and then proceeds to tell me they'll report me, a volunteer, for suggesting they wait 15 minutes for the next program.

I'm not going to lie. It feels good to publicly vent about this. But more than just annoying me, their behavior has me thinking a lot about entitlement lately. While my entitlement doesn't manifest itself in temper tantrums, I'm still guilty of it. I get wildly impatient over stupid, first-world problems — waiting in line more than five minutes for my groceries, for example. Having to take off my shoes for airport security.

Entitlement annoys the hell out of me. It makes people rude, unpleasant and unhappy. Take anyone off the street and ask them, “Hey, what do you think of entitlement?” and they'll tell you, “It's terrible. I hate it.”

Yet everywhere I go, I see people yelling at cashiers, barking orders to wait staff and leaning on their car horns for silly, unjustifiable reasons. If everyone hates entitlement, why is everyone so entitled?

Our Environment and Background

Sharing his own thoughts on entitlement, J.D. Roth, the founder of Get Rich Slowly, speculated that where you grow up has a lot to do with it.

“If you've never been hungry, never wondered where you would sleep, never had to go without shoes, then your sense of what is by rights your due may be askew.

“If every winter your family went on vacation to a warmer clime, if every summer you went to camp, if each fall you started the new school year with a fresh wardrobe and all the school supplies you could imagine, why would you think you were entitled to any less as an adult? Even if you haven't got the income to support it, you have no idea why you can't have everything you want when you want it. And if you've been handed a pile of credit, no doubt you'll satisfy your sense of entitlement, damn the long-term costs.”

To put it bluntly, this has to do with being spoiled — growing up with luxuries you don't even realize are luxuries. And, yeah, I'm spoiled. I never had a fresh wardrobe or went to camp. But I did grow up with plenty of food, lots of modern conveniences and few worries.

On the other hand, I can't imagine my mother ever throwing a huff about having to wait 15 minutes for a free program or even standing in line for her groceries. In fact, she doesn't complain about much. When your childhood memories consist of hunger pangs, you tend to be a little more grateful for an abundance of food and shelter later in life.

Our Consumer Culture

But it's our consumer culture, I think, that makes us more entitled than anything. We want Stuff. We convince ourselves we need Stuff. And we work hard, so we must deserve it. But there's a difference between feeling you deserve something and feeling you're owed something. The problem is that the line is really, really fine.

Sue L.T. McGregor, an economist, researcher and Full Professor in the Faculty of Education at Mount Saint Vincent University, discussed this topic in a paper titled, “Consumer Entitlement, Narcissism, and Immoral Consumption.” In the paper, McGregor points out how easy it is for consumerism to take over our behavior.

Entitlement makes us rude. All of you can probably think of a negative experience you've had in dealing with someone's entitled rudeness. MGregor writes:

“Remember that, in a consumer society, people have very high expectations for personal gratification.”

Well, what's wrong with that, right? Except that:

“People feel that they are entitled to have all their expectations met. Life should be easy…. Not surprisingly then, a sense of entitlement can lead to destructive, as well as aggressive, consumption behaviors. An entitlement mentality holds that the world is theirs for the taking, regardless of possible harm to others.”

And this isn't such a big deal when the patron who wants to get into the library program yells at me. But this mindset can be a little more destructive when you consider that most of us consume despite the moral conflicts. We read about a company doing something terribly corrupt, and we're briefly appalled. Hell, we might even tweet about it with a convenient little hashtag. But then, we go right back to being consumers — or, worse than that, we turn a blind eye to it altogether and chalk it up to capitalism. Not to sound too judgmental — in my life, I've done both.

We become so engrossed in what we're owed, we become disconnected with where our goods and services come from. As McGregor explains, our “consumption decisions are adversely affecting the next generation, those not yet born, those living elsewhere, and the environment.”

I do think this is changing a little. Consumers are starting to become more interested in shopping responsibly. Whether or not we're acting on it is an entirely different question, but we're at least interested in it, and some companies are beginning to take notice.

The Other Extreme

It's hard to talk about entitlement and consumerism without sounding like you're on a high horse. So let's look at both sides of the coin. There's another side to this argument.

For example, my mom is probably the least entitled person I know. That is one of her best qualities. She once told me a story about how, when she was a child, she worked for a candy company, packaging the candy. She didn't describe it as sweatshop labor, but considering what she was paid for what she did, that's pretty much what it was.

“That's awful,” I said, appalled.

“No!” she barked. “You kidding? We were starving. I was lucky to have that job!”

It makes me sad to think that, as a child growing up in severely impoverished conditions, my mom saw sweatshop work as being lucky. And even to this day, I feel like she doesn't truly understand her value. She shortchanges herself a lot. My aunt is the same way. You tell these women how amazing they are; they scoff and say, “What amazing? I'm lucky to be alive!”

Which is kind of endearing and inspiring, but it can also work against you when it comes to things like asking for a raise. So we go from one extreme, entitlement, to the other, a lack of self-worth.

Consumerism Isn't All Bad, Right?

And I'll take another step down from my anti-entitlement high horse.

We've had a few readers speak up in the comments about consumerism. What's so bad about earning money, finding financial independence, and then spending that money on things you enjoy, they ask. Even if it's a car or a boat or a fancy suit?

Nothing. Not everyone agrees 100 percent with this, but I buy the argument that, at its core, there's nothing wrong with consumerism. The problem is, most people don't do it in a responsible way. For most people, it leads to negative things — not just the emotional issue of entitlement, but practical problems, too — like lifestyle inflation and debt. Maybe the problem is less about consumption and more about overconsumption. There's nothing wrong with buying stuff; but when your whole life becomes Stuff, that's when things seem to get a little nuts.

A Solution

In her paper, McGregor talks about narcissism and consumerism. That's the lack of connection she mentions — when we're so engrossed in ourselves and our consumption that we don't consider others.

We don't consider that the waitress might be going through a devastating time in her life, making her vulnerable to simple mistakes, like forgetting your side of beans. We just yell at her, make her feel stupid, and take it out of her tip.

Maybe she's not going through a tough time. But narcissists don't consider it either way. All they see is their lack of beans. A lot of people are guilty of this. You see it every day.

But there's another side to narcissism McGregor brings up when she talks about the solution to entitlement.

“If people crave attention by being a consumer, change the focus of their attention to being a global citizen first and a consumer second. Then, create a situation where they crave that sort of attention. If they need to focus on rights and entitlements to gain power, shift their attention to being morally powerful…”

With this solution, narcissists still get their egos fed. They still get their “narcissistic supply,” as McGregor calls it. Only they're contributing to something positive now and not being jerks to everyone around them. It seems like a big shift; but as she points out, “narcissists will transform themselves into anything to get and keep attention.”

She suggests narcissists make this shift by focusing on conscious spending. Volunteering at a library will probably also work. (Ahem.)

Am I calling myself a narcissistic consumer? Kind of, yeah. Just one who has shifted her focus.

Really, I'm not much different from the people who come in, yell at me, and expect to have things their way. They're demanding something they feel entitled to. But I've realized that, so am I. As much as I really do love the library and really do want to give back, there is a slightly more selfish motive: I want to feel good about what I'm doing.

It's not an attractive thing to admit, but there's a part of me that wants to pat myself on the back and feed my ego a bit. There's a part of me, semi-deep down, that volunteers because I want to be appreciated and respected and important. I feel I deserve those feelings.

Ugly, right? Like the entitled consumer who craves control and power, I, too, have a “narcissistic supply.” I'm not immune to entitlement and ego.

But I have to say, there is an important difference: My entitlement happens to be a little more productive.

More about...Psychology

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Chris Eaker
Chris Eaker
6 years ago

So true. Because they’ve gotten everything they wanted all through life, they have never had to be disappointed for an unfulfilled desire. They do not have the skills to deal with disappointment. That is the reason they throw a fit.

Mary
Mary
6 years ago
Reply to  Chris Eaker

Yes, and this is a huge problem when you are a paid employee and are trying to say “no” to a client/customer/patient for some reason. Perhaps what they are asking for is against the rules, or simply can’t be done on their schedule.

They get furious, report you to your supervisor, then the supervisor gives in to them, and so their entitlement is enforced.

When you try to treat all equally in the corporate world, you are under minded at every turn by people pleasers who don’t want to deal with the angry customer.

Jacob G.
Jacob G.
6 years ago
Reply to  Mary

This is part of why I enjoy working for a state university. In many years in retail customer service before and when I was going through college, I would often encounter situations like you describe where I would say no, but then it would get escalated to a supervisor who would say yes in the name of customer service since we still wanted their money. However, here at the university, we often say no due to our university policies and even governmental laws, and for the most part it doesn’t matter how they escalate it, the answer is still going… Read more »

M
M
6 years ago

Kristin, Your insights always amaze me. Well done! It appears that I have some entitlement issues with health care. On the odd occasion when I visit my GP I find the long office wait-times really frustrating. And when I finally get my 10-minutes with the doc, my blood pressure is high. An internal temper tantrum? Time to work on this… I get what your aunt is saying. I had some challenging experiences in my childhood, and when someone points out my personal limitations stemming from that time, I look at them with surprise, and proclaim, “But I survived!”. Sometimes a… Read more »

Rob
Rob
6 years ago

Good insights and I think you are right for the most part. However many people who grow up well off aren’t spoiled. I think he comes down to how we are raised. In fact, I think most wealthy people are more considerate than the average person. That is part of why they have gotten wealthy, by treating people well. In my general observation I find the majority of rude and impatient people to be below middle class. We live in a country where a certain portion of the population gets free education, free food, free medical care, free cell phone… Read more »

Linda B
Linda B
6 years ago
Reply to  Rob

Rob, I think it’s a little silly that you would feel that many people who may, say, get food stamps or a certain amount of medical care are entitled and rude (I had family members who were hardworking and humble, and even hated accepting EBT, but did so briefly until they were able to stand on their own two feet again). I worked in a very wealthy area for many years and it was full of the most rude, entitled, “I’ll get you fired for answering the phone that way” crowd. But heck, for all I know, there are poorer… Read more »

Suzanne
Suzanne
6 years ago
Reply to  Rob

You raise a couple of important issues. First, some people are just complainers, completely apart from their background, their income, their experiences, or the circumstances in which they were raised. That’s just how they are. Even within poor families, there’s often one child, one aunt, one cousin who feels entitled and ‘special,’ who feels slighted if treated equally and believes s/he deserves better. Second, it’s absolutely not been my experience that lower-income people as a group feel more entitled than wealthy people. If anything, people with means are far more likely not just to complain but to pursue redress of… Read more »

imelda
imelda
6 years ago
Reply to  Suzanne

This is not just your opinion, there are numerous studies demonstrating this.

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  Suzanne

This is one of the reasons I avoid eating out if I possibly can. I have allergies/intolerances and people view me as fussy or having a sense of entitlement for requesting things like no butter. I’m not on a restricted diet for my own amusement — I’m trying to avoid getting physically ill.

I can’t help how other people judge me — it says more about them than it does about me, after all — but I also if what we think is a sense of entitlement is really a situation we don’t understand.

Suzanne
Suzanne
6 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I can’t recall if I apologized for this overgeneralization, but if not, I am doing so now, and if I did, a second apology can’t hurt. You are right that many times special requests appear to be demanding, when they are simply an attempt to accommodate. And in general, I support people being assertive enough to ask to accommodate a variety of circumstances, particularly when those involve physical or mental health. As someone above (or now below) mentioned, there’s a difference between expecting something to which you entitled by payment or law or courtesy or general human rights, and a… Read more »

Tina
Tina
6 years ago
Reply to  Suzanne

I totally agree with you. In fact a study was issued that I read regarding charitable donations and the middle to lower class donate more of their incomes than wealthier people. When asked, most of the middle to lower income people donated was because they were wanted to give now in case they might need in the future. I work in an area of town where almost everyone drives a BMW, Lexus, luxury sports cars and drive different cars every week. And it is only when I get back to the town I live in, do I see the friendly… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
6 years ago
Reply to  Rob

“In my general observation I find the majority of rude and impatient people to be below middle class.”

I recommend the book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much. I’ve actually reviewed it here, but the book is obviously way more insightful and digs into this topic.

William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
6 years ago

Great article! You mention your mom working in sweat shop conditions, and you talk about her “value.” That raises a question: what is a person’s value? I grew up in an orphanage in a poor part of the world, where there are no jobs of any kind to be had, no matter how gifted the person. What is someone like that’s value? I believe the most entitled people are those who have not seen the rest of the world. Someone who hasn’t lived the conditions of 70% of the world’s population can’t understand immigrants’ admiration for this awesome country, and… Read more »

Emma
Emma
6 years ago

Or seen enough of their own community. Our family never had the money to travel abroad, but we volunteered and found ways to give back to the less fortunate in our own communities. It’s a humbling experience.

Besides, travel can be an incredibly consumptive behaviour — especially when the majority of travellers don’t experience a country like people who live there.

Jen From Boston
Jen From Boston
6 years ago

A friend of mine once hosted someone who was visiting from the USSR (when it was still Communist). She took her guest to a 7-11, and her guest started crying. She just couldn’t believe how much stuff was in a 7-11.

My friend was scared to take her guest to a grocery store – it would have been too much for her.

Sometimes I think of that and try to wrap my head around what it would be liked to be overwhelmed by the amount of goods in a 7-11.

jim
jim
6 years ago

Jen,
When the USSR was “still” communist? OMG! Our son studied abroad in Krasnodar – s/w russia – so close to territories totally over run by guerrilla terrorists. WTH we were thinking when we allowed him to do so escapes me. He said that when they went to the “grocery store” even little, old ladies would take you out if you reached for something they wanted. And that was the easy part. Riding the bus to get there was like taking your life in your hands. Count your blessings!

Barb@lvingrichlyinretirement
6 years ago

I always think of the movie “Heaven and Earth” with Tommy Lee Jones when he brings his Vietnamese wife to America and takes her to the grocery store for the first time…………

imelda
imelda
6 years ago

Oh, thanks – I never forgot that scene, but could never remember what movie it was from!!!

Cookster
Cookster
6 years ago

Talk about a narcissist! I was in Home Depot yesterday looking for an area rug. It was a large amount of money for me to spend at around $150 budgeted. When I needed a price check, I went looking for a staff person. I found 5 of them, but unfortunately they were gathered around a man who was loudly proclaiming that he spent over $250,000 at this facility so far this year and had all of them listening to him. There were several people waiting for service while he was proclaiming. Well, you know how hard it is to find… Read more »

M
M
6 years ago
Reply to  Cookster

So I guess the pushy phrase, “Do you know who I am” works in HD, too? 🙂

Brandy
Brandy
6 years ago
Reply to  Cookster

I was just in Lowes a couple of weekends back, ordering 2 doors. I saw the clerk helping the person in front of me, so I wandered the area waiting as did another woman, waiting. She then interjected herself saying she had waited an hour (wandering off takes away from that and also she didn’t) and didn’t get any farther along and then she rose hell at the checkout (we watched her through out the store, she kept showing up in our area) and left without purchasing because she wasn’t being coddled. So basically she wasted her time. Crazy.

Brian @ Debt Discipline
Brian @ Debt Discipline
6 years ago

When did the phrase “the customer is always right” start? Seems like a shift in mindset. My wife works in retail and often shares stories of customers going crazy over the littlest things.We try and take the approach that not to get upset with things outside of our control. If the line is long I can either wait or come back at another time. Getting upset over the length of the line will not make the line more any faster.

Midwest Jane
Midwest Jane
6 years ago

Good article. It reminded me of an NPR piece I heard yesterday on cheap electronics. We somehow feel entitled to them, but there’s a human cost on the other side of the world to our constant new supply of gadgets. It’s not just low wages and harsh conditions but paralysis and early death for young workers exposed to toxic chemicals.

http://www.thetakeaway.org/story/produce-apple-products-chinese-factor-workers-pay-steep-price/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ns-kJ5Podjw

Aldo@MDN
6 years ago

We all have that sense of entitlement, but some have it worse than others. I get annoyed at some things like waiting at restaurants, but maybe it’s because I’m hungry and cranky at that point. But I really don’t understand how people complain when they go on vacation and have to go through airport security or complain that their free Wi-Fi is too slow and they can’t check Facebook while on vacation.

imelda
imelda
6 years ago

Really, you can’t imagine why people complain about being treated as criminals at airports? Why having their civil liberties violated without cause is objectionable?

I guess you accept that the safety trade-off is worth it. Many of us do not accept that it is either effective or lawful.

Kimberly
Kimberly
6 years ago

Kristin, I always look forward to your articles. They are insightful and interesting. Thank you!

Ceara
Ceara
6 years ago

I just wanted to say I appreciate your comments about the ‘ugly’ little truth of “doing good to feel good” and to say that you shouldn’t feel like that diminishes the value of your contribution. I do agree with your points about narcisismn and consumerism, but whatever your motives (and they don’t get mich purer or more powerful than feeling good about yourself) the net result is a positive for society and so it is to be commended. That being said, I think everything everyone does is driven by some degree of self interest and that the desire to feel… Read more »

AMW
AMW
6 years ago

Very insightful. Having done some research on Entitlement and Parenthood, it can be redirected early on in a persons’s life. However, when it comes to consumerism, I am interested to see what trajectory the entitlement mentality will take (as most of what we brand “entitlement” started with the baby boomers). If the entitled raise more entitled, who will take care of the older entitled? Afterall, if you are a narcissist this is inconvenient to you and could use the resources you were planning on for your own consumerism. And the older narcissists who used all their resources for the living… Read more »

DreamChaser57
DreamChaser57
6 years ago

Ummm….I really don’t mean to gush — but Kristin should be paid DOUBLE whatever you are paying her, her articles bring so much value to GRS. I am truly humbled by the revelations in this article because I can readily recall how I have been that narcissistic consumer, especially in years past. I try to be more conscious of my behavior now because human beings have intrinsic value and worth beyond a specific transaction or encounter. I try to warmly greet those in the service profession, acknowledge their efforts — tip generously when and where warranted. I would argue that… Read more »

Erin
Erin
6 years ago
Reply to  DreamChaser57

I cannot agree enough about Kristin. Her articles are always interesting and spot-on.

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago
Reply to  DreamChaser57

Ditto!

TurnedMyLifeAround
TurnedMyLifeAround
6 years ago

This is a great article and hits close to home. I attended a seminar last evening featuring a speaker from a group of about 80 doctors that go to the Philippines every other year to provide free care. They set up camp near near Tacloban, a city of about 250,000 which was hit hard by typhoon Haiyan last year. The speaker said that hundreds of people stood in line every day hoping to receive care and minor surgeries. He said that many had to be turned away because the complexity of the treatment was more than what they could provide… Read more »

Vanessa
Vanessa
6 years ago

The U.S. is an expensive country to live in, even if you are frugal. Time is money, and a 10-hour wait for the doctor means an entire workday wasted. We don’t have time to be patient.

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  Vanessa

And people in developing countries are more able to afford lost work hours?

Vanessa
Vanessa
6 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I can’t speak for them. But that’s not really my point. We are a nation that is always waiting: for doctors, the hairdresser, the mechanic, at the grocery store, the post office and on and on, not to mention the time spent in traffic. It all adds up.

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago
Reply to  Vanessa

We are a nation that HAS doctors, hairdressers, mechanics, grocery stores, post offices, not to mention enough cars to even have traffic.

There, fixed it for you.

Vanessa
Vanessa
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

To quote Tupac:

I was given this world, I didn’t make it.

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

I admit, last time I went to the doctor I had to wait over a week to get an appointment, drive all the way across town and then wait nearly an hour in the office. I was frustrated. After I had my issues addressed, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I live in a country where I have access to decent health care and there was no risk to either my safety or my job to get it. Maybe my ability to change the world I live in is limited, but my ability to change my attitude… Read more »

Jen From Boston
Jen From Boston
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

I imaigne the waiting time for a doctor’s appointment varies by region in the US. Not surprisingly, in the Boston area we have a lot of doctors, and my doctor’s practice started an urgent care program a few years ago. If something comes that isn’t an emergency but can’t wait a week, they get you in the see a PCP in the practice, who may or may not be your own doctor. However, overall, this country has a shortage of PCPs, and I think it’s just going to get worse as more med students decide to go into specialties and… Read more »

Vanessa
Vanessa
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

Complaining and gratitude aren’t mutually exclusive. They really aren’t. I hate my job (HATE IT!), but I’m definitely grateful for the income. Expressing an annoyance doesn’t mean you’re ignorant to the way the rest of the world lives, and it doesn’t mean you’re oblivious to your own advantages.

Daria
Daria
6 years ago

When I go to the doctor and I have to wait an hour to get in and see him even though I have a specific appointment time and my waiting that long has now caused the rest of my day to be off schedule, I get upset. I am paying for the doctor visit. I do feel entitled that the doctor should be more respectful of my time. Would I be more patient if I was offered free care and the implied contract for that free care was that I would have to stand in line for up to 10… Read more »

Dennis Frailey
Dennis Frailey
6 years ago
Reply to  Daria

How would you feel if the doctor was in the midst of your examination, discovered something requiring more time to address, and told you you would have to come back next week because the next patient’s appointment time was about here and he didn’t have time to treat you now. You might feel entitled to immediate treatment, especially if it was something that couldn’t wait a week. That happened to me once. The doctor worked in a clinic where they had strict rules about this. They were proud of the record of seeing patients on time, but most patients hated… Read more »

Dennis Frailey
Dennis Frailey
6 years ago

I’m unhappy about misuse of the term “entitlement”. If I buy a house I get a title to that house and am entitled to live in the house. I have a perfectly legitimate sense of entitlement. If I earn a law degree and pass the bar exam, I am entitled to claim I am a lawyer. There many other examples of legitimate and, indeed, often honorable forms of entitlement. The problem, of course, is when people have unjustified senses of entitlement – “I’m entitled to have electricity in my house” even if I haven’t paid the electric bill; “I’m entitled… Read more »

Midwest Jane
Midwest Jane
6 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Frailey

Wouldn’t your logic about social security hold for welfare as well? If you pay taxes, aren’t you entitled to welfare if you qualify? I’m not understanding the difference.

Dennis Frailey
Dennis Frailey
6 years ago
Reply to  Midwest Jane

As I see it, my logic about social security would not apply to welfare. Social security is set up as an implied contract – you contribute to the program all your working life and you are given periodic reports indicating that you will be due certain payments upon retirement. Your contributions are specifically designated to go into the social security system and your benefits are paid out of that system. I.e., the benefits are paid for out of the contributions of participants. Congress may step in now and then to revise the contract (in most cases by making it more… Read more »

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
6 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Frailey

To me, the irony in this post is staggering. Entitlement has nothing to do with legitimacy.

Dennis Frailey
Dennis Frailey
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

Entitlement has everything to do with legitimacy, when the word is used in its original meaning. According to the dictionary, to entitle is “to give (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something”. When the word is correctly used, an entitlement is a means of conveying a legitimate claim. For example, the title to one’s house or, in the case of an heir to a throne, a claim to the throne upon the death of the current occupant. The problem is that too many have assumed they are entitled to things that they have no legitimate claim… Read more »

Beth2
Beth2
6 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Frailey

I agree. The increasing lack of civility has many causes. Courtesy and respect are fundamental skills that many, many people lack in their dealings with others’ ideas, rights, etc. I’m not sure I care to explore any reasons these buffoons may use to self-delude or justify their me-first behaviours.

Beard Better
Beard Better
6 years ago

I think it’s great that you recognize that there are really two issues at play here. First there is the issue of selfishness, which is perfectly encapsulated by your interactions with angry library patrons (by the way, what kind of program is it that people are so desperate to get into that they can’t wait 15 minutes?). Whether it’s out of some gross overestimation of the value of their time or a complete disregard for the safety of others in case of a fire, freaking out on someone is all about me me me. “I will not have my time… Read more »

Katherine
Katherine
6 years ago

Yes, I believe we as citizens of this country expect the immediate gratification we feel due to us. I am not sure where it starts. As a child I grew up at the poverty level and never had much materially but I sometimes find myself doing some of the things described in this article. I have often said that the poor people in this country are rich compared to poor people in other countries but do not understand that because they have no experience outside of their own lives. I do however, disagree that I am a narcissist because I… Read more »

mysticaltyger
mysticaltyger
6 years ago

Overall a great post!

I will say, I disagree with the example of having to take off our shoes at the airport, though. The taking off of shoes and the body scanning at airports is an outright violation of our rights and we not only have the right to grumble about it, but actually have a civic and moral duty to stand up for our civil rights. We haven’t been doing it (myself included).

Dennis Frailey
Dennis Frailey
6 years ago
Reply to  mysticaltyger

Exactly what rights are being violated by the requirement to take shoes off at the airport? We have no “right” to travel by air and I for one am very happy that we have a security mechanism in place for air travel.

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
6 years ago
Reply to  mysticaltyger

There is no such thing as a violation of constitutional rights because you don’t want to go through a security check-point when you are trying to board a commercial aircraft owned by a corporation. If you are trying to refer to the Fourth Amendment, it protects its citizens from the GOVERNMENT conducting “UNreasonable” searches and seizures.

DreamChaser57
DreamChaser57
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

Just to add a small bit to your eloquence. Reasonable is also a contextual and fluid term. PRE September 11th – no one could fathom that day’s horrific and catastrophic events. Now, we live in a very different world, I am sure the families, friends, and communities of those who tragically lost someone that day – would gladly suffer the ‘inconvenience’ of simply removing their shoes. What was deemed ‘unresonable’ and intrusive is now necessary.

imelda
imelda
6 years ago
Reply to  phoenix1920

Private airlines are not carrying out the excessive searches at airports, nor are they mandating it. Security at airports is carried out by the Transportation Security Administration, which is a GOVERNMENT AGENCY.

Our rights ARE being violated; you are just agreeing to it.

Kate
Kate
6 years ago

So, is there a cure that anyone knows of? My husband is like this. I love him dearly, don’t get me wrong, but I see these factors at play every day In our house. He did have every luxury growing up: a big house in the city, expensive private school, tutoring, summer camp, live-in full-time help, new clothes whenever he needed (or even wanted them) them, etc etc etc. As an adult, he really really struggles with the idea that he is highly unlikely to have the same standard of living that he grow up with. If it takes credit… Read more »

CIWOOD
CIWOOD
6 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Unfortunately, the cure is losing what you have so you can value the small things in life.

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
6 years ago

Great article!! A number of articles have also discussed similar research and studies that wealth increases entitlement and decreases compassion and empathy–which are right along with you. The article in “Scientific American” (How Wealth Reduces Compassion) is interesting, and there was a similar recent article in Psychology Today about Wealth and entitlement. However, I did want to mention that horn honking isn’t necessarily the same thing as yelling at a cashier. Horn honking is a cultural thing–Mexico and Italy and India have completely different concepts of horn honking. But even in the US, there is not really any other way… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago

I used to turn my nose up at people who I felt were entitled – I guess it was my own since of entitlement and ego driving that feeling. I felt entitled to judge someone whom I felt was not as “enlightened” as I was. Over the years I’ve learned to look beyond the behaviors I see around me. Having to wait 30 minutes for a doctor’s appointment could very well cost someone (the patient) their job. When my husband had to take a bridge job in a call center, he was almost fired for taking 1 scheduled day a… Read more »

Caroline L
Caroline L
6 years ago

Great piece. Thank you, Kristin.

SAHMama
SAHMama
6 years ago

Entitlement is like being stuck in the toddler phase of life.

Carol
Carol
6 years ago

Good article! This reminds me of something I read about why we feel good when we let a car go in front of us, but when the driver in FRONT of us lets someone in, we feel frustrated, because now we have to wait longer but we didn’t get the ego gratification of doing something nice.

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago
Reply to  Carol

I must be a SUPER egoist then because I’m always happy to see someone I let in, pass the favor along. I always convince myself that my good deed caused them to do it when they may not have otherwise; like “yeah, I did that. you’re welcome x 2.”

Bob J
Bob J
6 years ago

And further more.. I am a little upset that I have to wait to November to get my Iphone 6 Plus!

Jen From Boston
Jen From Boston
6 years ago

Really great article, and I’m glad that you explored the flip side – not thinking you’re worth it to ask for what you should ask. I think a big chunk of the average American’s entitlement, small and large, is that we have so much in this country that we have been able to take for granted. Running water, paved roads, smooth changes of power in our government, stores that are fully stocked. I was one of the poor kids at an expensive prep school. So while I was privileged to be a student there, I still felt like an outsider… Read more »

Prudence Debtfree
Prudence Debtfree
6 years ago

I think that the school system for which I work did a lot to contribute to a sense of entitlement among young people. For the last ten years or so, there have been policies in place such as: – Students may submit assignments late without penalty. – Students have the opportunity to rewrite tests that they fail. It led to an incredibly lax attitude on the part of students for whom deadlines weren’t firm and failures weren’t final. It took the power away from teachers who generally granted these mercies when the situation warranted it anyway. When extending the deadline… Read more »

Beth
Beth
6 years ago

Another thought-provoking post, Kristin! I think the point about people not feeling they are worth it is really interesting. It’s a pet peeve of mine when people label this or that group (like millennials) as “entitled” when there is so much variation. Sure, I’ve seen my fair share of students who expect high marks for little work, but I’ve also seen the ones who struggle with self esteem issues. I’ve seen people say they’re “grateful to have a job” and ignore the fact that they’re being exploited by an employer. I think there needs to be balance between being humble… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago

Another intriguing topic! And one I can personally relate to…though I hate to admit it also. I especially latched on to the part that acknowledged that even volunteering can serve as a purpose to feed one’s ego. It made me dust off my brain to remember learning about “psychological egoism” in my philosophy class, which is the idea that people are only motivated by things that benefit us directly; even the act of giving is prompted by the desire to “feel” good about doing good. I guess there is no escape. Mother Theresa was one greedy lady by that account…hogging… Read more »

Midwest Jane
Midwest Jane
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

I see your point about Facebook, but what’s the alternative? People only get to say happy, positive things? That has its downsides too, as it creates a false view of our lives. It can feed depression in the undiscerning (esp. youth) who think that everyone’s lives except theirs are perfect. When I read your comment I thought, “Hmm, I wonder what people think of me?” For instance, I just complained to my Facebook friends of the female persuasion that most t-shirt fabrics in stores these days is very thin. Was that entitled? Should I wear see-through clothing with a smile?… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
6 years ago
Reply to  Midwest Jane

If we were Facebook friends my annoyance level would depend on what percentage of your comments were similar complaints, and the tone of the complaint…was it an inclusive sort of “don’t you all just hate it when…” comment, or was it truly a “woe is me, I can’t catch a break, everything bad happens to mememememe”. People tend to project a caricature of themselves and their lives on social media. Complaining is only one example of egotism and I chose it because quite frankly it is more annoying to me than someone who has carefully curated their online image…though I… Read more »

Midwest Jane
Midwest Jane
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

You and I definitely seem to agree on what’s appropriate and not appropriate on Facebook. The “woe is me” comments (which usually end up morphing into long rants) are the worst. Basically, the same rules that apply in real life apply on Facebook. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer at the dinner table, and they also don’t like one online. The complainer might get some sympathetic comments, but I can only imagine what most of their online friends are thinking. Like you said, including people into your complaint (“Is it just me…” “Don’t you hate it when….”) is certainly the way… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

That’s why I always make it a point to keep all illness related posts to specific Facebook pages and groups (Lyme disease, MS). I never, ever post about a symptom, medication or illness on my timeline specifically for the reasons mentioned above. At least on the groups I have other people that understand what’s going on.

Big-D
Big-D
6 years ago

I read this and wondered about generalizing so much, that this would become muddled in minutia and fraught with generalization. As humans, we are all raised differently, with different background, income levels, and experiences. We as humans exert a personality based on our vast amount of experiences in our life. When the person yells at the waitress for not getting their beans, their entire experience has taught them that this is the right behavior. Consumerism and Narcissism play a part into it, but this is how people have been treated, and how they are expected to react. Again this makes… Read more »

April
April
6 years ago
Reply to  Big-D

I’m glad the manager stood up for his employee. And while I don’t think the manager should have done anything differently I do wonder about her children. Since they started crying, I assume they were young. And since the woman had no problems treating a stranger rudely with witnesses around I wonder how she treats those kids in the privacy of her home.

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  April

After reading that, I assumed the children were crying because their mother was ‘acting the fool’. I wasn’t there so I can’t say for sure though.

Big-D
Big-D
6 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Probably because the big bad manager took away their food and they were hungry. The teen aged girl was embarrassed, and the tenish year old boy was a little shocked. The other two were like 2 and 4.

Meghan
Meghan
6 years ago

The post and all the comments were the best I’ve read in a long time! Thanks!

Zambian Lady
Zambian Lady
6 years ago

I will look at entitlement from the angle of some people who receive aid/sponsorship for sending their children to school. I am referring to recipients in my old neighbourhod. The main rule is that the sponsored children attend school everyday except for serious reasons. Unfortunately, some parents only allow their children go to school a few days before they receive their packages. Well, the parents almost riot if their children’s sponsorship is suspended. They also make a lot of noise for school board. To me this is entitlement. We did not have sponsorship when I was growing up and for… Read more »

imelda
imelda
6 years ago
Reply to  Zambian Lady

“I survived going for long periods with only one small in the evenings, so their children can manage it too!”

One does not equal the other. Maybe you should get to know some of the families; it’s possible you would discover that your story is not their story.

PawPrint
PawPrint
6 years ago

Right now I’m feeling a big sense of entitlement because my mail order pharmacy sent my (paid for) order to the wrong address. Instead of offering to ship me another Rx at no charge, they said I have to wait 10 days, then they’ll ship it. Frankly, I think I’m entitled to receive my needed Rx now (I don’t have 10 days left, which is why I ordered it over 2 weeks ago) rather than wait. So I’m escalating the issue to a supervisor. I’m trying to be polite, but firm.

Maggie B.
Maggie B.
6 years ago

I think using “entitlement” as a negative term is a mis-use that needs to be corrected because if you ARE entitled to something (i.e. Social Security) you are, in fact, entitled to it. A mis-placed “sense of entitlement”, meaning an ATTITUDE that the world OWES you all sorts of things, most especially instant gratification, is a the original usage that has been shortened to “entitlement”, completely changing and negating the actual meaning of that word.

Dennis Frailey
Dennis Frailey
6 years ago
Reply to  Maggie B.

Your comment about misuse of the word “entitlement” is similar to what I was trying to say in my comment above (#16, the last time I looked). But you brought out an aspect that I didn’t, namely the attitude aspect.

Vicky
Vicky
6 years ago

Hi, I thought it was very brave of you to admit to volunteering to get acknowledged for it. You’re totally not alone in this! I think it’s common to both feel good for actually doing this kind of thing (volunteering, taking the time to help people, …) and feel good that people KNOW you’re doing them.

Millionaires Giving Money
Millionaires Giving Money
6 years ago

I actually loathe people who feel entitled but I must confess sometimes I feel that I am entitled too and then act out of character. Entitlement is a dangerous feeling and after reading this post I feel I am in a better position to deal with it. Thanks for sharing, great guest post and excellent insights by JD!

Todd K Marsha
Todd K Marsha
6 years ago

Kristin, this is the first piece of yours I’ve read. I’m quite impressed with your writing style. Conversational, informative and thought provoking. I’ve worked in customer facing environments my entire career and I’ve seen this behavior more than I care to comment on. Seems like this narcissistic consumerist behavior has a lot to do with emotional needs. You touched on the need to feel important and valued and I believe that’s at the center of this. When people don’t feel valued at work or at home, they find other ways to fulfill that need. Often it’s by spending money on… Read more »

Dennis Frailey
Dennis Frailey
6 years ago

Reading all the comments here has given me an idea about entitlement. There’s a big difference between a genuine entitlement and a sense of entitlement (a belief that one is entitled). Everyone, everywhere in the world, figures out how to make their way through life and, depending heavily on their circumstances and environment, makes certain assumptions about what they can expect. For example, the farmer expects seeds to grow when planted and nurtured properly; the big city dweller assumes the subway will take them where they want to go in a given amount of time; the surgeon assumes the surgical… Read more »

Marie
Marie
6 years ago

It’s interesting that you began this article by discussing your volunteering at the library. So many schools these days are requiring kids to volunteer X hours in order to graduate, and it’s sparked a lot of debate about entitlement in my social circle. The very term “required volunteering” is laughable, particularly in an educational setting. Kids are being forced to help those less fortunate…for a grade. It’s irony wrapped in a layer of tacky and smothered with missing-the-point.

Allie
Allie
4 years ago

I was just thinking this today. American customers especially are a terror. Not all but many get nasty with you very quickly if their expectations aren’t met in any slight way. Corporations are predominantly to blame in my opinion. They have fooled the public into believing that “the customer is king” and that “the customer is always right” and that the abused staff should smile when the terrors walk in that they should feel cared about. Yet some of these same companies would take the money right out of your home and life savings if they could completely hack your… Read more »

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