Spring 1985 // Volume 23 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW1

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To Buy or Not To Buy


Suzanne Helms
Extension Specialist
Consumer Management
Virginia State University - Petersburg

"To Buy or Not To Buy"-that is the question 4-Hers are asking themselves as they participate in the consumer education projects by this name. They learn answers as they carry out the activities, such as analyzing advertisements, determining their own values and goals, investigating credit, and becoming aware of basic buying tips.

The objectives of the projects are to help 4-H members:

  • Understand how their values and goals affect their buying habits.
  • Gain an understanding of basic economics, including the influence of supply, demand, and the price of goods and services.
  • Gain experience in comparing and selecting products in the marketplace that may or may not include the use of credit.
  • Understand their rights and responsibilities as consumers.

A fun part of the projects is the opportunity to participate in the "Consumerama," a contest designed to give 4-Hers a chance to relate project activities to real-life experiences in making consumer choices and to better understand consumerism. The contest serves as the culmination of the learning process.

The Consumerama contest is made up of two components-competition in the CONSUMER BOWL and in the CONSUMER JUDGING. The scores' from each are added together for a total team score.

The Consumer Bowl is similar to other game bowls. Two teams of three or four members compete against each other in three rounds of individual, team, and toss-up questions. Questions are related --to such subjects as credit, decision making, regulatory agencies, consumer law, and questions about the items to be judged.

Consumer Judging provides an opportunity for contestants to use the knowledge and skills gained from the projects' comparison shopping activities. They judge four classes of articles and rank them according to best buys for a given situation. Oral reasons are given to justify the placing for two of the classes. The classes consist of articles that 4-Hers request for judging, such as classes of hair dryers, radios, blue jeans, and sleeping bags. Classes are changed each year.

Volunteer leaders and/or Extension agents who serve as coaches for the teams don't have to be consumer experts nor have teaching experience. They provide questions and reference materials for the items to be judged, and organize consumer programs and store tours for the team members. Local programs can consist of guest speakers who can share information, such as bank representatives or store personnel who can explain credit policies or an attorney who knows consumer law. There are many filmstrips and slide presentations available as well as skits and games for member participation. Practice sessions of mock Consumer Bowls and the judging of a variety of items are helpful in preparing 4-Hers for competition.

Elimination contests are held in Virginia's 6 state districts and 15 teams can participate in the state competition. The judging items are presented to the winning team members as prizes.

Comments from 4-Hers and leaders indicate that the Consumerama is a learning experience that youth enjoy while developing skills they can use throughout their lives in buying goods and services.