Special Session 5.2 &Quot;Ella&Quot;

[ to cite ]:
(1998) ,"Special Session 5.2 &Quot;Ella&Quot;", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 98-100.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Pages 98-100



Interviewer: Talia Teer

Place: Informant’s office

Sex: Female

Age: Approximately mid to late 40’s

Other facts of interest: The informant is divorced, has one daughter and one grandson who both live in Seattle. She is an administrator and member of the faculty at a small Midwestern university located in a town of about 20,000. While the town and university are overwhelmingly white, the researcher and informant are both African Americans.


Date: February 22, 1996

I: O.K. Before this interview begins, I have to let you know that I will be transcribing this interview once it’s completed and I will make it available to others who are doing research on consumer behavior. We’ll change your name so that no one will know who you are. And do you consent to what I’ve said?

E: Sure.

I: O.K. Let’s begin. I’ll just ask you a real basic question. Do you like to shop?

E: Sure.

I: O.K. What do you like to shop for?

E: Clothes ... and more clothes[

I: (Laughs).

E: Actually, I am a bargain shopper. And I like to catch sales. I never buy anything just with the regular price. And o I love to go to outlet malls and get things that are sixty percent off. And then I like to take them home and see how much I would save if I had paid the original cost. So I get a thrill out of that. I also have this fetish for glasses and dishware. And so I will buy glasses that I don’t really need. And I only drink out of two glasses a week. And if it’s something pretty, I’ll just get it, but it still has to be on sale. And I like to go from store to store ... different stores ... to do some comparative shopping. And then I like quality, so I have a pretty good idea about what I’m getting. And most of the things I do get would be valuable and ... and would be of value.

I: O.K., now when you say they are valuable, are they valuable because of, like, name brand, or do you look for the quality of the item.

E: The quality. The quality. I don’t care about the name brand. But I can just look at something and tell whether the material is the right material for me. And actually, I only ... I go in a lot of stores and I don’t buy anything. I can’t wear clothes from any store. So I kinda have it down pat as to where I will probably end up buying the things that I buy. You know, I like Carole Little. And so most of my clothes are Carole Little. And I know the stores I need to go to to buy the Carole Little brand. And I’ll never forget: one time I went to the Carole Little outlet in California, and when I walked in the store, my eyes just lit up. And I said, "I’m going to buy everything in here" (laughing).

I: Did you? (Laughs).

E: I almost did ... everything I could wear. So I did a lot of damage then.

I: So was that your favorite store ever, or [

E: [I still like Carole Little, although I would like to be a little more conservative because her clothes are kinda wild, you know, long dresses and fancy patterns. And I really feel as if I should be a little more conservative instead ... just wear colored suits without all the patterns ... but it’s just so hard. I keep saying that’s what I’m going to do when I buy something else. But then if I run into the Carole Little, I’m back to Carole Little again.

I: Why do you think you need to be conservative? Why do you say that?

E: Well, I guess in a sense you ... from what I’ve known ... you know, I do have a desire to excel in the workplace. And I think I need to be a little more conservative in order to do that. And so ... you still have your personality when you’re shopping. And I think a part of my personality is something like, "Wow, get the Carole Little." Then another part of me says that I need these conservative suits, and I have problems really buying the conservative suits, but I do have some.

I: So do you think that your clothes are an expression of yourself?

E: Oh sure, yeah. It tells a lot about your personality. And the colors ... I guess the colors you wear also tell a lot about your personality. And the thing with me is that ... sometimes I end up buying some of the same things I already have. (Laughs).

I: (Laughs).

E: You know, I might see a blouse that I like, and then I will forget that I’ve had this blouse. And so I have about three blouses just alike.

I: Oh, goodness.

E: (Laughing). So it just might be a problem. You know, I don’t know whether that’s a problem or what.

I: Now, do you forget because you have a lot of clothes and they’re in the back of the closet, or do you just ... some clothes just stay in the closet and you just forget about them altogether?

E: Yeah. (Laugh). I think I do. I mean I really, really do think that I sometimes ... that I do forget that I have them. And then, when I’m going through my closet I say, "Oh, I have this." But also, in the closet, I also try to be a little organized. And I have al my clothes color coordinated. And then sometimes, like, when I’m shopping, I’ve done this ... I might do this one day. I might see a good sale on a blouse, and I’ve done this, and then I go somewhere else and see a good sale on a blouse. And I end up buying the same blouse the same day.[

I: [The same day? Oh my goodness![

E: (Laughs) And so that, you know ... I don’t know.

I: O.K. You said that you color organize your closet. What do you notice you have the most of? And is that your favorite color?

E: Yeah. I have a lot of blue. And then I have a lot of green. You know different shades of green? And ... I have black, navy ... most of it is navy, green, or blue.

I: O.K. We were talking about how colors and clothing are an expression of yourself. How do you think these colors express who you are on the inside? What do you think these colors say?

E: I think, you know, just from my studies with green, it says that other people like money, I guess. Or it says, "Give me some money" (laughing).

I: (Laughs).

E: But I wouldn’t go trying to solicit money from an organization wearing green because that’s what the statement says, you know, "I want money." But then I think, um, the blue is a form of being conservative. And I’ll never forget when I first got my doctorate and I was in Administration for Women, we were told to wear a navy blue suit. And so I had been poor all while I was in grad school, and then once I graduated, I went and bought four navy suits, and I didn’t know which one to wear which day. (Laughs).

I: (Laughs).

E: And so now I think I might have about eight or more navy blue suits. And it’s like, those are things I like. I mean, I like navy blue. And I think it somewhat makes a statement, too, 'cause if you like go somewhere and you see someone sitting at a table with red on ... a red suit ... and then you see somebody with a navy blue suit, automatically you’ll come and ask the person with the navy blue suit on for directions or whatever. And you can also say that’s why policeman wear the navy uniforms.

I: Because it’s conservative?

E: It’s conservative and it’s also ... it gives a statement of you know what you’re doing.

I: Of security?

E: Yeah. You know what you’re doing [

I: [Of knowledge?

E: Yeah.

I: O.K. Um, besides clothes, what other items or products or things do you think express how a person feels on the inside?

E: I think that your house, your environment, tells a lot about what a person feels on the inside.

I: Can you describe your house to me?

E: No, I’m not going to describe it (laughing). I’ll take you to it. You want a tour? (Laughs).

I: I can’t put a tour on my interview (laughing). What makes you like your house?

E: Well, it’s spacious. And I believe in ... I guess, I might be exceptionally neat. Everything is in order. There are people sometimes who clean up because they have company, but I clean up for me. And ... actually, I have really thought a lot about my dream house. And I’m at the point where I think it’s almost there. All of my furniture is cherry wood, and I don’t have anything on the walls unless it has a gold frame. And I like mirrors, so I have a lot of gold mirrors on the walls. Umm, these are just things. It’s more like a Queen Anne style, with the cherry wood furniture. And so that’s always been my dream. And that’s what most of my furniture is.

I: (Pause) O.K. I’m going to change the topic just a little bit here for a quick second. Since we are sitting in your office, I see that you have lots of elephants. ’m assuming that you collect elephants, right?

E: Yes, Talia (laughing).

I: (Laughs). O.K. When did you start collecting elephants?

E: I started in 1988.

I: O.K.

E: And I’ll tell you the story behind that. Before I started collecting elephants, I had ... I collected artifacts of masks. And in 1988, I had a fire and I lost everything I owned.

I: Oh, no

E: I mean no furniture, no clothes, nothing. No shoes, no silverware. I mean I had absolutely nothing.[

I: [Everything?

E: [And so ... that was the most depressing thing that I have ever experienced. And I always thoughtCand it might be so superstitiousCbut I had this African mask over my backdoor ... near my backdoor, in the den. And it just looked ... and it always did something to me to look at that mask. And I don’t know whether that had anything to do with ... I know that it didn’t have anything to do with the fire because it really started from someplace else and then it came over to where I was living. So I decided not to bother with those artifacts anymore.

I: Um hum.

E: And so I decided to collect elephants instead. The elephant, with trunk up, stands for good luck. And after losing everything I had, I thought I needed all the luck I could get (Laughs). So that’s how I ended up with the elephants. And then I just bought an elephant. And then I said, "Well, you have seven elephants, and that’s a set." And seven is a good luck number, supposedly. And I just started buying elephants so I could have good luck. And then, it just grew and grew. Everybody else thought that I liked elephants. And so I started getting ... I didn’t buy a lot of these elephants. Most of the elephants you see were gifts. So I really didn’t buy a lot of them. It might look that way. (Laughs).

I: (Laughs).

E: I didn’t. But now, when I go places and travel, or even when I go to a flea market or a yard sale or an auction, still looking for bargains, I look for elephants. And so I buy a lot of elephants like that. But, in terms of ... and I know the value of them. You know, so ... to me, I value that. I value the elephants and some are very valuable.

I: About how many do you have?

E: I have close to three hundred.

I: Three hundred?

E: Maybe a little over three hundred.

I: Now is that just like little statues and things like that? Or does it include, like elephants on things like hats?

E: No, I don’t count those. I have an elephant collection, like all ... in every room of my house there are some elephants. And I don’t have all that other junk. I don’t have anything else but elephants. I don’t have birds and ... and ... nothing else. It’s just elephants.

I: Just elephants.

E: Yeah.

I: And they’re a symbol of good luck for you, huh?

E: For me. And I think that since I have been collecting them, I’ve had fairly good luck, too.

I: Well, that’s good. (Pause). Is there anything else you would like to tell me about you as a consumer or you as a shopper that you think is of interest?

E: Well actually, Talia, I think that I really am a bargain shopper. And I think maybe, too, if you think about it, I might buy some things that I don’t need because it’s on sale. And I read once that if you get something that’s on sale and you don’t need it, you’re wasting money.

I: Right.

E: And I find myself doing that, because like I have gone places and seen something on sale ... and maybe, again, it’s some clothes that’s too small for me, and I’ll buy it. And I ay, "I’ll give it to somebody else, then," just to get the sale. (Laughs). And I just can’t walk away from it.

I: What’s the biggest discount you think you have ever gotten on something?

E: Oh, boy ... everything ... I don’t know ... it’s just ... well, I think maybe when I buy ... well.... Oh, I went to an auction once and I bought these jade elephants. I only paid about six dollars for them. And so I thought that was a real, real value 'cause they’re big and they’re pretty. And even the auctioneer remembers me buying them, and he says, "You got a real good deal there." So I .... Oh, I know another thing I bought onceCthis gold mirror I have in my living room. I only paid thirty dollars for it.

I: And how valuable is it?

E: I don’t know, but some of the people afterwards had come up to me and said they would give me $130.

I: Wow!

E: And I wouldn’t sell it 'cause I knew that it cost much more than the thirty that I had bought it for. So, yeah.

I: O.K.

E: But then you had asked about my house. I have a lot of mirrors in my house for some reason, and I’m not conceited (laughing).

I: (Laughs).

E: I don’t know why I like to buy mirrors and I like to buy lamps. And sometime I think maybe it could be a problem in terms of the lamps because I don’t have anywhere to put them. So I put them in the closet (laughing).

I: (Laughs). To light up the closet, huh?

E: (Laughs). No! They’re not used. But I just see them and I think they’re nice and I then get them and maybe later on I’ll use them. But sometimes I don’t get around to them because I have some lamps in the closet now. And I know before my fire I lost a lot of lamps. But I like mirrors, lamps, and candle holders.

I: How many mirrors do you think you have in your house?

E: (Pause). I don’t know ... maybe ... different sizes and everything ... maybe thirty-five.

I: Wow. About how many candle holders do you have?

E: (Laughs). One hundred.

I: (Laughs). One hundred?

E: (Laughs). No, I’m just kidding.

I: Oh.

E: Oh ... a lot.

I: A lot.

E: I just bought a couple last weekend (laughing).

I: (Laughs). What did they look like?

E: The ones I brought were crystal and gold around. And so they ... it goes with my crystal glasses ... the gold that I had. So I had a reason for getting those. But then like, if I’m at a yard sale or a flea market or an auction, I might buy something really pretty. I like pretty things. Pretty to me.

I: Right, O.K. [pause]. Well, I don’t have any other questions for you, so if you don’t have any other statements, we’ll end the tape.

E: O.K., Talia.

I: O.K.


Date: February 28, 1996

I: O.K., this is a continuation of our previous interview. I just have a couple more questions to ask you. Is that O.K.?

E: Yes.

I: O.K. At the end of our previous interview, you said that you liked to buy things that are pretty to you. What constitutes something being pretty?

E: Well, actually, I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What mightbe pretty for me might be totally different from you. And so I can only say based on my personality type. I like things with color. And I also, as well ... but I’m kind of opposite, too, because I also like the conservative look, like solid colors. But then I see myself, when I’m going out, I might wear something that’s a little bright. And although I know that’s ... I would like to project another image, but there’s still something about me, because I believe that people have cores. And then in their core, the personality is there whether it’s ... whether I put it aside for my job or whatever.

I: Um hum.

E: And so going back to what you asked me about what’s pretty for me, something that’s ... I like long skirts. And I guess, like, when I was in college we had the mini-skirt. I used to wear those, too. But then I can’t ever imagine wearing a mini-skirt now, or any skirt that’s really short. So pretty to me would be a long skirt. And I feel comfortable in a jacket and long sleeves. Believe it or not, even in July, you’ll find me with the long sleeves. So most of the blouses I wear are long sleeves with good color coordination, with shoes to match, most of the time.

I: What kind of objects, like we were talking about candle holders and mirrors and lamps, the last time, what makes those kind of things pretty?

E: Well, I don’t know whether you’d say ... I guess the color or the design in dishes, for example, china. 'Cause like, just last week I was in a store that sells china and I saw a real neat pattern. And it seems like some of my patterns are patterns that are somewhat unusual. And I’m attracted to the unusual. Even with lamps and candle holders. I like something that you’re not going to find everyday in somebody else’s house. I like traveling to foreign countries, and if I could pick up something there that you’d walk in and say, "Well, this is different." And so those are the things that I’m most attracted to rather than having something that you just buy, just plain.... I really do like things that are different. And I’d say they’re unique to me.

I: O.K. You said something about the core, about people’s core. What do you think is at the core of your personality?

E: Well, Talia, I will never tell you that. (Laughs).

I: (Laughs).

E: (Laughing). I have to protect the core of me.

I: O.K. O.K. All right .... Well, I think that pretty much answers the questions that I had, unless you have something else to say about yourself as a consumer.

E: No, I don’t have anything else to say.

I: O.K. Well, that’s it.