The Sunday NY Times includes "Maybe It's Not All Your Fault". We purchase too many things we don't "need". The author distances himself from the well worn "shopper's victim defense" ... and then comes very close to embracing it.
Much odder is the NY Times Magazine story on "The Hidden (In Plain Sight) Persuaders". Marketers' use of stealth agents using word-of-mouth to friends and acqauintances to push products has been in the news -- and strikes me as a little creepy. The truly odd part of today's story has to do with 60,000 people who do this sort of thing as volunteers. The agents do earn points towards products -- but many never bother to cash in the points.
Some people prefer not to ask for directions when lost. Others do the opposite, asking for directions when they are not lost because it makes for conversation and social interaction. On top of that, some of the cited volunteers are happy to be neighborly and helpful by sharing their satisfaction with various products. The author notes that a "social market" is occuring.
The good news is that the volunteers and their willing listeners are not bowling alone.