Everybody talks about “consumer mentality” but almost nobody can provide a concrete definition. People know that consumer mentality is something vaguely bad and that the appropriate facial expression when the words are pronounced is a condescending wince. Most of them , however, have no idea what they are wincing at.
As somebody who has lived both in a society of consumers and in a pre-consumerist society, I can tell you that consumerism is vastly superior to its alternative. This is why I always proudly declare that I have a consumer mentality.
Consumer mentality is the expectation that goods and services will be available to satisfy your needs. If you come home, turn on the lights, and there is no electricity, a person with consumer mentality immediately thinks, “WTF? I’m paying for the service, I’d better be getting it”, starts calling the electrical company and demanding to know what’s going on. And a person with pre-capitalist mentality finds a candle and sits there staring at it without protesting and trying to figure out what happened. I grew up among such people, and let me tell you, such societies suck.
If a person with consumer mentality buys a pair of shoes and they start leaking the next day, s/he will go back to the store, return the shoes, and write an angry review online. A person with consumer mentality believes that such a situation is not normal.
If a person with consumer mentality discovers that there are shortages of oranges or notebooks or tablet devices, s/he will not perceive such a situation as normal. The passive acquiescence and fatalism of the pre-capitalist mentality are not natural to a consumer deprived of goods.
Consumer societies get a lot of flak because their members only abandon fatalism and passivity when they want their goods and services. A consumer sees the world in terms of goods and services to be purchased and gets unhappy when anything gets between the consumer and the purchase. However, any criticism of consumerist societies arises from comparing consumers to a non-existent lofty ideal and not to actual existing alternatives. I believe that it is already an enormously big deal that human beings have abandoned the attitude of patient resignation at least in one sphere of their lives.
People who detest consumerism the most are those who have come out from a very strong monotheistic model and are now displacing their religious feelings away from the religion they abandoned and onto the secular world. The lack of self-abnegation and modesty that consumers exhibit hurts the religious sensibilities of such recent converts to secularism. If you observe the most passionate detractors of consumerism closely, you will see that they exhibit many of the signs of religious fanaticism. However, consumerism is hard to resist. Try depriving these passionate anti-consumerist bunnies of running water for a week or of their favorite designer tea for a day, and you will see an irate consumer awaken in each one of them.