Frenzy for cheap stuff is the iconic image of this recession


Have you found yourself standing in line for a free doughnut, or a free pancake, or free pie, or a free cup of coffee in the last few months? Maybe you got out early for discounts on Black Friday, maybe even so very early that you got a doorbuster prize? Perhaps you're just willing to wait a little longer for packages to get free shipping when you might have opted for overnight a while back?

When we look back on this recession (laughing all the way to the bank, I hope), the lasting image is going to be of people lined up for blocks to get something free or at some big discount -- probably at a liquidation sale. Like bread lines were to the 30s and gas lines and Jimmy Carter in his cardigan were to the 70s, the frenzy for cheap stuff will be what defines us now.

For the last ten years, most of our industry and technology has been focused on making life easier and more expedient. We shop online so we don't have to fight traffic to get to a store and then wait in line at a checkout. We order out goods to be shipped overnight. We email so we don't have to wait for the mailman. We Twitter so we don't even have to both sending email, since that takes too long for some.

But now the tables are turning, and most people are cutting back on the little luxuries that made our lives go faster. One way that marketers have cashed in are these big national giveaways, with the stimulus bill being the federal government's answer to this.

While the Big Three automakers and the heads of the banks can head to Congress with their hats outstretched, regular folks can't do such a thing. We have to wait patiently for our portion -- should there be any left for us -- to trickle down to us in the form of tax cuts. So we're getting ours the only way we can, by putting in the time to get it.