eople in the advertising business, and others who study American society, are interested in the question: What does the American consumer like? Max Lerner, a well-known scholar who has studied American society, has said that American consumers are particularly fond of three things: comfort, cleanliness, and novelty.
Lerner believes that the American love of comfort perhaps goes back to the frontier experience, where life was tough and there were very few comforts. This experience may have created a strong desire in the pioneers and their children for goods that would make life more comfortable. Today, the Americans’ love of comfort is seen in the way they furnish their homes, design their cars, and travel. How Americans choose a new mattress for their bed is an example of the American love of comfort. Many Americans will go to a store where beds are set up and lie down on several mattresses to see which is the most comfortable.
Cleanliness is also highly valued by Americans. There is a strong emphasis on keeping all parts of the body clean, and Americans see lots of TV commercials for soap, shampoo, deodorants,1 and mouthwash. Perhaps the Puritan heritage has played some role in the desire for cleanliness. The Puritans, a strict Protestant church group whose members were among the first settlers of America, stressed the need to cleanse  the body of dirt and of all evil tendencies, which for them included sexual desire. The saying “Cleanliness is next to godliness” reflects
the belief of most Americans that it is Bathtime for the family dog
important to keep not only their bodies, but also their clothes, their houses, their cars, and even their pets, clean and smelling good. Indeed, many Americans are offended by anyone who does not follow their accepted standards of cleanliness.
16 Along with cleanliness and comfort, Americans love having things that are new and different. Perhaps this love of novelty comes from their pride in their inventiveness. Americans have always been interested in inventing new products and improving old ones. They like to see changes in cars, clothing, and products for the home. Advertisements encourage people to get rid of old products and try new ones, whether the old ones still work or not. And if they cannot afford to buy something now, advertisers encourage consumers to charge it on a credit card—“Buy now—pay later.”
17 In addition to the three qualities that Lerner mentions, there is a fourth quality that American consumers like very much—convenience. In the late 1900s, there was a dramatic increase in such labor-saving devices as automatic washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, food processors, microwave ovens, garbage disposals, and power lawn mowers. Today, all of these, and many more, are found in a typical suburban home. These labor-saving devices are designed to reduce the time spent on housework. However, the time that Americans save is quickly spent on other activities.
18 The American desire for convenience also created the concept of fast-food restaurants, which are found in every city and almost every small town in the United States, and are now exported all over the world. These fast-food restaurants, such as McDonald’s and KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), serve sandwiches, salads, fried chicken, seafood, etc., to customers in Five minutes or less, often at a drive-up window. There are also many kinds of restaurants that will deliver Chinese food, pizza, and other dishes to peoples homes in about a half hour. In many areas, there are “take-out services” that will deliver food from the menus of twenty or thirty different restaurants for a small charge. For those who prefer to prepare their food at home, American grocery stores are full of convenience foods that are packaged and ready to cook, or are even precooked.
19 Like microwaves and dishwashers, fast-food and take-out restaurants are convenient because they save the American consumer time that would otherwise be spent Fixing meals or cleaning up. These conveniences, however, do not cause Americans to be less busy. Women now make up about one-half of the American workforce, and the majority of mothers with children under the age of eighteen work outside the home. With both parents employed, children eat a lot of take-out food, a significant contributor to childhood obesity.
20 Thus, the conveniences that Americans desire. reflect not so much a leisurely lifestyle as a busy lifestyle in which even minutes of time are too valuable to be wasted. Alexis de Tocqueville was one of the first to see in this a curious paradox in the American character. He observed that Americans were so busy working to acquire comforts and conveniences that they were unable to relax and to enjoy leisure time when they had it. Today, as in Tocqueville’s time, many Americans have what one medical doctor has called “the hurry sickness.”