“Annoying but friendly” handbag tells you off when you buy too much

Posted by
Harriet Hall

Always let your conscience be your guide. That’s what Jiminy Cricket taught us, but it’s not always how we behave. When our conscience tells us we should probably save money for our friend’s birthday, or to give to charity, often we turn to the devil on our shoulder and splurge on a new top instead.

Well, now it looks like our handbag will be our guide, because students in Scotland have invented a talking handbag that reprimands you when you shop too much.

Leanne Fischler, Kirsty Sneddon and Rebecca Smith, at the University of Dundee, created the handbag in order to highlight and challenge today’s consumerist society.

The brown leather bag has a sensor that detects when your credit card is removed for use, and then speaks to the owner - in an over-the-top cockney accent -via hidden speakers.

Initially, the bag will question whether you really need what you’re about to purchase, whispering rhetorical questions such as ‘Do you really need this?’, and then moves on to more parental-style warnings, which get louder the longer your credit card is out of your bag, saying: ‘You’re already in your overdraft’.

“The project aims to make people consider what they already own and whether they need to buy more,” Fischler tells The Courier.

The bag’s voice, that of their design professor, Mike Press, is “supposed to be an annoying but friendly character,” says Sneddon.

“Consumerism is all about presenting yourself favourably and the bag does the opposite by embarrassing you in public,” she says.

But before you whip out your credit cards to get yourself one of these babies (oh, the irony), don’t get your hopes up, because it is not going into production. The students simply wanted to create a piece of social commentary, or ‘design activism’, as Fischler says:

“This is a one-off bag designed to create meaningful conversation – it’s not for selling.”

“I think our message has come across well and people have been able to see that design can be sued in the context of social improvement,” says Smith.

So, hopefully the students’ design will make us all think twice next time we go shopping with our (nor rather boring) handbags.

Now that’s retail therapy.