Satisfaction and the Consumer / by David Hu


"man zu" - v. to satisfy or to be satisfied; adj. satisfying

Satisfaction is an important word for a consumer. After all, if a consumer doesn't buy for satisfaction, for what reason would he buy? For any consumer, the sense of satisfaction is derived from obtaining either one or both of two things: necessity and desire. Whether one is buying food to satiate hunger or a weekend house on the beach, there is nonetheless a sense of satisfaction to be gained from obtaining those objects.

But what, really, is satisfaction? If we take a look at its definition with respect to today's usage, satisfaction is the fulfillment of a person's desires, wants, needs, expectations, and demands. In developed countries and areas of general affluence, one might even say that the consumer would only be satisfied if his desires are fufilled. Why? Because having simply met his needs is no longer enough.

This is a distinct departure from the word's original definition, which comes from a 15th-century Latin word satisfacere, meaning "to do enough". It's also interesting when one takes a look at the Chinese word for satisfaction: 滿足 (pronounced "man zu".) The word is comprised of two characters:

滿 - full, fulfilling

足 - sufficient

So, as it is in Latin, satisfaction in Chinese is merely the fulfillment of that which is sufficient. What is most interesting is the fact that people in ancient times--and of vastly different cultures--understood this personal phenomenon and were compelled to define it in such a similarly basic way.

Of course, we people of modern times take these ancient words and definitions for granted, because they are taught to us as mere vocabulary whose social connotations are left for us to explore. But perhaps it would be worthwhile to examine them every once in a while as we reflect on our ways of thinking and acting. What is sufficient? What is desirable? What mixture of those two would be satisfying? Undoubtedly, these are important and useful questions to ask ourselves the next time we are compelled to consume.