The third stage of the linear system is distribution. Leonard explains how within distribution prices are kept down, people are kept buying and the inventory is kept moving. This is maintained by the externalisation of costs, where within previous stages of the system people and communities are wasted through loss of their natural space and clean air. Following this stage is consumption. The consumption of products is linked to the distribution by the 'golden arrow', or the heart of the system. At this stage advertising and media play a big role; making the population feel unhappy about what they have, inspiring them to fix this problem by shopping. Buyers are sucked into advertising but through product advertisement, the media effectively hide the extraction, production and disposal environmental impacts associated with that particular product; these occur outside the buyers vision.
Consumerism has increased to create a society with materialistic values. During the 1950's the concept of designed obsolescence caught on, where products were designed to break quickly, but leave the buyer with enough faith to go and buy another one. This is otherwise known as planned obsolescence, where a product has been designed for the dump. A classic example of this is computer hardware. With rapid technological development, computers are getting smaller and more compact but also causing models to become 'out of date'. As Leonard points out when closely examining an older computer model against a newer one, the only differing element of the design was one small piece, which, across each newer design had been slightly varied in shape, making it impossible for the consumer to replace that one piece; therefore forcing them to discard to old computer and buy a brand new one.
On the other hand the term perceived obsolescence relates to the buyers throwing away goods that are still perfectly useful. In society today, people have more stuff but less time for things that make them happy. This results in an endless cycle of consuming, earning money to consume and watching advertisements that tell them to consume more. This all occurs at the 'golden arrow' within the system. An example that can be used to explain this is within fashion. The world of fashion alternated between wide-heeled and narrow-heeled shoes featured as being in style within a bi-annual cycle. Through the footwear bought by people in response to these changes in fashion, society is able to judge and point out those not contributing to the 'golden arrow' or the fuelled endless cycle of consumerism.