Saturday, November 28, 2009

Why Big Shopping Bargains are Bad News for America

An article from Time Magazine that I wish I'd found and posted before Black Friday:

The price wars have gone nuclear. From Target's $3 coffeemakers to Best Buy's half-price stoves to Staples's $300 laptops, the theme of this holiday shopping season is, without a doubt, "we sell for less." Even Wal-Mart's commitment to "every day" low prices isn't preventing it from going lower. An online skirmish with that started with $9 hardcover books (books normally sold for three times that amount) has dominoed into other categories, driving down prices on everything from mobile phones to Easy-Bake ovens. The deals are everywhere. (See pictures of expensive things that money can buy.)

Well, pardon my saying so, but I don't want them. I don't want to pay less. If anything, I'd rather pay a little more.

Crazy talk, I know. Where is this coming from? Well, it began with some reading I've been doing about the trade-offs we make for ultra-cheap goods — the child workers in Bangladesh who sew our clothes and brush their teeth with ash since they can't afford toothpaste, the oceanic dead zones that come with $5 factory-farmed salmon filets. They're the sorts of stories that make a person think that buying carts full of cheap stuff — ensuring the production of even more cheap stuff — shouldn't be the social goal we've made it out to be.

I've got a collection of vintage clothing, and I was recently having a discussion with a friend who has similar tastes, about how unlikely it'll be that clothes from this era will survive to be worn by someone fifty years from now. Everything's made to be discarded. Even the laptop on which I'm typing this is a product of this mentality, I'm ashamed to say.

cat furniture

But when I broke the screen on my old laptop a year ago and the cheapest replacement we could find was almost $200, whereas I could get the reconditioned Dell I have now for $500, with an increase in RAM and storage space? We still have the old one, as since then we've found a site where we can get a replacement for $100, so it's being saved as backup for when this one goes kaput, but it's a prime example of how manufacturers encourage you to not be thrifty.

I've been scaling back on Christmas the last few years. Not because we were in a tough situation financially, but because I just decided I didn't like the way things were. Now I give homemade food gifts to my coworkers, and unusual handmade items to friends and family, bought from independent crafters like myself. Because I don't want to encourage this mentality, and help foster this cheap throwaway society we find ourselves in.


Zi said...

I'll be the first to agree. I've been more and more disappointed with the quality of products over the last several years. I would prefer to give a gift I've created, or buy from someone who's put their heart & creativity into something. Handmade will always be the better choice for me!

jewelrybyjanelle50 said...

I wholeheartedly agree with everything, and I too, am disappointed in the quality of merchandise these days. Automobiles, clothing, household goods, all are made to "break" or wear out after so long a time so that the consumer will re-consume. My belief is that it is the greed of the industry; that almighty dollar dictates where and on what we spend our $$$ on. I for one would LOVE to see jobs brought back to America, and take some pride again in making a product that will LAST, even if it means paying more. Have I said enough? LOL

Larry said...

Finally $3 coffee pots for $3

Steven said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cytel said...

Sorry I deleted the above comment I was signed in as my husband lol.

Thanks for the thought povoking post..

I also agree, I believe that the items we buy at these cut rates are designed to break. WallMart was selling a 32" flatscreeen for $250 my husband wanted it so bad. He looked up reviews and found about 80% of folks who bought the same one on last years black friday have had their TV had stopped working and there is no fix. warrenty expired just weeks before. What a waste. It IS all based on greed and it is really dishearting.

What I think is worse is that the folks that buy the "sale" items are the folks who really cannot afford to spend more. So the poor folks are being preyed upon.

It is really time for folks to step back and ask themselves what is most important in this life? Lots of crappy stuff to contiually work to replace. Or a fewer well made items that last and in the end save you money thereby saving you time. Time you could use to enrich your life. I'll take less crap and more time please :)

Buy handmade, buy local, see your community thrive.

Wow, I guess I needed to rant... thanks!


susiem said...

Absolutely agree - people really should take a look at handmade stuff becasue it is so muh better quality than the normal junk you fill your life with - the best of will end as heirmooms too. I now buy handmade whenever I can.

Designs by Victoria said...

Thanks for all the comments! It is a real problem, I think, and there isn't at this point an end to it, unless there are some major changes in the way our society thinks

lisianblue said...

In some ways, I have to agree with the comment about wow - a $3.00 coffee pot for 3.00!! I think it's all sort of a delimna - so many people in some of the poorer countries really need jobs - but when a company closes down a plant in the US where the workers were getting $15.00/hr and move it to a country and only pay the workers 1.50/hr but dont lower the price of the item - well you know who's making all the $ off that!! I'm not sure how this gets turned around, stop buying things? write letters, I don't know. A "friend" will often tell me oh the Dollar store has such and such - and I just say -ok whatever - while there may be some things there that may be ok - most just fall apart quickly and not worth spending any $ on them at all. Years ago, My daughter bought her son a very cheap little train set - it quit working within 24 hrs! such a disapointed little boy! She learned her lesson.

Anonymous said...

I agree as well,
When going to the cheeper goods you get what you paid for.When I go to the dollar stores it is for things that are better disposed of in the recycling bin the next morning, such as, paper towels, paper cups and plates. When I needed a new television I did not go to walmart. I went to sears. they had a small television with dvd and vhs both in unit for under 400 dollars on is not HD and needs a cable box but it works for movie night and thats all I needed it for. I also bought a vacuum from Kenmore for under 100 on sale at sears. they have lasted me more than 2 years with careful maintenance and I am quite happy with them. Now for clothes? the thrift store down the street loves me...just the other day they were having a 2 for 99 cents sale on clothes and other non tagged items. My daughter got 15 shirts, 2 dresses and several pairs of shoes for just under 40 dollars we had to take turns carrying the bag home. happy kid..happier mom.