How and when not to buy crap

Why Do Americans Insist On Buying Cheap Crap Instead Of High Quality Merchandise? at The Consumerist is, on its own, little more than a summary of Should You Splurge or Skimp? from MSN Money with some stuff added to make it look like original writing. But the comment thread is wonderful, full of concrete, practical advice on how to consider cost-per-use, how to recognise different kinds of seams and use that to evaluate the quality of an item of clothing, what to skimp or splurge on (naturally) and where you can still get these quality goods you hear so much about.

3 replies on “How and when not to buy crap”

  1. Why do American’s purchase crap? pretty simple really.. most of us don’t want to take the time to research goods, find out what brands are worth it, and then have to hunt it down.

    A few of us take advantage of the internet for brand comparison.. but many (particularly in my neck of the woods where over 50% of the population is under the poverty line) have to settle for what ever their 4.00 spare change can get them. We must also settle for what shops are available. Living out in the countryside means that driving to Nashville for a higher quality kitchen knife is stupid—> 16.00 in gasoline+cost of higher quality knife+time+search for the right store that carries it is way greater than going to “Dollar General” at 2.00 of gasoline, 15 minutes of time and a 3.00 product that will last five or six years when it wears out you *might* have a better job and can afford a new knife on your trip to Nashville.

    Websites like these are drawing to a specific kind of consumer: the internet savy one who can and does do some brand comparison before purchasing. They are likely urban, above the poverty level, and have a savings account. The money they save on purchases goes into that savings account.

    They’re not studied sociologists or into socio-economics. They don’t study psychology, nor have they ever lived so damn poor that they understand it themselves.

    Lets look a the hard reality though. 50% of America still lives past the suburbs and in rural communities. They are just now getting broadband and/or satellite service. Many are near or just above the poverty level. If they work, they are the “working poor”- having one or two jobs that are minimum wage at 35 hours per week or less and without health insurance. They often have one or more young children at home. Many have a dependent adult living with them as well- an elderly family member, a young adult who cannot afford to move out, a grandchild that their drug addicted kid wont take care of. Their very first concern isn’t “wow… I can get this Heinkle brand knife and it will last me for five decades”.. it’s food on the table and keeping Johnny junior outta trouble. They often live one day at a time, with no ability to invest for the future or even think about it.

    When you don’t know if you’re gonna scrape by this month… can you really think about what your life is gonna be like in 20 years?

    People buy junk because that’s what they can afford. Plain and simple. They also buy because it makes them feel good. If you have only 3.00 and you need a new colander… are you going to wait and get the stainless steel one, or are you gonna get the cheap plastic one that you need right now. You buy the cheap one.. and you feel good.. because you got something you needed and you got it for only 3.00. It does the same exact job as the other one.. that stainless steel one is for rich snobs anyway. People TALK themselves into cheap goods.

    It’s no wonder stores have new slogans like “Live better now”, “New Price, Great Quality, Better living” –they’re selling hope for people who have none. “save 4.00 on this item, and you can use that 4.00 somewhere else… you can spend that 4.00 on a matching towel. You get two products for the price of one!! ZOMG YOURE SO AWESOME YOU GOT QUANTITY OVER QUALITY”.

    And this fear of a recession isn’t helping much. Poor people aren’t saving for the future.. they’re hoarding things.. purchasing things they might not be able to afford when prices go up.

    Is there a cure for this? no.. not until we can wake up the average consumer to the fact that they are purchasing cheap goods and sending their money away to cheap countries and watching their jobs go away. Boils down to education.. and we’re a country that just doesn’t seem to value education at all.

    Aggie’s little soap box 😛

  2. Aggie:

    “Websites like these are drawing to a specific kind of consumer: the internet savy one who can and does do some brand comparison before purchasing. They are likely urban, above the poverty level, and have a savings account. The money they save on purchases goes into that savings account.”

    Oh yes. The guy from The Simple Dollar (who does take a bit of interest in socio-economics but doesn’t seem to have a lot of patience for it) actually says so. He can’t help the poor, but he can and will help the broke.

    But even for us middle-class folks, the equation often ends up in favour of buying crap over durable goods. Couple of times this past year, I needed something now and waiting to save up just wasn’t an option. That’s going to change though.

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