Sunday, July 19, 2009

Commentary: I really should stop buying cheap toy cars

I just listened to an interview with Ellen Ruppel Shell, author of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. In the interview she mentioned that the price tag was invented by John Wanamaker, an American merchant born in 1838. The price tag is such a ubiquitous part of my own economic experience that I had never considered that price tags have only been around for about 150 years. It amazes me how quickly some ideas can transform the world.

Ellen Ruppel also talked about how the American consumer has been trained to not expect much of the items we purchase, especially when those items are inexpensive. I'm thinking of the cheap toy cars that I buy my son. The axles always bend after just a short time of play. Do I take the broken toy back demanding a replacement? No, I just do as I have been trained -I rationalize the poor quality by admitting that it only cost a dollar or two. I am sad to report that I have also been known to buy poor quality furniture, clothes, tools, electronics, etc, all in the name of low cost. Even my housing choices are governed more by cost that by value and quality. How did we ever get to the point where cheap junk is acceptable as long as it has a low price? Such waste of money and resources. My grandparents are rolling over in their graves!

11 comments:

A girl called dallan said...

I agree that cheap stuff is too expensive in many ways. I was raised to value cheapness as the top priority in shopping. I have since learned to put quality, sustainability, working conditions and so on first, while still keeping things affordable by simplifying my demands.

The nice thing is, if you wait, you can have good quality in just about everything. Because quality makes things tend to last, most useful items can be found second-hand and older, then be passed on again when you are done with them.

Besides all of that, I think that quality toys just plain feed the soul. Better one well-built toy car than a fleet of cheap ones, that's my philosophy.

Thanks for the post.

L-D Sus said...

dallan,

Thanks for sharing.

"..cheap stuff is too expensive.." -well said.

Shooting Starchild said...

Ditto to A girl called dallan! I often try to hold out for high quality items.

Reviresco said...

These are great comments. As someone who has done business with some of the large discount chains here in the U.W. (I won't mention any names here), I have experienced first-hand the dehumanizing brutality of the process these companies go through to acquire the lowest costs on these goods. They conveniently turn a blind eye to the abuses that are delivered upon people who deliver these low cost items. It is very much a “don’t ask, don’t tell” world that extracts a huge human cost, especially in developing countries.

Our free market economy allows this to happen. These are freedoms that come to us as part of our blessings of agency but as followers of Christ, we need to accept them with responsibility. This is so easy to forget as we participate in the mass consumerism that is so much a part of American culture. As participants in the free market, we need to be educated about these things and consider the human cost, the environmental cost, as well as the monetary cost of the goods we purchase.

Thank you for the recommendation on a great read!

A girl called dallan said...

I so agree with Reviresco. As disciples of Christ, do we not have a responsibility to consider the impact of our purchases upon our brothers and sisters worldwide? If not, how are we any better than the slaveholders of the past?

Bob Hall said...

Hello. I like your blog. As an ex-Mormon, it is nice to see that a few LDS folks actually care about the environment.

I did a site search for the word "overpopulation" in your blog, and came up with nothing. Since this is a key environmental issue, I was hoping you could write a post about it. The limited amount of research I have done online doesn't make the church leadership sound very progressive, to say the least. I would be interested in hearing your insight.

L-D Sus said...

Bob, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I too have been pleasantly surprised to find that many Mormons share a concern for the environment. I have also been surprised by the diversity of ways that their concerns are expressed and acted on. This project has be insightful and rewarding.

As to your question on population, I wrote one post on the subject. Click on the link on the side bar to "algebra." I haven't written more about the topic because I haven't formed any conclusions and because I don't have any new thoughts that treat the topic in constructive manner. So much of the banter on population only serves to entrench people (on all sides) further into their opinions. One of these days I hope to give this more thought.

Alison Moore Smith said...

Hey, I'm a permablogger at T&S and just found your site through the photo essay. Would you shoot me an email at smitham at mormonmomma dot com?

RING said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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Matt said...

Forgive me for advertising, but I just thought you might be interested to know that BYU is holding its Second Annual Sustainability Summit. You can get about all the info you need from their website at sustainability.byu.edu. You can email sustainablebyu@gmail for more info.