Monday, August 24, 2009

Standing naked in a thrift store

Advance Warning: This post is a bit cheeky and heavy on the word “crap”. It's a harsh word but I could not find another. Junk came to mind, but there have been many times I found value in junk. (Junk food being the exception.) Unless it’s a nitrogen-based soil amendment, crap has no value. I’m writing about pointless retail crap that will sit in a landfill for the next 250-500 years. This post felt sluggish in writing, but Anonymous Reader, living in the self-proclaimed land of the newly-wed and nearly-dead, this post is for you.

Unknowingly, we attach too much value, monetary value, to the packaging of new products. In this case, "new" simply means never-used and is not an indicator of quality. Shoppers remain unaware they are paying extra for packaging they will trash. Rarely do I purchase a new product that comes home in a container I could reuse. Given that new is not an indicator of quality and neither is the packaging, I offer up Observance #1: New crap is often packaged heavily in crap to hide crap.

There’s been a discussion weaving through recent posts about the quality of items in thrift stores. We agree that treasure passes through thrift stores. We also agree that one must wade through a lot of crap to get to that treasure; using a backhoe even came to mind. I believe this discussion was first raised in June 2nd post The Harbingers of Decline.

Most items resting on the shelves of thrift stores have long been stripped of their original packaging. Observance #2: Thrift store items stand humble on shelves; naked with only a price sticker pasty. The packaging that once glorified and hid the item is now scuttled deep in the bowels of some landfill.

The crap that rests in thrift stores came from somewhere. I believe, it came from discount retailers hiding crap in packaging, neatly stacked on shelves, or hung on hooks with an “As seen on TV” sunburst in the container corner. Put on a pair of x-ray goggles to see past the packaging and you’ll see a lot of crap in these stores. Observance #3: Many items in new retail stores, discount retailers in particular, are indeed organized, spiffed up crap.

Observance #4: Just like thrift stores, shoppers wade through a lot of crap in discount retail chains. Thrift stores are, in many ways, a mere reflection of the new product market with a wonderful dash of estate sale goods.

In my opinion, many retail chains that dot the malls of America only sell crap. The stores that specifically target young tweens and teens particularly disturb me as they greedily rake in allowance money. Once left unattended for 10 minutes my daughter spent close to $30 in one of those stores. Upon hearing this, I crumpled to my knees with arms raised to the heavens crying, "Noooooo!" Fortune would have it that most of the items broke in the first week of possession and a lesson was learned.

Remove the packaging and possibilities come to life or maybe not. Either way, the shopper knows what they’re in for at the thrift store. Observance #5: At the thrift store, the little product's soul is looking right up into your eyes, awaiting judgment. If it's crap, at least it's honest about it.

Conclusion: We need to learn the difference between cheap and cheap crap. Thrift stores will not be free of this noxious crap until the new product market is free of it.

Perhaps crap is in the eye of the beholder. If that is the case, we have a lot of people out there with bad taste and it's creating a lot of waste.


Jen - Balancing Beauty and Bedlam said...

Oh yes...LOL on this one. There is definitely a difference between cheap and cheap crap. :)

The Queen of Fifty Cents said...

One of the reasons I most enjoy buying used stuff is simply that it HAS NO PACKAGING! Nothing to throw away. Nothing to have to break through to get to my item. Doesn't it drive you crazy to buy something and then not be able to get at it for thirty minutes b/c there's so much packaging? And of course with used clothing, that awful smell of sizing is gone!

Elizabeth said...

My dad used to work in the cardboard industry for 30 years. He is now retired. He told me years ago that where he worked that he had ridiculous budgets that he had to work with in terms of designing and making packaging for his customers and that is why packaging is what it is. He didn't help his customers design and make packaging for his customers they would find someone who would and he would be out of a job. If enough consumers stopped buying items in difficult packaging, companies would take notice, and the packaging might not be as difficult as it is.
From Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

I frequent several thrifts here in central New York and concur on the overwhelming amount of schlock in housewares, etc. I used to think the dealers and E-bayers had simply beat me to the punch, because there is rarely an item of intrinsic value to be found. The sheer numbers of dollar store figurines and third-rate dinnerware is astounding. I look at these creations and wonder, "Who ever thought this was a good idea?" Theses babies are not even safe for aquariums, which are the only possible use they could be put to (provided the fish owner could stand the kitsch). Now I'm likelier to find decent household items at consignment stores and rummage sales where people who've invested in quality are making thougtful donations

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Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you said so well. I would add that one reason I have not been to a mall in about 15 years is that the air inside the malls is also crap. Nothing but fumes and toxic chemicals in there. Also at thrift stores you get to see what something is like after one or two washings. I have stopped going to our last fabric store that drove out all the other fabric stores because I washed something when I got home and it bled all over itself. Never again.

Men's Suit said...

there was a huge difference between cheap. and cheap crap! you might experienced it for sure..