Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rewire us please

I know it’s not true. Why do I hold fast to the assumption those “new” items will work or even meet basic expectations when they arrive in my home? I constantly forget to give “new” items a good once over while shopping. More often than is right I must about face and return a “new” item because it is defunct, lacking. I waste too much time on “new” items and I don’t even buy that many compared to the average American consumer. (I do not enjoy the abuse of quotation marks, but time has taught me that new items are often “new.”)

Let us be clear. Just because an item is new, it doesn’t guarantee that it: 1) has never been used before and returned; 2) is clean; 3) is in working order; 4) has all the parts required to work; or 5) will function in the manner as promoted. All five unfortunate events have happened to me many times. They’ve happened to you as well. We take the abuse. Think of all the miles wasted to return or exchange a “new” item. The time in return lines. The anxiety spent on whether we will be challenged or insulted by clerks standing at the dreaded customer service desk. I’d like to see these figures in the February Harper’s Index.

Let's face it. Not everyone returns or exchanges a newly purchased disappointment. Many are tossed in the trash or sent packing to thrift stores. How could we be so wasteful?

I thoroughly inspect secondhand items. Rarely does a thrift store purchase not meet expectations when carted through the front doors of my home. This phenomenon needs a catchy title. Anyone?

I have mantras that come in handy in the thrift store. Why are they chucked out the window when I enter the conventional market? Is it the music that choreographs shoppers to spend more? The overpowering product displays? The offensive maneuvers of a commissioned sales staff?

From now on, I’m going to dope slap myself out of the haze of the check out lines so that I might avoid the return lines.


Joy said...

I'm sitting on the edge of my seat wondering about what could have brought this on! I've had many items "not perform as promised"...never had any of the other incidents happen to me! Do tell...And oh! How I wish I was the clever one to provide your terminology for successful thrift shopping...That'll be a GOOD ONE! Great post!

Beth said...

"New" items abound in thrifts for many of the reasons you mention. I have learned to give these "great finds" careful scrutiny. Sizing is a common problem and so are fabric flaws; often, though, a missing button or two has relegated the item to the donation pile. O Lucky Me!

Anonymous said...

Stats abound right now in articles I am seeing. If you touch an item for more then so many seconds you are more likely to buy it. If given something free upon entering a store, a bottle water, a small piece of candy, you then feel an obligation to reciprocate your thanks by making a purchase. And let's not even start on us being seduced by the aromas which effect us that retailers, hotels and the like put into the air effect how we react in their environment.

I am grateful to anyone that donates their unneeded, or unused items. I never think of hitting the malls, I always start at thrift stores. They are low key and I don't feel the assault on my senses that I do when entering "regular" stores where everything is calculated, placement, color, everything.

When shopping retail I go with a list and stick to it. I want to increase my chances for not falling for the seduction of anything I don't really need.

I also think no one knows how to do basic things like sew on a missing button or remove a stain. I have purchased items at thrift stores that have had both those issues. I have a button can and can usually find something similar. Or it can be fun to mix and match buttons. 95% of the time I can get any stains out. And, I have even bought items that have a bit of wear since depending on how I use it I know I'll just add to the wear. What's the harm that someone has already started the process.

Lastly, raising two boys, I have loved never blinking when they have stained, torn or done anything else to their clothing no matter what brand it was. And buying thrift means I have been buying high-end brands that last longer. My oldest son almost fell over when he saw the price of a Ralph Lauren polo shirt for $85 in a department store. He has a closet full, all purchased for $2-$8 a piece.

Keep up the promotion of reusing, our planet needs all the help it can get.

Anonymous said...

I finally sprang for some new pajamas. For years, I'd never look at thrifted pjs because they were too close to underwear (Yuk). Then, a few years ago, I came across NEW Joe Boxer flannels. They were new because they were covered with xmassy-cute prints and no doubt gifted and promptly thrifted by the recipient. More slowly I ventured to slightly worn pairs; but again, it was the Joe Boxer flannels that held up. These thrifted wonders, now 4 years or so old, have been a test lab. I now know that JBs are a really good product, and when a really, really good sale comes around post-xmas, I know I'm going to get great value out of my purchase. When a brand passes the thrift test, it really says something.

Practical Parsimony said...

I was redisigning my friend's office and waiting room that is attached to her home. I told her to get the tiny white sash curtain rods. She bought brass colored ones that shown through the lace curtains. She started opening them all and putting them on her desk. I stopped her after three were opened and told her she had gotten the wrong color.

Immediately, she threw those three in her trash beside her desk. I shrieked that she could get her money back. She was in the process of throwing the new, unopened one in the trash. Finally, my shrieking stopped her long enough for me to fish everything out. She adamantly refused to return them. So, I just took them, taped the packages back and returned them myself.

Later, I gave her the money I "saved" her. She was still defensive and did not want the money, sort of like it was tainted by coming from a return. She told me she throws everything in the trash instead of returning items.

Kate said...

I buy at least 80% of our household clothing and goods at thrift shops; however, I was recently looking for bedding at a well-regarded retailer & spotted a suede-trimmed wool pillow sham. Curious about this use of wool, I opened the package to test the itchiness factor. Imagine my horror when I discovered that the sham, packaged and sold as new, had quite clearly been used to cover a DOG BED. It was covered in dog hair and had several drool-damaged areas on the suede. I have never encountered anything so disgusting in a thrift store, or, frankly, even at the "freecycle" building at the local dump.

Shopping Golightly said...

Dear Practical,

Hang out with your friend more. You could garner a decent income with the waste she allows.

Shopping Golightly said...


Oh my! That is disgusting!

I've volunteered in the sorting/staging areas at thrift stores. Call it field work. At the store I volunteered at, anything like you desribed would have been tossed in the salvage bins and NEVER would have made it on the sales floor.

As for the salvage bins, another person sorts through those to determine what gets shipped in huge lots to third world countries. Shoes without mates are shipped to countries where land mines are an issue. Little is wasted.

Teri said...

I do computer tech support for a living. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that a router, computer or cable couldn't possibly be the problem because it's new. New has no guarantees that it's working.

I pick up things at the Goodwill Outlet store and much of it just needs a little hand sewing. Too bad that most folks never learned how to sew.

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Gertrude Jones, The Southern Co said...

Interesting post, thanks for sharing. It never occurred to me how many people actually waste "new" items by just throwing them out, and great advice about checking out thrift stores for these "new" items which are actually considered new given the context it is sold in. We encourage recycling so we would encourage people to reuse these items before deciding to throw them out.

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