In Which We Discuss the Consumerist Habit of Moralizing the Amoral Consuming We Partake In.

I remember the first time I ever purchased a fleece <enter well known brand> jacket.

“Oh I love your jacket! But <well known brand> is just so overpriced.”

I wasn’t about to argue–most definitely it was overpriced. Nonetheless, as one person after another effused their admiration for my jacket, yet, in the same breath negated the value of the purchase, I began to grow a tad irritated.

It was almost like in conceding that I had a nice jacket, they also had to claim the moral high ground for not succumbing to that frivolity. And we are indeed living in a heyday of people seeking to socially position themselves as victims, or if victimization is impossible, the attainment of moral superiority.

See, no one likes to be singled out or accused, and if you have a nifty little buffer for any nasty social interactions, you can sail through life with little pain of mind.

Victimization=you are attacking me in a way consistent with the way X-group of people are being attacked, and I identify with them.

Moral Superiority=I may be an annoying twit, but the way that I conduct myself within the bounds of whatever contrived morality I ascribe to, frees me of any responsibility.

There are true victims. There are also wonderfully beautiful, moral people. There are also people who exploit those things in order to possess the social upper hand.

Wow. That was harsh, Me. I know. I digressed hard just now. Yes, yes you did.

Onward.

The irony in all of my fleecy fiasco, was that most of the people carrying the word “overpriced” around like a chihuahua in a purse, ALSO had probably sent a text message, purchased a pair of flip flops, or eaten (my favorite example) a “value” fry.

Let’s talk the numbers on that salty paper bag of goodness, shall we?

Potato

This is a potato. It weighs approx. 7 oz.

You can buy a 5 lb. bag of these (80 oz.) for $2.47.

There was a time in history, not too long ago, when you could purchase a small *value* fry for $1.00. One, measly little dollar for 2.6 ounces of finger-licking bliss.

So basic math (which took me entirely too long) says: 80 oz.=297 cents, 16 oz.=50 cents, and generously, 2.6 oz. rounded up=10 cents.

Throw in oil and you have a raw material’s cost of about 15 cents. Now, granted, <generic fast food brand> is paying somebody $2.00 per 15 minutes to scoop those fries into a paper sleeve for you… and they have to make a profit.

Just like every other business that affords you the luxury of having things with no other inconvenience to you but cold hard cash.

The majority of items on today’s market are rarely of any kind of true value. By the time you factor in materials, labor, marketing, and retail, you wind up with something that is double or triple the base cost. In short, everything is overpriced. It’s the price we pay for convenience.

NOW. I’m not saying this is an inherently bad thing. What I am saying is that our perception of value/expense is a little warped. 

I encounter mass production on a bit of a bipolar basis. On one hand, I love things. I am walking, talking proof that the psychology behind branding/packaging absolutely works. “OOOOHHHHHH. Is that a tiny silicone flower pot??? Of course I need it! It’s so small… and cute! I’ll grow tiny flowers in it, ok!?”

-True story

Yet, sometimes, I aimlessly wander around mass merchandise temples and feel almost sick at the sheer amount of stuff.

So. Much. Stuff.

And we get it and get rid of it. And get it and get rid of it. And get it and get rid of it. And somehow we feel justified because of- value. Especially if it was cheap.

You won’t find us spending money on overpriced elitism! Unless of course, it’s something we really want/need like new cars, frapamochamacchiatotinos, or fruit-branded electronics.

Once again, no judgement. I am guilty of all of the above. It just seems like there are some obvious alternatives to the consuming cycle that aren’t gaining a lot of popularity. I mean, despite the varied and complex nuances of the economy, I don’t think any of us relish the idea of small Asian children sweating over our convenience items. Nonetheless, a common attitude towards the world of artisan/heritage skill/locally made product is:

“But it’s so overpriced.”

It’s true. We do live in an age where every DIY’er or budding Picaso feels that their Etsy shop entitles them to the same compensation as people who dedicate a lifetime to their craft.

Was that harsh again? Darn it… yes, it was.

Though, honestly, I would rather overpay for somebody’s craft room exploits than the maddeningly decreasing quality of <famous brand of sports shoes> 20 dollars worth of material (and craftsmanship) that they want me to dish out $100+ for.

If we managed to cut out even just 30% of our cyclical junk and replaced it with higher quality, “overpriced” hand made or locally made product, we would already be reducing waste.

I think this is why I am intrigued by companies that are moving towards a model that seeks to, instead of mass producing a product, supply precise amounts of merchandise to the demand. It’s true that this can be costly. But does costly mean overpriced?

I’m not so naive as to think that child laborers will be magically liberated and employed gainfully by making a few alternative purchases. In fact, at first the opposite will probably be true. However, embracing less waste in my life, without completely swearing off frivolity (because let’s be honest, I love frivolity), helps me focus on what is important, and maybe eventually will lead to a dialogue that can help precious Asian babies have more to look forward to than making cheap American merchandise.

I guess that’s the deal. Cheap does not equal value or fairly priced, and frivolity does not equal waste.

A new-ish shoe company my brother introduced to me does a good job illustrating this. Aliveshoes offers a platform for independent individuals to design and sell shoes in an exact demand/supply format. The shoes are luxury items and cost $100+… so, in simple terms, they are frivolous. But they are made out of quality materials by real Italian craftsmen–an item you can frivolously wear for a lifetime.

I am a bit of an extreme thinker. I can tend to find myself moseying into thoughts like, “Really, I could easily survive with two outfits, two pairs of shoes, and a tiny hovel for a house. I’ll eat feed corn the tractors missed and bathe in the river.” And if Jesus asked me to to that, I would say yes.

He may be asking YOU to do that. But He would be asking you to do that so you could lend value to another person’s life–and that’s what it’s all about.

Whether you have money or not. Whether you spend it on frivolous things or not. It’s all about where you’re putting your value (which isn’t always tied to money BT-DUBS).

It’s okay to splurge on a sweet pair of kicks. Especially if the value is there. Don’t get caught up in the pseudo morality of over/under priced merch.

I am seriously impressed with the vision my brother has for the shoe he designed. He’s a go-getter and needs to sell seven of them in order for production to start. If you think they are as rad as I do, you should probably nab a pair.

Yeah, wear a pair of sweet Venue sneakers, and then go support a precious cherubic Eastern, largest continent dwelling, small human.

But seriously, buy some shoes.

And help babies.

I’m done guys.

Keep those heads in the clouds.

-H

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One thought on “In Which We Discuss the Consumerist Habit of Moralizing the Amoral Consuming We Partake In.

  1. Jalyss says:

    LOVE this. We have such a”throw away” mentality. The other day a friend recommended I get something at the dollar store because “when it doesn’t work anymore, you can just throw it away and get another one!” So wasteful. And it drives the market of cheap but poor quality products.

    My mom always said, “don’t ask why it’s so expensive, ask why it’s so cheap.” We often choose to pay more for something than we would somewhere else because we consider it an investment. We want to invest in ethical and earth friendly companies and we want our stuff to last. I cringe when people mention how cheap they got something at Walmart, but I fear coming off as being on the moral high ground if i approach the subject.

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