Monday, November 17, 2008

Good things and Bad things

I always assumed that not buying things from China would make me spend more money. In fact, this is not quite true. In general, it has been a positive experiment, but it has its positives and negatives.

For example, I buy less things. I'm an impulsive shopper. But it is a lot harder to be impulsive as a shopper if you have a restriction on what you can buy. I check labels now, and if it is made in china, it is as if it is not for sale. So it cuts down a lot on impulsive purchases. Normally, if it is not something I need, I don't go searching for an alternate version of the product that is made outside of China. So in many respects I save money even if some of the things I buy are more expensive.

That said, just because it is expensive, doesn't mean it is not made in China. Lots of nice things are made in China. So you save in buying luxury items sometimes, too. Chronic offenders are Crate and Barrel and BCBG Max Azria. Sometimes you are better off going to Target or H&M

It also makes me less shy. When shopping in person, it is easy(ier) to check labels. Online, no so much. You start dreading the "imported" tag on online purchases. Imported from where? It never says. You email customer service. They take a while to reply. You call customer service. You need to ask for each product individually. It makes you eager to patronize your local stores and buy locally -- which is good for the environment to boot. 

There is a trick to getting things you want that are of dubious origin--buy used or refurbished. Someone else bought it from China, it outlived its usefulness, and now, you can rescue it from going to a landfill with all those other things made from China and buy it yourself. Refurbished products are a bit trickier, since sometimes they are sent back to the factory in China to be refurbished. Sometimes they are not. I'm still unclear how I feel about this, but it has been my only avenue for getting electronics at this point.

It is not without bad things, though. There are things you really, really want. Sometimes you do cave in, and you feel bad about it. Sometimes you don't, and you still feel bad about it. Sometimes things are labeled in such a way that there is no way to find out until you open the product, remove price stickers, or otherwise make you liable for the product. These things happen. Don't beat yourself up over it.

A difficult thing is books. Publishers are not consistent, travel guides are not returnable, the labeling is often on page 34 and sometimes books are covered in vinyl wrap. And I love books. This is a new problem I'm starting to tackle for myself. 

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