Consumption: A Thought

Posted on December 8th, by Birdie in Birdie's Adventures. 6 comments December 14, 2012

I was over on RetroChick the other day, and she had an interesting point about fashion – and fast fashion.

I realize some of you may not have read her post on Fashion Economics, so I’ll give you a little excerpt, and you should read the whole post over HERE on RetroChick:

Unless they start encouraging shoppers to maintain their wardrobes the cycle of over consumption is essentially unbreakable.

Low cost retailers have sprung up across the nation to feed an insatiable appetite for fashion, but the industry that deals with repairing or making your own hasn’t met this challenge with it’s own prices. It’s impossible for me to make a dress from scratch for less than I could buy it, so why learn?

This was an incredibly insightful point:  Repair industries for EVERYTHING have not kept up with the prices for the goods they repair.  We’ve become a disposable nation.

Consider a conversation I had with my Dad recently.  Papa Bird was talking about being a TV repair man in college as a side job.  TV, back then, was this giant, heavy monster with tubes in the back that worked together to produce picture.  When your TV died suddenly, it meant something needed to be replaced, so you’d call the TV repairman, or walk down to your TV repair place and buy new tubes.  TVs cost so much more then, and the tubes were relatively disposable parts – fixing your TV cost MUCH less than buying new.

Now, TVs are so cheap, and the technology is such that if it’s broken, it’s going to cost 3 times as much to have it fixed, as it would cost to just buy a new one.  This is considering the original amount you spent on the TV is a sunk cost, because it’s no longer a relevant cost to the repair of the TV – it wouldn’t change your course of action going forward, however much you would lament the foregone cost of your now worthless TV.  It’s not like you can fix a lot of these hi-definition screens yourself, and it’s equally as hard for a TV repair place to fix them.  The time, effort and materials are so much more than buying new.

Everything is subject to this idea, too.  At some point, the cost to repair your car will exceed what the car is worth in trade-in value.  The cost to re-cobble shoes is so much higher than the value of the shoes, or the value of new shoes.  Cost-per-use is important to determining the value of a coat, for example  - how long you’ll be able to wear an item based on how much it cost to buy – but as soon as you get that item home, take the tags off, and wear it out, those are dollars that you will – most likely – never see again.  They’re sunk.  And paying money to have the lining repaired is always going to be subject to the idea of throwing good money after a sunk cost.

The sad part of this is that we have become a consumable world, because the repair industries haven’t truly kept up with the prices of the items themselves. So the consumer does end up paying much more to have something repaired.  It doesn’t behoove the retailer to sell items that don’t need to be fixed, does it?  They make much less money if you go out and get something fixed as opposed to buying new.

As wasteful as this all seems, it’s because the demand for repairable items has gone down.  We want things at such a low cost because the purchasing power of our dollar is not what it was yesterday.  To counteract this, we would HAVE to collectively suck it up to increase the demand for the service - buy better quality items, and repair things, even if the cost to repair is more than the cost  to buy new.  Think how many landfills wouldn’t be covered in old, used clothing, old monitors, and dead LCD TVs.

Just a thought.


6 Responses to “Consumption: A Thought”

  1. Michelle says:

    Hmm, I think I might be missing the point? Or maybe I do agree with you, because I don’t know, after reading Gemma’s post I was left thinking that boots are either really cheap there, or that shoe services are really expensive. I can get a pair resoled here for like $10-15, I think. But I try really hard to just buy shoes secondhand or something instead of buying cheaper shoes new, for the reason that you both mentioned – hell, faux leather can’t even be polished or worked on the same way real leather can, and if you only paid $50 for something, what’s the point in getting it resoled or stretched or worked on? I’d rather just find my stuff secondhand or save up for the good stuff that will last a while before needing fixed up, and then be durable/well-made enough to be worth fixing up, than buy something disposable.

    (Not that I’m judging Gemma at all. If you need a pair of shoes and you’ve only got $40, then $40 shoes it is.)
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Marvelous Monday! =-.

  2. Hayden Tompkins says:

    I actually flirted with the idea of learning how to make my own clothes, thinking that I could get amazing and fitted looks for a lot less money. Then I found out that patterns ALONE can be $20!

    I can do basic repair work on my clothing, but forget repairing anything electronic…or shoes.

    I think, at the end of the day, repairing your clothing is only cheaper if you are only investing in quality, high end pieces in the first place.
    .-= Hayden Tompkins´s last blog ..The Controversial Way I Saved My Marriage =-.

  3. Birdie says:

    Hayden – don’t even get me started on the cost of sewing. haha When you factor in the time, and energy and then all your supplies and the pattern it starts to seem like it’d be easier to just BUY something.

    I think that people don’t necessarily go into it because it’ll save money, but more because it’s a hobby. Still, it’s fun, and you can get fabrics at good prices if you know when/where to look (patterns too)… And once you do one pattern, you kind of see how it’s made and you could change – say, the pockets on a pair of trousers. For me, knowing how to sew works well, because I can alter preexisting pieces to fit me, or to update a look.

  4. [...] Hole In My Pocket. Birdie at Bonne Vie delves thoughtfully into the topic of fast fashion’s relationship to today’s repair industries. This is truly interesting people, so do take a [...]

  5. Alicia says:

    I read that piece and you both are absolutely right…and it sucks. It sucks that we consume and trash so easily and that we aren’t given a good alternative to that. Especially now.

    It does get annoying to keep throwing money after something you know is worth less than you keep shelling out (*ahem* my car, for instance), but I have to remind myself that no car payment >>>>>>> car payment and that usually helps me get over it. LOL.
    .-= Alicia´s last blog ..…around the house… =-.

  6. [...] Consumption: A Thought @Bonne Vie [...]

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge