Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Great 'Used' Debate (795 words)

Well, so much for wanting to get an amazing steal of a deal on a laptop. Instead, for $971.00, I got a free case, a laptop with independent graphics processing, and a 2-year warranty that covers acts of God (i.e.: fires and floods, etc.) as well as my own negligence. I actually do think it was money well spent. I guess I'll just have to be extra-thrifty elsewhere. Like used books, perhaps.

I've always been into used bookstores. One of my favourite stops on Hwy 10 up to Riding Mountain National Park is a store that used to be called Poor Michael's Bookshop in the little town of Onanole (I don't know if it still is, but that's how I refer to it). It's evolved over the years and now has a sort of arts/crafts angle as well as a cafe, but it still stocks a mighty selection of second-hand books and magazines, and my family has stopped there to browse and buy for almost two decades. More recently, I discovered the many used bookstores in Winnipeg and throughout my university years I was a faithful fixture in most of them, both to sell and to buy.

Now, though, I find myself largely on the buying end of things unless I'm looking for a specific out-of-print edition or volume. I've found there's something special about being the first person to own a glossy new book. And as an aspiring author myself, I can appreciate that if I buy a book I enjoy very much, the hard-working author has not gotten a cent out of my enjoyment - something to which they're probably entitled as a result of having worked so hard to produce, then market to publishing houses, then revise said book. It's not an easy process! Surely the creator deserves some reward for having taken so much time out of his/her life to create.

The same, then, holds true for music. Songwriters and performers spend long hours each day on their crafts. If I buy a CD second-hand (something I did more frequently before realizing that the quality is often suspect) or download music from the Internet (I think I can count on one hand the times I have actually done this, since music files take up too much space on my drives and I don't own an iPod), the creator doesn't get anything for my enjoyment of his/her work. Yes, the record companies might have ridiculously unfair contracts which limit said artists to make but pittances off of their own creations, but if I don't purchase the music, the artist doesn't even get that pittance. For the record, I don't know that I'm entitled to comment, since I have never seen a recording contract first-hand. But it still stands that if I'm not paying, they're not receiving.

I think there's less of an argument for second-hand clothing cutting off the creator. I'm pretty sure that for your generic Old Navy or Suzy Shier or what have you, the garment designers are in-house and getting paid like graphic designers do. Besides that, the garments are made en-masse, not by the designers but by sewing machine operators, mostly in countries far from the company's retail outlets and making far less than the minimum wage in the company's client locales. Unlike the writing of a book or the composing of an album, the making of your average pair of jeans or t-shirt is very far removed from an art. It's a process, unless we are talking about one-of-a-kind designer items - and even here I find it hard to justify a $4,000.00 purse. I think if the designer has been paid the $4,000.00 once for that purse, that also pays in full for the other 40 people who may subsequently (and hopefully all legally) acquire said purse in the future - and for $4,000.00 it should last through the next 40 owners!!! (The pricey Bally keychain in the photograph, found by fellow blogger Rachel for a price of $2.00, actually retails for more than $2,000.00!)

And those are just the three things that I most often buy second-hand. There's a whole second-hand world out there - appliances, cars, furniture, dishes, pet toys (eugh...)... I think these are the three most important things to remember about second-hand stuff:

1) It does save the environment some stress - if there was no way to acquire cast-offs that previous owners didn't want, everything would just go to landfills!

2) It saves your pocket - if someone else has already used it, it's not in the pristine condition for which someone paid full price, therefore of course it's cheaper in order to compensate for that.

And 3) Sometimes (as in when I bought a disappointingly beyond-repair copy of Metallica's recording with the San Francisco Symphony, or a shockingly unravel-ly sweater from a second-hand clothing store) you really do get what you pay for.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Danielle. I agree with the whole purchasing new CDs and books are good thing to do. Old Navy already gets lots of money.
    P.S. See! I do read your blog. :)