Friday, March 28, 2008

"Cheap" is not a compliment

I am having a sad day. This morning Vicky told me my favorite locally owned maternity clothing boutique is going out of business. This is the place I visited when my belly was gigantic and the ladies were so nice and helped me find clothes that fit. They were classy and polite and told me to take my time. They did not ask if I was having twins and didn't roll their eyes when I took armload after armload of clothes into the dressing room to try on.

Then today at work a new dad came in and picked up an adorable baby outfit. It was a dress with bloomers and a hat. He seemed to like it but then he saw the price tag. It cost $35.99. "Excuse me," he said. "Is this price tag right? Thirty-five dollars?" I didn't know what to say. "Yes. It's right." The company who made the outfit is small and they supply us with high-quality preemie clothing to meet the needs of even the tiniest babies. The clothes are made in the United States, and I feel confident that the people who make them are paid a fair wage. I cannot say the same for clothes you might find at... say... WAL-MART.

You can probably see now where this is going. There are many reasons not to shop at places like Wal-Mart and Target, but this one hits home for me. Last Saturday while shopping on the square in the town where we live, I went into one of my favorite shops and noticed a sign in the window. It urged passersby to support our local businesses before they disappear. Can you imagine how horrible that would be? People fall in love with our town's homey atmosphere and charm. You can go shopping and find handmade items, and also get to know the shop owners. It scares me that visitors are thisclose to coming here and finding a run-down square with boarded up shops with "for rent" signs in the windows. Wal-Mart may be convenient and cheap but do you really want to make it your ONLY choice? I certainly don't.

Back to the baby outfit. I know many of you might think $35 is a lot to spend on an outfit for a child. Just imagine this: You are sewing an outfit for a baby. You grab a large piece of paper and draw out a pattern for a hat, bloomers, and a dress. Fabric must be chosen, so you go to the fabric store and pick out a couple of yards (let's say you pay $10 for the fabric and notions). Then you go home, cut the fabric using a rotary cutter you bought for crafting, and then pin the pieces together. You lay them up on your $200 sewing machine and stitch everything together, and then do some of the sewing by hand as necessary. Three hours have gone by since you started, and it's time to get some card stock and put a price tag on your creation. What's the price tag going to say? Remember--you have sunk at least $12 into this already for materials and wear and tear on your equipment. If you sell the outfit for $35 that would mean you'd be paying yourself $7.67 an hour. That's not much for all your hard work--and you haven't even paid to market your product or set up shop yet! How are you going to feel when you are sitting at a craft fair with your handmade creations and someone flips the price tag over and says "GAH! That's highway robbery!"

WHY are people like this? I believe they have become spoiled by shopping at places like Wal-Mart and Target. You may be able to buy a similar-looking outfit at Wal-Mart for $5.95, but it's not cheap! You conveniently never see the adolescent girl in another country who slaved over that piece of clothing so you could save a few bucks, while she is paid so little money that if you saw it on the street you might not bother to pick it up. It was expensive to someone, even if it wasn't you. We are going to see, unfortunately, more and more local businesses shut their doors forever because of this avarice of getting a good deal.

I am guilty of this too. I am so ashamed of shopping at Wal-Mart the way I have been and it's not going to happen anymore. My goal is to only go to Wal-Mart when I need a specific item I cannot find anywhere else, and buy only that item. I want to cut back on my Target shopping too--we're taking this one step at a time. It's the right thing to do, and the Christian thing, I believe, to support local businesses and buy items we know people were paid a fair wage for making. Shop locally, buy secondhand, buy online! When you find yourself at Wal-Mart unavoidably, I challenge you to get what's on your list and GET OUT. You may be getting a "good deal" today, but we are all about to pay for it tenfold in the months and years to come.

P.S. I learned a lot and was inspired by this article (and this one too) from Wisebread. I encourage you to read them and set goals for yourself based on what you learn.


Jenna Raby ( said...

I couldn't agree with you more. We must learn to pay fair and living wages for locally produced goods and services and support our own communities. Laborfair,, is all about this trend. People hire people directly for all types of household service and we all benefit by paying less to hire directly while paying market based prices for local labor. We're currently in San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles and scaling across the US soon.

Cakies said...


I couldn't have said it better... Let's do it one step at a time! People just don't understand...

And you have been tagged... look at my blog and you will know what i mean!