A window into a country´s real values: Its thrift stores

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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JB Boonstra

Yesterday I was flipping through Hannah´s tourist book and found what was called a "vintage" clothing store. Of course both Hannah and I knew that vintage really meant used! And used meant cheap! So we got all excited and struck out to find this place. I was impressed when we got there. It wasn´t just a vintage clothing store, but an entire mall of second-hand clothes, from pants to jerseys to sunglasses to jackets. They seemed to have everything! I got really excited when I saw all this because I was thinking how much I could buy at a used clothing store in the States and here my dollar 3 times the value! I was pretty sure I was going to be leaving with boxes of clothes. So I got started. I went into one store with Adidas jackets in the window. I found one that I liked and asked the lady how much it was. She said it was 90 pesos: 30 dollars!! I was like "What??!" Was this lady crazy? Selling used clothes for $30 is ridiculous, I thought. So I went to the next store and asked about some other clothes. Again everything was $60 pesos or above. I finally found some nice jackets that a guy was willing to sell for 50 pesos or 17 dollars. Needless to say, I didn´t buy nearly as much as I thought I was going to. I went home with a couple jackets and some books.

  I think this episode gives one some insight into the wasteful attitude we have in the US. In thrift stores in the States, you will rarely find something over $10, let alone $30. We seem to have the mindset that if someone has worn something, even if only once, then we shouldn´t have to pay much of anything to get it. It´s not new, so it has next to no value. I have a very nice pair of New Balance shoes I got at a thrift store for $10. They would have cost me $120 if I had bought them new, and yet, I could barely tell the difference between my shoes and new ones. I also have a very nice Navy peacoat, an official officer jacket. Who knows how much I´d have to pay for that new. I got it again for $10 at Salvation Army. What is wrong with the US? Why is something not worth anything if someone has barely worn it? Imagine if cars were like that! They´d be driven off the lot and then simply given away whenever the owner wanted a new one. Here in Argentina, and I assume in most other countries of the world, people recognize that just because someone has worn something a couple times, doesn´t mean it´s no longer a nice piece of clothing. They don´t think that a jacket is magically transformed to junk to everyone else as soon as one person buys it. It´s still the same jacket! The US simply has this mindset that used things aren´t good enough. We have to have everything shiny and new. We leave thrift stores and the like to the homeless and lower class of the inner cities. We feel pride whenever we find something that would cost a hundred dollars new and purchase it for ten. In reality, I think we should be ashamed. Ashamed that we have fallen into the mindset that everything we buy has to be spotless. That no one but us has ever touched this piece of clothing. That only the best is good enough and anything less is garbage. That is consumerism at it´s worst. Now I´m not saying that we American´s are evil or anything like that. It would probably happen to any country that has done as well as we have financially. It would be interesting to visit a thrift store in England or another well-developed country and see what the prices are like. We have money, so we can spend it on new clothes and simply throw the old ones away. Or if we´re REALLY generous, we can donate it to Salvation Army and feel really good about ourselves. The US has this huge movement to recycle paper, plastic, and aluminum going on right now. I submit that we should start having this attitude toward other things as well. Though I would be sad to lose all the incredible deals I´ve found at thrift stores, the US needs to drop its tendecy of wastefulness and superior consumerism and start making better decisions: both environmentally and financially.

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