Friday, July 20, 2007

Shopping Habits

Where do you go first when you want to buy something? Everyone has their favourite shops, whether it's a huge supermarket where you can buy everything from a tin of beans to household contents insurance, or an elegant department store where the staff treat you with deference, or a market full of alternative clothes, weird knick-knacks and new age bookstalls.

I like eBay for second-hand bargains. I ought to shop in charity shops more but I haven't the patience. They work best if you pop in a few times a week with a shopping list in your head, ready to snap up the perfect pair of shoes in your size (or whatever) as soon as they come in. I tend to only go shopping when there's something specific I want, so the sheer size of eBay means that if I want, say, a pair of size 7 cherry red pre-owned Doc Marten boots, they have 15 for me to choose from.

I also like Craigslist which is similar to eBay. In fact I prefer it to eBay because it's free, it's local, and it has stayed close to its hippyish roots. There's a funky counterculture feeling to it which tickles me immensely.

I have to admit to spending a lot of money on Amazon. My voluntary simplicity, anti consumerist, downshifted principles fall apart when it comes to books. I buy far too many books. I do also make regular use of my local library, which is a greener way to feed my reading habit. And I frequent my local bookshop. But I am trying to kick my Amazon habit and patronise Abe Books instead. You can search 13,500 booksellers selling over 1 million used books so I should be able to find anything I want there and salve my conscience at the same time. Maybe I should also release some of my books into the wild, via Bookcrossing.

But mostly I try to shop as little as possible. I am appalled that shopping is said to be the most popular leisure activity in Britain today. I am bewildered that a typical large supermarket will stock around 50,000 different product lines. Over-consumption is not only bad for the planet, I think it's also bad for the individuals who over-consume, in the same way that eating too much food or drinking too much alcohol is bad for you even though it may seem enjoyable at the time.

I try to think before I shop. First, I think whether I need to buy anything at all, and second, I think whether I could buy something second hand instead.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah yeah yeah - join Bookcrossing! I'm "dododumpling" over there. :)

TopVeg said...

How refreshing to find another confused shopper! I am sure I heard that 33% of food purchased in the UK is thrown away?? What is going on!
We should join bookcrossing,too.

Thanks
TopVeg

Joanna said...

Bookcrossing is fun - I've given away a few books that way, but never managed to find one.

It sounds from this post as if you don't know about Freecycle, which is exactly what it says on the tin - you give away stuff you don't want to people who do want it. It works via local yahoo groups, and I've given away loads of stuff, got all kinds of things I needed (including three dustbin lids, no bins - where else would you be able to do that??), met all kinds of really nice people, saved a whole load of stuff from going to landfill, and generally made the world a merrier place.

Freecycle, changing the world one gift at a time - try it.

http://www.freecycle.org/

Joanna
joannasfood.blogspot.com

Melanie Rimmer said...

Thanks Joanna. I forgot to mention Freecycle. I'm a big fan and have used it for years. Anyone who wants to shop less should definitely check it out.

21st Century Mummy said...

Hi Melanie - spot on re over-consumption. I've known friends move house because they've run out of space, not due to the size of their family but the amount of stuff that they need more room for.

Debbie said...

I highly recommend Paperbackswap.com for books (not just paperbacks). It's free to join and the only thing you pay is for mailing out books -- all books come to you for free. Bookcrossing is fun, but like joanna, I've never found a book in the wild and nobody every logged in saying they found my books. Very disappointing.

Steph in Roker said...

Mel, I too love Amazon, but always buy used on their when I can. In fact, I'll scan down the 'used & new' list til I find a 'used' copy.
Same on ebay- I've been buying embroidery thread on there for friendship bracelets, but I'll only buy used packs, or unwanted gifts people have been given, as a lot is new & imnported cheaply to sell on ebay.

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