Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Put the Used to Good Use

I was browsing around for a copy of Ace Combat 6 the other day when some guy breezed into the store and asked if they had a Wii. They didn't, considering that Christmas was only a couple of days ago, and it's unlikely that more than a handful of stores in Metro Vancouver had any up for sale, whether new or used. I could hear him grousing about the kind of person that would give something used as a gift - and really, I think that's one of the twentieth-century problems we desperately need to address in the twenty-first.

The twentieth century, it seems, had a mania for newness. On the face of it, it's not too suprising; it was the first century where the manufacturing sector had developed enough that anyone who wanted anything could get it fresh from the assembly line. Used goods, in that context, are castoffs - things that someone else has used until they can't use them anymore, or have gone beyond the need for them. I can understand why some people might see it as more like scavenging, or even picking trash up off the ground. But that doesn't mean it's right. The "used economy" has an important place today, and in the years to come I think it may become even more so - after all, you don't need to invest energy or resources in creating something that already exists.

Besides that, there's one big advantage used has over new - many used things, depending on how long someone else has had their name to them, just aren't available in the stores any more no matter where you look. This is especially true when it comes to the vintage clothing market.

I mean, really - would I be able to get an authentic '70s shirt this hideous in a store today?

The way I see it, there's nothing wrong with used - it has its own functional, low-energy niche. It has character, too, and can act as a reminder that there's more than just what's in the stores - that there's more to life than the present day. Right now, on my coffee table, there's a coaster from the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle that I picked up for ten bucks at a store in New Westminster's Antique Alley, and it's just got that sort of historic character that would be extremely difficult to find in a "new" store.

Plus, the thing is fifty years old and still in good shape - that speaks to how well it was made, even as a promotional item. Do you think the modern crap that gets shovelled out of Chinese factories today will last fifty years? A lot of it won't last five years - hell, some of it doesn't last five days without breaking or exposing some manufacturing fault.

Generally speaking, you don't find wrecked or broken things in a used market - you find things that people just don't have a use for anymore. There's plenty of utility left in them.

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