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To think that the quest for ever-cheaper products will harm us

(9 Posts)
SnowBells Wed 01-Jun-16 10:02:36

You can go onto any forum or talk to groups of people in real life. You can look at product reviews and arrive to the same conclusion. Wherever you look, people want ever-cheaper products. I went onto a forum only recently, where people were often complaining that one product was ‘overpriced’ because there were so many cheaper options. When I looked at the products, the difference was this: one of them was made by a western company (often small and niche) in the UK/US/(insert any other developed country), while the other one was often made in a developing country (mainly Asia) by a huge conglomerate.

It is very clear to me that overheads in developed countries are much higher than in developing ones where conglomerates often benefit from government funding in terms of R&D, so that their products can be sold even cheaper and they remain competitive in the global market. A lot of the ‘overpriced’ products are also sold by small businesses that unlike the big multinationals can’t get out of paying tax. Often, these businesses then choose to focus on the upscale luxury market. But then, people who can’t afford their products complain that they are ‘too expensive for what they are’.

With the current economic environment being the way it is, I can understand people’s need to tighten their belts. But I also see the dangers here. Whether you are a lawyer, accountant or a cleaner - if businesses in developed countries can’t make money, it will trigger a chain reaction and your life (should you live in a developed country) will be impacted. Jobs and wages will decline, and with it your standard of living. Who knows - maybe that's already the reason many people complain about stagnating wages.

Oftentimes, we don’t even want the products to be cheap because we really need them, but because we want the option of having them. How many of us buy cheap vegetables that then rot in our fridge, because we didn’t even use it?

Am I worried for no reason? Or will the quest for ever-cheaper products get us into trouble one day?

wasonthelist Wed 01-Jun-16 10:06:10

Yanbu, and it is crazy that in a World where seemingly everyone agrees we are fucking up the planet with carbon emmissions, no-one seems to wonder how it is cheaper to ship huge volumes of mostly shit products all over the place. Before anyone accuses me of being holier than thou - I am far from blame free.

araiba Wed 01-Jun-16 10:12:38

it already has got us in trouble

horse meat scandal

next time you buy a £1 tshirt in primark ask yourself- how can they sell and make prit on a tshirt for a quid?think of all the costs involved for this tshirt- a designer- raw materials and shipping, running costs of factory/ labour, shipping to shop, costs of shop/ labour/pr/marketing etc

fot £1 you are buying something thats total crap or someone is getting screwed somewhere or probably both

branofthemist Wed 01-Jun-16 10:14:14

There is definitely a section of society that wants things cheaper and cheaper.

I have worked with the public for years and have seen the entire time.

In restaurants people will say 'how much for a steak? I can buy it for £5 at Aldi' my response was usually 'you are free to do that'.

A lot of people I know love the local chain pub because it's cheap (2 meals for £5 or something) and admit it's not great.

We make a niche product. Made by hand with quality ingredients, no added crap. People still complain there is an American alternative that's slightly cheaper (about 1.5%) when you point out the difference. Lots of people don't care, even though they admit they don't actually like the American product that much.

Some people are on very tight budgets so have to go for a cheaper option but that does mean cheaper quality. But that doesn't mean there isn't a place in the market for higher quality more expensive options.

Me and dh prefer to go out less but go somewhere with good quality food. We eat smaller portions than we used to because we switched to buying local produce (including meat) , which isn't always cheaper. Personally I go for higher quality and less of it.

BillSykesDog Wed 01-Jun-16 10:32:24

YABU. Developed countries and the U.K. in particular have highly skilled work forces and make (and develop) things which cost a lot of money. Things like aircraft engines and ultra high tech computer systems, the latest automotive technology, high end medical technology, drugs and equipment and advanced scientific products.

As an economy we don't particularly need low end manufacturing like soap or clothing. It doesn't make much money for producers or their employees. In fact, to make a bar of soap in, say, China, and sell on at western prices normally makes a reasonable amount of money for the producer and a fairly decent standard of living for the employees producing it as it's sold on at a much higher value than it has in the place it's made. The salary of the worker may only buy two bars of soap a week in London. But in China it pays for soap, food, accommodation, energy.

You can say 'Oh yes, let's produce that in the UK instead and pay higher wages'. But if you're ramping up the price of basic goods by producing them in the UK where prices are higher, those higher wages will be pointless as costs are higher too.

SnowBells Wed 01-Jun-16 10:56:03


I’m not just talking about cheap products like soap (mind you, I spend a lot on skin care for niche products I love). It’s well-known that worrying about the manufacturing jobs that have been lost in the past is nothing compared to what is to happen in the future: the loss of white collar jobs. If you look at elite US universities, the ratio of PhD students from developing countries is very high.

A recent Bloomberg article I read said that in the last decade, China produced about 60 million college graduates, and by 2030, there are expected to be 200 million (which is more than the entire US workforce), joining those from India and Latin American in an increasingly crowded global market for brainpower. This will impact the West’s professional classes the most (jobs in finance, medicine and information technology were the ones mentioned) and widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Tiredbutfuckingfine Wed 01-Jun-16 10:58:24

I agree it's a problem. Although I think that just because something is cheap does not mean that it's poor quality or disposable. I have a £1 primark t shirt I've been wearing for 4 years and £3 jama bottoms over 8 years old. I could have chucked them and bought new ones, but why should I? they have lots of wear left in them.
Changing our attitude towards "stuff" and shopping is a big part of the solution I think

SnowBells Sun 05-Jun-16 09:50:14


It wouldn't be the quality that would concern me the most. It would be the thought that somewhere in the world, someone has been paid an extremely low wage creating that T-shirt which no one over here could ever live on...

Junosmum Sun 05-Jun-16 10:23:39

YANBU- I recently thought this when searching for a few cheapish items. I didn't buy any, mainly as I couldn't work out where my money was going. I vowed to research more and shop more ethically, even if that means buying less. I've been a bit 'consumered-out' for a while.

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