Eva Bradley: Bagging bargains no real thrill

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When did cheap stop being cheap enough?

Once upon a time, a long time ago, when "Made in China" applied to chopsticks and rice and not a lot else, we were all quite happy to pay a good price in return for a product of good quality.

Then, we spent the next 10 years taking good care of it.

Today, thanks to sweat shops and cheap importing, few of us will even consider prying open our wallets without the lure of a half-price sale.

The eagerly anticipated, once-a-year, 30 per cent off sale at our favourite store has become a permanent feature as retailers send their prices and profits down the gurgler in a desperate bid to keep the doors open during the recession.

There's no doubt about it - discounting is great for Joe Public.

To a point. But when the dollar signs start talking more loudly than the product itself, we're in trouble.

First came Grabaseat and, along with the rest of New Zealand, I found myself booked on flights I didn't want in the first place just because they were cheap.

Experience has taught me that a $200 return flight might seem good value when you hand over your credit card, but when you don't end up using it because you booked on a whim and the dates just didn't work out, it's still the most overpriced flight you're ever likely to purchase.

Then came Grabone...the daily deal website followed by others of a similar ilk, all designed to make you spend money on things you never knew you wanted until an embarrassingly discounted price made you pay good money for a product of questionable value to the purchaser.

All of us have been guilty at some point of buying something we never wanted just because it was cheap, and then getting a dirty little thrill from the savings made until the reality hits home - 70 per cent off something you never needed in the first place is still 30 per cent more that you should have paid.

Aside from cluttering our homes with inferior products, discounting has destroyed our appreciation for quality, and the satisfaction that comes from longing and reward.

Remember the Barbie doll or train set you spent all year lusting after as a child, and the subsequent joy that came from finding it wrapped up under the tree on Christmas morning?

A toy like that was loved and cherished for years.

It came to bed with us at night and was a constant accessory during the day.

Now that Barbie has 20 cheap best friends just like her, each and every one of them most likely will end up in a dusty corner, in favour of the new toy de jour.

The worst casualty of discounting has been quality.

Because so many things are now offered at unbelievably cheap prices, we have an expectation of price that is unrealistic for anything but the most inferior of products - or products that really weren't ever worth the advertised full price in the first place.

Quantity paid has won out over quality and instead of owning one thing of great beauty, we have 10 things that are a cheap imitation and get treated accordingly.

We have become a grab one and throw it away later society. It's cheap.

But is that really what matters? Eva Bradley is an award-winning columnist.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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