9.27.2009

there's a shocking headline: free stuff draws crowds

Thousands of Albertans line up for free potatoes

Winnipeggers drive around city looking for free stuff

In Edmonton, organizers sought to highlight locally grown food. In Winnipeg, the City encouraged a "freecycle" fest, where residents left unused items on the curb for others to grab.

Both great ideas, both good causes. But man oh man, is this ever Canadian.

Don't get me wrong. People from the US love free stuff, too. And you'd be hard-pressed to find a New Yorker who has never picked up something from the curb to call their own.

But the first thing I thought of when I read these stories was my co-worker who, after working all day, drove to three different grocery stores to shop for dinner, because "the peppers are a little less" in one place, and the tomatoes are a little cheaper in the other.

Posts like these inevitably draw some defensive comments from readers explaining the joys of frugality. So let me emphasize that I'm not disparaging this tendency. I am merely noting it as a cultural trend that I do not share.

Also, whenever free food is involved, we have to wonder how many people are there not from cheapness, but from need.

12 comments:

redsock said...

...I am merely noting it as a cultural trend that I do not share.

But there are free potatoes!!!

L-girl said...

But there are free potatoes!!!

Open goal. :)

M@ said...

my co-worker who, after working all day, drove to three different grocery stores to shop for dinner, because "the peppers are a little less" in one place, and the tomatoes are a little cheaper in the other.

I had to check again and make sure it you hadn't said this was "a friend of mine" or something. I've been known to visit two or three markets while on a shopping trip. Usually building from strength to strength (e.g. Asian market for cheap vegetables and fish, eastern European market for meat and cheese, No Frills for PC pop and a few name-brand things).

It's kind of a sickness. I'm okay with that.

Btw, I used to be a member of Freecycle but I never took, only donated. I got rid of a few things but my favourite was a 12-year-old girl who wanted a typewriter because she wanted to be a writer. Her mother put the request on Freecycle and ended up with my beautiful 1980 Xerox electric typewriter. It was so much more satisfying than putting it in a landfill!

Anyhow, I agree with you -- but be on your guard. One day, you're just taking your shoes off in the house; before you know it -- free potatoes!!!

L-girl said...

I had to check again and make sure it you hadn't said this was "a friend of mine" or something.

Ha, nope, it wasn't you!

My goal with all shopping is to make the fewest number of trips possible. I'm sure I pay a bit more for several items that I find more cheaply elsewhere... but I'm ok with that. :)

I also belong to Freecycle, and also to get rid of stuff. I've Freecycled lots of things - it's great. But I never comb it for things I might want. I always think, why would I want other people's junk!

One day, you're just taking your shoes off in the house; before you know it -- free potatoes!!!

Creeping Canadiana!!!

L-girl said...

"that I find more cheaply elsewhere... "

that I ^could^ find more cheaply elsewhere... but don't

L-girl said...

who wanted a typewriter because she wanted to be a writer

That is so sweet. My first typewriter made me feel that way. And even before that, my mom bought me a hardcover thesaurus. We didn't have a lot of books and never bought hardcovers, so it was really special. I still have it - a treasure.

James said...

Canada's Scottish roots are showing again. ;)

deang said...

In the US, there seems to be a strong tendency to avoid seeming poor at all costs, even if (maybe especially if) you actually are poor - viz. people going into enormous debt to lease flashy vehicles while deriding less-than-new cars as "ghetto". Do you notice that tendency among Canadians? What you write here suggests that it may not be present to the same extent there.

L-girl said...

I don't see that at all here. With all the usual disclaimers for generalizing, there is a big premium placed on frugality here.

In general, people are more likely to spend less and save more. "Getting a good deal," getting something at a discount or bargain is key. Spending more for something you could have gotten for less - even if there's a what to me would be a good reason for the choice - is foolish, wasteful, silly.

Where I'd be apt to think it was silly to go to 3 different grocery stores looking for the best prices, my co-worker thinks I'm foolish for spending more than I have to, to save time.

Lots of Canadians don't have credit cards or only use them for convenience, and would rarely if ever have a balance owing.

I haven't run into the importance of not looking poor. It may be more prevalent in low-income areas. I don't know.

James said...

I've certainly seen plenty of examples of what I call "wasteful frugality": burning $10 worth of gas to drive around and save $5 on groceries, for example.

I've done it to myself plenty of times with another form: buying Brand X because it's 1/2 the price of Brand Y, but then later realizing that Brand X only lasts 1/3 as long as Brand Y, and I'm spending more in the long run.

It took me a long time to get used to buying $70 jeans instead of $30 ones, or $120 shoes instead of $40 ones.

L-girl said...

Oh yes! Driving around looking for a .01 cheaper gas is another good one.

I'm a big believer in spending more for quality that will last, as opposed to spending less for something that will fall apart, if at all possible.

But it's a foreign concept to many people, for whom the bottom line is only sticker price. I frequently find myself explaining the idea - "...but it will last for years" - to people who are shocked by the idea.

redsock said...

Your chair (aka The Throne) is a good example of paying what seems like a small fortune now, but knowing that after 10 years, you'll actually have spent less than if you had bought three cheaper, poorer-quality chairs in that time.