North Americans Are Shopping Junkies

February 10, 2011 Updated: February 10, 2011

OTTAWA—Shopping as entertainment is a plot to ruin the developed world. Yep, I have it all figured out, at least for myself. And judging by burgeoning consumer debt in Canada, which is at a historical high, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise for most Canadians either.

I remember our first sandwich maker. My mom bought it 20 years ago and it still works. The one my wife and I bought after Christmas broke the first time we used it.

Mind you, my wife has a penchant for destroying things. I tease her that bad people reincarnate as one of the purses she stuffs with mysterious provisions until the seams tear and the zippers burst.

But I can’t blame it on her entirely. Truth is, too many of us North Americans are cheapos. We love to buy junk—total garbage. We want the cheapest deal on the most worthless stuff that breaks within a year and never works too well in the meantime.

Well, I’m done with it, done with it, I tell ya. From now on, it’s either old or bold for me.

We’ve had that policy on furniture for a while now and our living room is populated with teak items with as many years as myself.

It wasn’t really by choice, both of us were haunted by student loans and we kind of enjoyed the hunt for nice, old stuff.

For Christmas, my wife wanted us to use gift money to buy a new living room set. The old set, as my friend teased, looked like something we found on the curb. It wasn’t that bad, but perhaps better suited to a cabin in the woods than a living room in a nice Toronto suburb.

So we started looking around. First stop, IKEA.

IKEA is a brilliant maze for unwary consumers. They even offer you cheese dogs cheap if you get through it, or a real lunch in the cafeteria if you need to refuel. But if you’ve ever tried to pop in to check out one thing, then you know their shtick: there is no such thing as a quick trip to IKEA. The entire store is a trap that forces you through a labyrinth of simulated kitchens and living room demos.

Mind you, IKEA has some nice stuff, and really well thought out, but they are also the place to buy bolt-it-yourself particle-board churn-iture. You buy it, hope you never have to move it, and put it on a curb after a few dings or chips leaves it looking like a frat-house couture.

Of course, IKEA isn’t alone in churning out disposable home decor, they just do it better than anyone. So when my wife wanted a couch, we went there first.

She wanted leather, and there was lots of it, and cheap. We have an antique leather chair, so we hoped it could match. But our budget kept us in the cheap section and I was all too conscious of that near unbreakable rule of consumption: you get what you pay for.

There was a decent looking couch, but I could tell at a glance that two or three years from now, it was going to look like a rumpus room reject.

Then I checked Kijiji, which is like Craigslist without the Nigerian over-payment schemes, and found a nice teak set with two chairs and a looong couch. It’s got to be 30 years old, but you can’t tell by looking and when it was new, it probably cost several times the $600 bucks I paid in 2010 dollars.

Sure, some could argue it only works in a “retro” space like ours, but I’m okay with that. What I really like is the quality. It’s cliché and untrue to say “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore,” because I know they do. But I’d rather pay off the car than spend thousands on a living room set. This stuff might be a little dated, but it’s got character and quality you can’t find for that price anywhere.

Best of all, it keeps me out of the maze.

It’s also my little protest against credit cards and Chinese labor abuses and the idea that shopping is entertainment.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Matthew Little is a multi-media reporter for The Epoch Times.