Buying Local

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My sister travels quite frequently, but no matter how often she leaves and comes back she always experiences sticker shock, and most times it’s at the supermarket. Several years ago there was a campaign tagged “Buy Local” where we were encouraged to buy first, the items that were locally produced.

Because the majority of our food is imported, all kinds of people have to get their cut before it actually gets to us, so you would think that when the item is grown or produced here, the prices wouldn’t be as much or even more than the stuff that got here by boat.

But sometimes it is – so it’s like we can’t win.

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As for sales – whenever those happen I sometimes have the sneaky suspicion that the new price is what the item should have cost all along. But whether the prices are regular or reduced, their altitude makes it seem as if some merchants want to be able to pay their rent from your one sale, just in case nobody else comes in.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I travel outside of the region, I become a walking calculator. I know it’s not just me who automatically does the foreign exchange conversion of the items in the stores.

Most times it’s to see whether the item is a good deal, but sometimes it’s to marvel at how much profit is being made on the same item by the people who sell it back at home. Even allowing for triple the exchange rate (to account for the duties, the taxes, the freight costs, the interest payments, the headaches, the harassment and the this-took-too-long-to-sell allowances that are involved in importing goods), it’s still hard to see how some merchants come up with their prices.

That’s why the US and places farther afield are seen as the land of opportunity – to shop for goods that don’t require you to give up a limb or two. There is no feeling at all in the world that can compare to getting an item for $20.00 that you know would cost you at least $150.00 at home.

Who really wants to spend a fortune on clothes for kids who will probably wear them twice before they don’t fit anymore? Good quality is nice to have, but unless Junior has a brother (or a cousin who’s a boy), that cute Oshkosh B’Gosh outfit is staying on the shelf because Oh Gosh, I ain’t buying it!

Don’t talk about toys. I can’t seem to understand how something that’s small enough to fit in my pocket can take such a large chunk out of my wallet. And when all the attendant and ridiculously tiny pieces get lost (as they inevitably will), they won’t be the only things I’ll be trampling underfoot.

Bigger ticket items such as cars and houses have some of us wishing for a lot less zeros in the price tags. But our salesmen don’t bargain and the house costs that much because all the inputs have to be imported – so you just has to suck it up or else walk, take the bus or bum a ride and remain somebody’s tenant for the rest of your life.

So because things are so expensive, one has to take care of the things that cost so much money in the first place, since a replacement will probably cost even more.

Luckily some items do come with warranties and guarantees which are designed to make you feel better about all the money that you have to spend. But the policy of a particular US store still lets me know that not all warranties are created equal.

On one of her overseas trips my sister says that she bought an orchid plant. On checking out her purchase she was informed that should the plant die she would be able to get a free replacement. It didn’t seem to matter whether she overwatered it, undernourished it or neglected it. If it didn’t survive she could just go back and get another one.

I assumed that she would have to take the evidence with her. But maybe there was an excess of stock because I just don’t see how they were planning on making any money on those plants. Our Antiguan businesspeople don’t play that. You kill it – you buy another one.

Such a generous return policy would make it easy for me to pretend that I had a green thumb, but something like that happening in our stores is about as likely as the price of gas going down.

All I can say is… some people don’t know how good they have it.

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