The Big Issue : Edition 478
THEBIGISSUE20FEB–5MAR2015 29 Fiona Scott-Norman ILLUSTRATIONBYGREGBAKES;ORIGINALPHOTOGRAPHBYMILESSTANDISH HOT TIPS ON HOW TO AVOID ‘SHOPPER SHOCK’. HIDDEN COSTS there. Because if there’s one thing our verges don’t need, it’s more abandoned cupboards with ruptured chipboard drawers. Particle board looks good for 12 months tops, and then it chips, bloats with moisture and bacteria, and has the resale value of your childhood stamp collection. But I’ve discovered that there’s a tangible limit to favouring quality over quantity. It’s when you cross the invisible line into ‘luxury’. Past this point, we’re not talking ‘superbly crafted and will last a lifetime’, but ‘is a huge pain in the arse that requires constant cosseting, presumably by your staff’. I bought Greg some top-of-the-range cookware (on sale, see above), for Christmas. Italian! Elegant! Will be cherished for generations! I was told these items were ‘high performance’ and the ‘Rolls Royce’ of cookware. High performance? High maintenance. If they were a girlfriend they’d be dating Geoffrey Edelsten. Dear God, they come with instructions. They’re to be soaked for 20 minutes in bicarb and warm water before use, can only be cleaned with a soft cloth and specialist cleaner after use, AND should be stored with a sheet of paper towel between each pan to prevent scratching. Are the manufacturers for real? They’re saucepans. It’s apparent I don’t have the patience or commitment required for the ‘Rolls Royce’ of cookware. Nor do I have the right temperament to own a BMW. I’ve never been keen, but I ended up with one when I bought a 2002 Mini Cooper. My delight in the Mini’s tangible beauty waned once I discovered how much it costs to breathe near the car, let alone service it. A new key is $700. BMW are totally taking the piss. So, yes, it’s a top-quality vehicle, but without regular and insane injections of cash it will turn pale, cough weakly into a handkerchief and expire in my arms from being too beautiful for this world. The truth is that cheap and expensive are both ‘icebergs’. Nine-tenths of the cost lies below the surface. Live and learn. And I guess into the life of every superpower, a stick of Kryptonite must fall. MOST OF US have a superpower. Something we’re preternaturally good at. Skills so honed, so impressive, that there’s really no point in faking humility. I have two. One, as explored in a previous column, is finding a car park. I generally park so close to my destination that casual observers deduce that I am a celebrity, such as Lady Gaga or Grumpy Cat. My other superpower is shopping. Not in an empty, my-inner-life-is-a -gaping-void-that-I-try-to-fill-with-Prada- handbags kind of way. I’m more of a bat who can find bargains and items of beauty and grace using echolocation. It’s instinct. It’s natural. It’s glorious. I identify a need, get in the zone and come back with the perfect product. Why, just recently I found a set of brand-new BBQ tongs at the op shop for $2.25. Nailed. It. So I know a few things about shopping. I know only a fool pays full price for bedding, cookware or a Persian rug. I know ‘voucher’ internet sites that offer, in the same mail-out, a 60% discount on a ‘deluxe chocolate tasting platter with drinks’ and ‘CoolSculpting fat reduction’ should be exorcised from your inbox. And I know the adage ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ is bang on the money. There are myriad reasons not to buy sub-standard, mass-produced, bargainalicious junk. There’s the misery of indentured labour worldwide, for one. And Garbage Island, which is not, as it sounds, an attraction worth queuing for at Disneyworld, but a chunky soup of plastic crap and chemical sludge the size of Texas, trapped in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. (Now that’s a season of I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! that I’d watch.) But the essential problem is that cheap bites you on the bum every time. Quite literally, if you buy budget undies. Cheap shoes, cheap wine, cheap coffee and, in particular, cheap chocolate, are nothing more than mocking simulacra, like boyfriend pillows or Christian rock music. My man, Greg, is still smarting from the canvas-and-pole carport he sourced for $90 on the internet. It collapsed the first time the wind blew and scraped the hell out of his car. So I marshal my resources and aim top-end. If something has been locally hand-lathed from upcycled hardwood and triple-polished with truffle-infused beeswax, I am totally » For virtually more FSN, visit fionascottnorman.com.au or follow her on Twitter @FScottNorman.