A little bit of controversy


Recently I flew to Britain for a moment. The moment can be described in three sections: a wedding (the actual reason for my visit), glancing at a couple of friends (if you’re a friend and I didn’t have time to glance at you, please believe me, I am sorry, but you know, a moment only lasts for a moment and that is that) and a crazy shopping spree (which evolved into a trying to fit everything into a suitcase frenzy, involving such things as big bottoms on said suitcase and strained looking zips. In other words: it was not pretty).

Being British I’ve grown up with the phrase ‘rip off Britain’ and so my expectation followed thus: my pounds would not have the ability to buy me very much. But that assumption is very, very wrong. In fact, the more I saw the purchase power of my pound, the more I wished I had paid Raise Your Airfare Ninefold RYANair another thirty quid for a second suitcase.

Britain is cheap!

At least in comparison to Germany it is.

Let me give you an example. My 15-year-old daughter informed me she needed new jeans (I arrived with a full-blown shopping list, actually). After friendly consultation I ambled into Asda, already laden with bags. Wowed by low price party dresses, cheap nightwear and bargain-basement undies, nothing could prepare me for the denim department. Having reached my destination the price tag poking out at me screamed £2. No I didn’t miss any digits. Yes, you do read me correctly: £2!!!

No. I didn’t buy them. They were, in fact, the ugliest jeans I have ever seen in my life. I would not have insulted my daughter with them. But that’s not the point. The point is the original price (not the reduced price) of a full, adult size pair of trousers constructed in denim, with a zip and even rivets is £2.

Now, I’m no financial genius, but even I can work out that since the first jeans sold in 1885 for $1.50 and with some allowance for inflation over the last 125 years, the numbers just don’t add up.

I know some of the supermarkets promote subsidized products. But on my search around the shop the most expensive jeans I actually found were £4. The subsequent resulting image in my mind being that of a sweatshop in a far off land, employing three-year olds for peanuts. Or even crumbs…

Back home now, I’ve been searching for a snow-suit for our youngest so as she can embrace the upcoming cold weather. She needs something that will keep her warm enough even at temperatures of -15°C. Therefore, I wanted something of reasonable quality, so I set myself a budget of EUR 30.

You can laugh now.

I have spent the best part of the last week shopping. I have been to various towns and many, many, many shops. I even surfed the net. But in total I managed only to find two in my price bracket. One paper-thin number at just shy of EUR 10 and another that also seemed to be of poor quality, for the complete budget.

Yesterday, the temperatures dropped to below zero and I ran into a wall of panic. I had no idea where I’d seen the best cheapest solution, but after talking to a friend I had learned of some reduced winter articles in yet another shop, in yet another town. I ended up purchasing a winter jacket (note: not a snow-suit) reduced from

Please take a deep breath:

EUR 60 to EUR 45.

Truthfully, it is the Mercedes in terms of winter jackets. It has every possible function to keep her warm and dry. The sales assistant made sure she informed me of them all. And I bought each and every one of them… But now I need to buy snow trousers too. Even with the assistants wonderful powers of persuasion I managed to reject her EUR 40 trousers.

OK. I have a little more to confess. Ever the bargain hunter, I have throughout the week also purchased a few other articles. Long sleeved tops and trousers to be precise. All reduced, you understand.

Just so we’re clear, I’ll tell you a little more.

Thick cotton trousers. With a zip and a plastic button and pockets. Almost like a pair of jeans. Just no denim or rivets.

Original price EUR 19,95.

Reduced to? EUR 10.

Made in? China.

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me the realization that my rather more expensive product (originally ten times the price of those Asda jeans, to be exact) leaves me a little confused and to be perfectly honest, rather pissed.

Could it be the reputable company who outsourced the manufacturing of my daughters new top to,  (let me read the label)  – Bangladesh, actually paid those workers a Western style wage? I suspect not.

But still we’re paying Western style prices.

So, having had the Asda shopping experience first hand, I have discovered prices in Britain nowadays to be particularly low. Perhaps even artificially low at times.  In comparison I suspect the German prices to be artificially high.

And whether or not you agree with poor working conditions being offered to those in the Far East is not the point of this article. The point is, that at least those at Asda are being quietly honest about it.

2 thoughts on “A little bit of controversy”

  1. The prices of clothes in the UK do worry me, they can not be made by people being paid a decent wage and in decent conditions for those prices, even when you take it to account bulk buying etc, the shipping alone would cost more than that, surely? and yet, like you say, the other company selling similar goods for 10x the price, it”s unlikely they are paying a proper wage (or perhaps they are?) and so are they simply selling cheap clothes and raking in the profit? It’s so hard to know where to buy things from these days, how to use your money both to get a good price for things (we’re not rich) and give it to companies that are looking after the people that work for them.

    I do wonder about the shops here in northern Finland, everything is much more expensive than the UK, we couldn’t have bought a decent snowsuit for less than 70€ for the kids and good snow boots cost at least 45€ for them. But I wonder if that is because they are made by people paid a decent wage of if they get them from the same place as other countries and just rake in a bigger profit…

    I really want to know which companies i can trust with my money and which are morally corrupt.

    1. I think the outsourcing situation is really difficult for us consumers to deal with. Like you I want reasonably priced but good quality products. We have no way of knowing what conditions are like for workers in the Far East. It would be good if we could have a properly informed choice.

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