Garden Girl – Perspectives Of Poverty & Middle Class While Shopping for Books


garden girlCFN – Value Village is an interesting place. If you can get past the odd smells here and there, and the fact that at least one person has previously owned the goods at which you’re ogling, then hey, it can be quite enjoyable.

Considering I very seldom find myself in thrift shops, when I do go, I head straight for the books. I am a book junkie. I tend to gravitate to the reference section. Anything about food, cooking, gardening, architecture, design, classical music, wine… The list goes on.

Last week I found myself in Cornwall’s Value Village and there were so many books that beckoned for my attention. I found eight books that I really wanted and two extra ones that would suffice nicely as freebies. Buy four books and you get one free. Sounds good enough. But then, then I noticed that I am paying about $15-$20 for those four used, donated books and I am to be happy to get one for free? I can usually score, and yes, I say score in this instance, five books for roughly $10 at any estate or yard sale. At Value Village I am paying for used books that have been donated! The person selling them to me did not spend any of their hard-earned money to acquire them and they have been donated by thoughtful, good hearted people for other people to enjoy. (God bless those people.) Why on Earth am I paying so much for them? What machine am I feeding?

(I then started to look around at the juice pitchers, found a large selection and they were priced $6-$8. They were hideous. My goal was to find something, preferably elegant and durable, to serve iced tea and cold drinks outdoors in. (Later in the week I found a pottery-style one, on clearance, from The Bay for $10. Brand spanking new and elegant! Sold!))

So, eventually I get to the cash and sure enough, my purchase of ten said books ran me about $38. Don’t get me wrong, I love the books, but looking at Amazon later on I see I could acquire the exact same books, new and used (some books are older…) for less than the Value Village’s price! And that includes shipping to my door! Buyer’s remorse attempted to creep in, but I told myself I only “lost” a few dollars and I will do my best to not allow this to happen again. The more I save, the more money I have to put towards other things. When it comes to grocery shopping, I purchase like a savvy stock investor. I stock up on regular items when the prices are low. I’m talking like twenty-five cans of soup in one fell swoop when the price is agreeable to me. I am all about stretching my dollars and getting the absolute most bang for my buck. You should see my points “system”- Airmiles, Optimum, etc… I try to get as much of a return on each dollar as I can. Especially on groceries. At Walmart that same day, I watched an employee throw an orchid out that was still alive, but the flowers were done. I asked the worker if I could take it home (out of the (clean) garbage bag she threw it into), to care for it, and they told me they would lose their job if they allowed me to do that. I was shocked that Walmart would rather throw something out that they can no longer sell than give it to someone who will love it, but then again, maybe I shouldn’t be.

I had no intentions yesterday of entering another V.V store, but I found myself in Ottawa with a couple friends. One of them refinishes old furniture and repurposes things. I think she knows every thrift shop in the province! So, there we were, and there I was, back in another book section. …And I found another ten books. Which was kind of perfect, you know, get one book free for every four purchased… The books I found today were mostly $6 each (wah-wah-wah…). I looked up at the sign and tried to understand how they priced their books… That they’ve acquired for free(!!!), and it seems that they price their books according to the book’s cost. No consideration for how old the book is or when it was last printed (some being decades ago…), but they had me. Again. I paid around 40$ for ten used books. Ugh.

We wandered around and we saw this atrocious fur coat. Made in Korea, and it was chestnut dyed rabbit fur. Hideous. And not the horribly beautiful type of hideous either. Value Village deemed that jacket worth $125+tax! Appalling! My friend spotted a pair of cowboy style boots with a square toe, well worn, to get a closer look at. There was only one boot out, with a note and a price. Price: $50; and the note said that the other boot is in the back and will be taken to the register for purchase. Who the hell are these people?

Then, last night, while visiting with my Grandmother, she informed me that McGuinty and Wynne, in 2011, declared $160,000 a year as middle class. (Google it…) Holy crap sh*t. What do they consider it today? Three years later???

I realize that amount is a pittance to some, to a small fragment of the entire world’s population. People who have never had to regularly shop the flyers to meet their food budget. People who don’t think twice when they have to replace a finished vehicle or appliance or roof, or update their entire wardrobe on a moment’s notice, shoes, suits and all. These people have obviously lost contact with reality. And worst yet, we continue to give them power.

A hundred and sixty thousand per year is no small sum of money. I honestly did not know I was so far from what is considered “middle class”. I have never needed for anything, but at the same time I watch every penny to be able to afford fuel, the internet and other small “luxuries” I indulge in. I can’t seem to shake this from my mind today, it continues to rattle at me. How many other people out there think like this? In the grand scheme of things where a large city, such as Detroit, whose median income is about $15,000 per year (!!!), for the ENTIRE city (!!!), I find out that my government considers middle class at $160,000. It makes me wonder what planet do they live on and/or come from?!?!?! Working poor. That term resonates with me more today than it ever has in my entire 33 years of life. I have always known I am not rich, I feel the government’s cold, ceaseless tentacles on me, just like everyone else, yet, I do not “feel” “poor”. I am picturing poor families, such as the ones depicted for charities such as the one to build schools in Cambodia that a family member is currently raising money for… And I wonder, do those “feel” poor? Do they know they are “poor”? Would they mock me for buying used books at exorbitant prices at Value Village???

So, apparently I allow a store to sell me used goods that they’ve acquired for free and I am supposed to be happy about not paying full price and I live in a country that loves to suppress the poor and profit off our environment’s demise (re-Cornwall Waterfront, Alberta oilsands etc…). Anyone else see a problem with this picture?

What I cannot seem to understand is why are we, the citizens, allowing the steam roller of progress roll over all of the good-Samaritans we have left? I can’t be the only one who sees this and feels this way. I want to make the undeniable point that we are all pawns and we should pay a lot more attention to who we give power to. I wish to get to know my neighbours and devote more energy towards making the world a better place.

Baby steps are better than no steps.



  1. Garden Girl $160K is what is known today as middle class and the rest of us are known as the poor and believe me it is going to get a great deal worse than what we see just now. I have been looking into this and so much more for years now and wait until the US dollar crashes which is it going to do as well as the stock market. People are going to be mighty hungry and I guarantee you that. Yes Value Village or any other is very expensive and I see people with car loads of stuff being dropped off when I go by there especially when I wait in the car for my husband when he renewed his licence. Here in Ottawa in order to have a house and maintain it you need at least in that salary range. Most people here in Ottawa are renting since the homes are way out of reach for the vast majority of people. We went to a lady that does translation (has university) and she is only in one of those garden homes since it is utterly out of this world. People cannot afford to live anymore like what they used to – the good days are gone.

  2. Garden Girl this morning I had a good laugh because you mentioned Value Village. This morning here in Ottawa on Bank Street at Walkley a young lady held up a sign on the sidewalk that said 50% off clothing at Value Village. I didn’t hear any honks nor did I see people heading over to that store. We were on our way to Wally World aka Wal Mart. What a coincidence.

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