Shopping For The Obvious

Posted in Uncategorized by expatatlarge on June 12, 2010

What is the point of going shopping when you don’t want anything, don’t need anything, yet can afford pretty much everything. You cannot make a decision. You can’t even decide on something to make a decision about.

E@L decelerated slowly, eyes focused on nothing in the distance, until he gradually came to a complete halt in the middle of one of the foyers of the Raffles Shopping Centre (n.b. for the nth time, *not* at the Raffles Place MRT).

He didn’t know where to go or what to do with his money. His life was without Singaporean meaning unless he could find something to purchase. There MUST be an article in this vast centre that could stir his *Will to Buy* from its paralysis. Not even the passing thought of lunch in Double Bay could stir him. He sighed. “In a sense, I am Jacob Horner“, he thought.

The British India clothing store entrance was just there. [Presenting an era of racism, oppression, injustice and nice outfits.] Just as he could find no reason to enter, neither could he find a reason *not* to enter.

Clothing. Shirts. There must be space in his closet to squeeze in another British India shirt that he will never wear. He wandered in and started to look around. A helpful sales-person smiled and steered clear, which made her even more helpful.

Every shirt he looked at was fine, was nice – in a British India sort of way. But there was nothing that called to him, “Buy me!” For a start, it had to be 3XL before he would even hear it scream.

From rack to rack; the collarless, the embroidered, that funny material that itches, the earth hues. Everyone of them, while fine in itself, would make EL look like an Sri Lankan construction worker (or maybe the fat foreman) dressed up for his half-day off per month.

At the back of the store E@L came to a shirt that wasn’t completely mute to him. One that could have been in any other store. Maybe even a fashionable store. It had a faded-blue pattern of leaves all across an off-white soft cotton material. Light, short sleeves. Tropical. Hmm, he could consider wearing this. If he was what he had on when his flat exploded, burning everything else in it. No, joking. He could see himself in this shirt in a dark dance club, eying off the 20-something babes who looked back at the disgusting old man in the corner, the one with the nice shirt.

Actually, the more he thought about it, it was quite a nice shirt. Damn, it was a VERY nice shirt. He was psyching himself up to the prospect of being interested in something. He was talking himself into buying this article. He looked at the size tab of the one at the back of the rack – 3XL!

He looked at the price.

He turned towards sales-person who was still hovering a few paces behind him on his tour around the store. He widened his eyes in shock – “Four hundred and sixty five dollars,” he mouthed at her. She smiled.

He put the shirt back. SGD$465 for a light cotton shirt. From British India for crying out loud. Even with a shit-load of cash in the bank earning 4.2% interest, he balked at that.

Trust E@L to find that the most expensive item in the shop was the only one that he felt in anyway interested in. He wondered if he should ask the sales-person what she thought the salary of the Indian/Malaysian/Filipino worker who made this shirt might be; indeed, how much he or she would have been paid for making this one shirt; whether he or she should have been in school… He patted the copy of Raj Patel’s The Value of Nothing” in his man-bag and he let the issue slide.


E@L once saw an ad in a Hong Kong newspaper for 10,000 plain white tee-shirts. The seller want $100. That’s 1c a tee. Maybe the seller was taking a hit, but Jesus…

E@L went to an installation by a “capitalism artist” who had documented the making of 600 self-designed shirts in a Korean owned sweat-shop situated in a “special industrial park” (i.e. no worker’s right and no pollution regulations monitored) in the Philippines – he sold the shirts for $250 each. The entire cost of production, including bribes, was, shit I can’t remember (Izzy?), about $6 per shirt, something disgusting like that.

You buy clothing, you’re paying for the design, distribution and marketing.


The great discoveries are usually obvious.
Philip Crosby



What are Malls for?
Malls are where we live.
We come, they shake the coins out of us
Time and time over.
They are to feel crappy in:
Where can we live but Malls?

(Apologies to Philip Larkin)



13 Responses

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  1. valkyrie said, on June 12, 2010 at 11:35 am

    I wish I had your problem of not wanting anything, not needing anything and can afford pretty much anything!

  2. savannah said, on June 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    i have no words of wisdom or advice, sugar. xoxoxoxo

  3. expat@large said, on June 12, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Val: I should have looked for some D&D dice!Sav: it's enough that you have dropped by, sweetness.

  4. The Bludger said, on June 13, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Mmm. The Bludger says. If you don't need to buy anything. Don't.

  5. expat@large said, on June 13, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Bludge: I just needed to get out of the house, and before I knew it I was in a shopping mall. Originally intention was to buy some groceries…

  6. knobby said, on June 13, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    next time go 4fow better la. at least there's only one thing available there. and i'm sure you know the price without needing to ask.

  7. Isabella said, on June 14, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Don't remember either. But I dare say there's an idea for getting the sweat shop workers to design the shirts they make and charge a premium on them. That goes back to the workers of course.

  8. expat@large said, on June 14, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Izzy: That's going to happen… NOT! Not everyone is as naturally creative as you. The strikes in China are a step in the right direction though. Straight out of Value of Nothing… As Jim Cramer said of the GFC, "The only person who got this right was Marx."

  9. knobby said, on June 14, 2010 at 8:52 am

    you're actually quoting jim cramer? and you're not kidding?

  10. expat@large said, on June 14, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Irony was the point – on several levels: a) I'm quoting Cramer and b) he's citing Marx!

  11. knobby said, on June 14, 2010 at 10:13 am

    ok, that makes much more sense. thank goodness!

  12. dh said, on June 14, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    This not wanting anything but being able to afford pretty much anything is a sort of Buddhist materialism. I first noticed it in Thailand. Buy a BMW and see if it helps.

  13. expat@large said, on June 15, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Dick: a Beemer would help me become independent from the melting of taxis when, like this morning, it is raining heavily. On hold for 45 minutes (on the few occasions I could get a line) – no result. Working from home.

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