mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I'm cheap, but I won't eat out of dumpsters...

I've seen this article on "frugalists" posted on a couple of the forums I browse. It centers on people who are practicing a number of things to reduce purchases of new items, including thrift stores, freecycle, and getting stuff - including food - out of dumpsters.

Now, madanthony is well known for being cheap. But I can't imagine foraging around dumpsters for dinner. That isn't to say I won't take stuff out of the trash - I work at a college, and keep an eye out for professors throwing away books, which I can sometimes resell for a profit on - but I don't actively go through trash.

If people want to do their grocery shopping behind the store instead of inside, I don't mind. If the store doesn't care enough to take steps to prevent it, it's hard to argue that the food they find is better off in landfills than in people's stomachs.

The problem I have with the "frugalists" is that they usually throw in some anti-consumerism, neo-communist message. At least the msnbc author recognized the problem with this - For many who get their essentials secondhand or for free, one motivation is that they are disgusted by such waste. But their lifestyle is dependent on the consumer culture that they reject. It is, after all, capitalism and our free market economy that have made stuff so cheap that it's often cheaper to toss it and buy a new one than to fix stuff, that has made it better for a business to throw away extra food instead of risking running out and losing sales and angering customers.

I do wonder how long this will last. Many stores already lock their dumpsters, destroy merchandise before throwing it away, or use compactors so that people can't go through stuff. Allowing people to go through trash exposes them to huge legal liabilities if someone is injured, either in their scavenging or from eating something that makes them sick or using something tossed because it was defective. Can you say attractive nuisance? It also opens the door for fraud, if people find items in the trash and try to return them to the store. Add in the possible for lost sales from people shopping in the trash - especially if they are reselling the stuff they find - and it's surprising that there still are stores where anyone can trash pick.

I'll still keep using coupons and scoping out the near-dated bread rack, as well as the local "slightly expired food" store where I buy my factory-second pretzels, but I'm not going dumpster diving.


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