Culture Shock in My Own Culture

by Katy on April 14, 2010 · 25 comments

Gathering all the supplies, gifts and specific clothes necessary for my son’s imminent trip to Japan has brought me closer to consumer America than I’ve been in years. Sure, I’ve bought as much as possible at Goodwill, (his formal outfit and a wristwatch) but there were some things that required a trip to regular stores such as Target and Ikea.

The necessary brand new item? A pair of slippers. The Japanese culture requires that my son bring a pair of slippers for his big ol’ size ten feet, as neither shoes in the house nor going barefoot is an option. And my son begged me to not buy him a pair of used slippers. (Okay, even I wouldn’t buy used slippers. Well. . . maybe if they were in like-new condition.)

I also needed to buy three 11 X 13 black frames for group photos that my husband took of my son’s class. I did look at Goodwill, but wasn’t able to find anything that fit the bill.

The Fred Meyer store that is walkable from home no longer sells apparel, plus their frames looked like crap. So I revved up the mini-van and drove out to the closest Target, which actually isn’t that far from our house. I motivated myself by bringing along a Starbucks gift card (thanks mom!) and my reusable mug, as I knew there was a coffee spot right inside the entrance.

Thus fortified, I found the spot that sold the one type of men’s slippers:

  • Made in China
  • Over-packaged
  • Poor quality
  • Smelling like a Dupont factory

I then rode the escalator up to the second floor to look at frames, which were all:

  • Made in China
  • Poor quality
  • Not all that cheap anyway

At this point, I figured I might as well drive the five miles or so to Ikea and just buy the frames there. I seemed to recall cheap classic black wooden frames from my one visit a few months back to buy my indoor clothesrack.

$12.99 later, I’m on the freeway and making my way to Ikea, where I found:

  • That Ikea was out of the black 11 X 13 frames
  • Which are made in China
  • That I should have just brought three of the $9.99 frames in white or wood to end my misery.

I did buy three plain solid wood shelves in the as-is section for a project where I’m transforming a useless broom closet into a mini-pantry. And although I did get in line for a yummy treat at the end of my shopping, I got out of line, as I remembered that just because a hot dog is 50¢, doesn’t mean that I have to eat it.

I used to love going to Target, and I can totally see the appeal of Ikea — they had four packs of cute clip frames for a dollar. A dollar! But everything I saw was viewed through the lens of know that all this manufacturing of unnecessary and poor quality Stuff has consequence. At the site of manufacture, during shipping, in my home and then at the landfill. I am totally aware that my son’s slippers will have nowhere to go except the garbage in less than a year. (At least my sheepskin slippers are mendable, which I know from experience.)

It was culture shock, pure and simple. And that Ikea anxiety dream last night? Just the cherry on top.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen@TheFrugalGirl April 14, 2010 at 9:18 am

My girls had Old Navy gift cards from birthdays, so I took them there to go shopping this week, and was surprised at how un-fun it was. A single skirt for Lisey cost her the whole $20 gift card…a far cry from her $6 J Crew Goodwill dress.


Laura April 14, 2010 at 9:19 am

Your experience nearly mirrors mine from yesterday, where I needed to buy a tri-fold poster board for a daughter’s science project. Saw lots of low-priced, half-off stuff that in a previous life I might have thrown in my cart, but no more. I even got out of the Dollar Store yesterday with nothing but a sugar pourer, which was the item I was looking for (to carry borax in when I’m cleaning versus toting around the whole box). The whole experience was rather depressing. BTW, I’m also on the hunt for picture frames right now, but am going to check at Goodwill one of these days and see if I can find something there. They seem to always have a lot of frames.


Lisa Pie April 14, 2010 at 10:23 am

You have an escalator in your Target?

One frame? You might get lucky at Goodwill or other thrift stores. But three that match? Most likely not.

Did you end up finding any slippers? It is unfortunately the wrong time of year for men’s slippers. Occasionally, I will find a pair marked down at Walgreen’s, but it’s most likely that you can only find them right before Christmas. I get my husband’s every year at that time. And then when his birthday rolls around in June, I have to scramble to find a new pair. He and I both wear slippers when in the house and we are hard on them and go through several pair a year.

I actually have a pair of slippers I got at a garage sale 7 years ago that are still good. (They were originally Land’s End, and they make great slippers) And I have a pair I bought last year at Goodwill for 99 cents. Slippers are a big deal at our house! If you have to buy the off-season, I suggest ordering from Land’s End. they really do make good quality ones that hold up better than most.


Katy April 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

I’ve had Land’s End slippers in the past and have actually been disappointed with their quality. My current slippers are “Qwaruba” brand sheepskin slippers, which are incredible. I wear them indoors ALWAYS and have had them for 2-1/2 years so far. I did have to take a needle and thread to them once, but otherwise they’ve been great.



Jessica Wolk-Stanley April 14, 2010 at 10:57 am

I recently went shopping with a good friend who HAS NOT SEEN THE LIGHT. We were getting supplies for a joint seder, one that we planned to make as kid-friendly as possible. I didn’t want to steamroll over her plans, especially since she as hostessing the evening, so I tagged along to a couple of dollar stores with her. I’ve been very conscientious lately and have not shopped retail in ages. I was appalled at the utter junk for sale there. Saws for a dollar? Laundry baskets for a dollar? How can that low price possibly help people earn a living wage? I became convinced that the end must be near. It cannot possibly be sustainable to have this merchandize for sale at that price. You just end up having to replace items purchased over and over again. Not to mention that decent manufacturing jobs in the US or Canada (where folks could earn a good wage) are lost to China because China keeps there currency artificially low. I was fuming! I could go on, but I know I am preaching to the choir. It just reconfirmed for me that there are a myriad of benefits of the frugal lifestyle.


Judy April 14, 2010 at 11:12 am

Jessica, you may be right about the end is near. If nothing else we will totally bury the earth in all the junk.
I tagged along with my daughter, who loves to shop, buy, etc. to Target on Sunday. All I got was tired and overwhelmed by plastic, etc. I do need to get a baby gift. Could not find anything really cute for a boy. Guess I’ll send a check instead. I was even amazed that paperback books are now almost all the larger version and instead of the $7-8, are now in the $13-14+ category.


Jessica Wolk-Stanley April 14, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I forgot to mention the overwhelming stench of cheap plastic. It was really nauseating and had me thinking that the odor has to be deeply carcinogenic. Gack!


elena April 14, 2010 at 9:34 pm

i have the same reaction to that stench! I cannot be near new stores because of it… it’s overwhelming!


Rebecca April 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

I actually find brand new slippers in Goodwill all the time, I even have a small stash at home bc in the winter I wear them constantly and toss them in the wash every few days. Apparently I have abnormally stinky feet.


Rebecca April 14, 2010 at 11:15 am

Do the frames need to match exactly, otherwise I say get a can of black spray paint and grab some mismatched goodwill frames and make em match!


NMPatricia April 14, 2010 at 11:56 am

Absolutely loved this post. I love reading others experiences that match my own. I feel less lonely in such a consumeristic society. I go into Target and nearly throw up. I just can’t handle the immense amount of plastic, cheap merchandise, made in countries that really aren’t supporting ours. I may not agree with all that is political, but I still think it is pretty important to ensure that my neighbors are able to make ends meet too. I sometimes get so frustrated that I give up looking for things I need, until it becomes urgent. Not a great solution either, I know.


Kat April 14, 2010 at 1:33 pm

If you haven’t found a pair of slippers yet, it might be worth it to get some yarn from Goodwill (or a sweater or blanket that can be unraveled) and have someone knit or crochet a pair of slippers for him. They won’t have as durable of soles as manufactured ones but they would suffice for the trip or a piece of thick felt can be sewn to the bottom.


Katy April 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm


I have so much to do, I just needed to buy some slippers. My son is leaving in five days.



Megan April 14, 2010 at 2:47 pm

You have a two story Target?!!!! That’s sort of depressing. I’m still trying to get over my love of the new, but once you realize the poor quality you are getting for what you are paying then you find yourself asking yourself why you wasted the time going to the store in the first place.


Katy April 14, 2010 at 2:52 pm


It may be a smaller footprint, as it doesn’t seem to stock more than the other area Target.

However, it does have a super clever escalator that’s just for the shopping carts. I almost took a cart just so I could use it!



Molly On Money April 14, 2010 at 3:40 pm

My town has a Target, a WalMart and an over priced Goodwill. The other day I was in the Goodwill looking for a pair of rubber boots. I found a pair (they were lightly worn and originally from Target) – they cost $19. New at Target they were $21!
I gotta move!


Tina April 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm

It’s not just by you, Molly On Money! My local Goodwill stores are outrageous also. I wait until clothing goes on clearance and can buy cheaper in the department stores than at the Goodwill


Mrs. B April 14, 2010 at 4:56 pm

How about those imitation crocs they sell at big 5. I use those as slippers since I also live in the pacific northwest and wear them pretty much all day long. I have three pairs with liners (not from big 5) that i am able to wash. I love them and your son may just wear them longer than slippers with summer coming up. Good luck to you.


Tracy Balazy April 17, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Sloggers — — sells rubber clogs that are made in the United States, whoo hoo! I bought a pair at my local CVS for $14 a few years ago, prior to my nonconsumer days, and I like them and they’re holding up well.


Emily April 14, 2010 at 5:31 pm

My recent culture shock was attempting to clothes shop for my 9 year old daughter. I can’t even imagine who is buying the chains, lycra, and off the shoulder slinky fabric clothes in size 10 girls. I’m so thankful for Lands’ End’s sale rack!


Beth April 15, 2010 at 8:42 am

“I remembered that just because a hot dog is 50¢, doesn’t mean that I have to eat it.”

A-men, sister. Some food is just way too cheap for our own good. Today (April 15) there’s a “tax lunch” special in my office’s cafeteria: a hot dog, trans-fatty chips, limp cantaloupe, and high-fructose corn syrup in a cup. All for only $1! Such a deal!


WilliamB April 16, 2010 at 7:01 am

At a food court recently a frosted filled donut was $.75, a banana was $1.00. Sigh. I would like to know what the donut would cost if it weren’t made of federally subsidized foods.


Debbie April 15, 2010 at 2:22 pm

I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now and just love it! I feel an added connection to you because we both live in Portland, but reading your thoughts have helped me to change my point of view on so many things! I had an experience similar to yours when I was in Target the other day…I had a few specific items that I needed and knew that I wouldn’t find anything made locally, but was looking for something made in this country. Not one item was made in the US. I ended up walking out. When I told my husband of the experience he actually felt my head to see if I had a fever, as I was once the “Queen” of Target. Keep dripping on us with your thoughts! They are actually sinking in! Thanks so much!!


Jean April 15, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Amen, all of you sisters! It is getting more and more difficult to buy anything made in the U.S. (or, at the least, NOT in China!) and to buy quality products. So, for the most part, I don’t shop retail much any more either. As for men’s slippers, my husband loves some at JCPenney in their St. John’s Bay brand, and so when they are on sale and there is free shipping, I order him a pair, and they do seem to last a long time. The young girls clothing any more is just tacky–way too sexy for 10 year olds. Who dresses their children like this?! I’m really glad mine are grown, but what in the world will I do for any future grandchildren?! Back to the sewing machine….


Amy H. April 15, 2010 at 10:19 pm

L. L. Bean makes the best slippers ever. Worth every penny, because they will last a lifetime. (Not sure you’d be willing to pay for two-day shipping, though.) 🙂


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