From The Canberra Times, 23 May 2009. Panorama supplement, p. 3.
by Rosslyn Beeby
We used to call it op shopping, and it was a favourite activity among friends back home in Melbourne. Now, it's called thrifting and it's a blogging phenomenon. There are blogs galore, with authors flashing their latest thrifty finds and offering tips on how to spot a bargain in places politely known as "re-sale shops." Some of this blogged-about thrifting isn't op shopping as we in Australia know, love and pursue it. It seems to be about trawling the big shopping centre sales, outlet stores or seconds shops, and bragging about getting a bargain price on big name brands.
"Americans need to get over this silly, wasteful and spoiled notion that if it's not new it's eww," writes Ms Shopping Golightly in a post on a blogsite about ferreting out treasures at thrift stores.
Here in Australia, many of us are not so thrift shy. We love a good rummage in an op shop, whether it's for old woollen hand-knits, wispyhippie scarfs, kitchen gadgets, old cookbooks or lovely old cutlery.
Except for two recycled timber bookcases bought from the shop floor of the company that makes them none of my furniture is new. A cast iron bed was rescued from a pile of building rubble. Cleaned up, painted white and given a new wooden base, it's been eyed off with some envy by posher friends who think it must have come from a cashed-up splurge at an antique dealers.
My workroom desk is an old pine trestle table, bought from a second-hand book shop that was closing down, and the 1970s-style kitchen chairs came from the St Kilda Salvos op shop.
The sofa is a green vinyl (embossed with daffodil design) 1950s vintage number that might get a nod of approval from Adrian Franklin, the expert with an eye for retro-style on ABC television's popular show, Collectors. It's got stumpy little wooden legs, and polished arm rests, sculpted to look like wooden waves. It came with two matching armchairs and was skulking under a pile of magazines in the back room of a second- hand shop. A bargain at $20 a chair and $50 for the sofa, there's no "eww, it's not new" factor here.
My friend Frank, whose job as an economist entails a fair bit of continent hopping, tells me thrifting has hit America's corporate boardrooms. Lavish gourmet lunches with waiters and starched napery have been replaced by "brown bagging" (bags of sandwiches from the local deli) or simpler fare, like a big plate of bagels or help-yourself bowls of salads and bread rolls.
"Can we thrift that?" executives ask. Frank swears he's even met a "thrift manager" in one boardroom. Doesn't "thrifting" at corporate level sound much more genteel than cost cutting, streamlining, pruning back, down-shifting or making savings? If only various Federal governments had told CSIRO they were "science thrifting" instead of just hacking back their budget.
What a pity Ms Beeby didn't find our local op-shopping blog!