It’s that hard realisation. Your cherished possessions, your gadgets, your technological toys, your digital cameras, your i-pods, i-phones your laptops, your super slim flat screen liquid crystal telepathic titanium TVs – your frivolous science fiction fantasy toys that you have bought with your hard earned cash are all worth NOTHING and even LESS THAN NOTHING.
“But it’s a 12 million megapixel 12 times zoom all singing all dancing digital camera that even makes the tea,” I tell the mean bespectacled Cash Converters operative.
“I’ll give you tuppence,” says the bespectacled bastard
“Yeah, but look it’s got a built in GPS, mobile telephone dictaphone function.”
“It belonged to Picasso when he was working for Magnum.”
“Who’s Picasso? And what the hell if he worked for an ice cream company!”
“I need the money for my daughter’s brain transplant. PLEEAASE. GIVE ME MORE MONEY.”
And it’s no go.
We are Tuesday lunchtime at Cash Converters in small town France. In the waiting room, the usual selection of humanity trying to sell their worldly goods. Track suited and baseball capped white trash hawking their mobile phones. Hard done by seniors with bags of family heirlooms that they want to shift to get some cash before they die. Educated middle class types selling books and board games. Spotty youths selling gadgets to get enough cash for their next fix – all the world is here. The place is not unlike the waiting room at the local hospital’s Accident and Emergency unit. There’s a TV clamped to the wall and tuned into to a music channel. There’s a coffee vending machine – 50 Euro centimes for a cup of ersatz Cappuccino. No one is partaking – the price of a coffee is just about as much as you are going to get for your worldly goods.
I’ve been waiting for two hours. The line of hopefuls is longer than a soup kitchen queue in the darkest depths of the Great Depression. One after the other we drudge our way up to the counter, we lay out our worldly goods, only to be told that we have nothing more than a heap of crap, BUT, the smug speccy bastard takes our crap and next door in the sales room, just as many people file in for a “cheap deal” on reasonably priced, but slightly dated consumer durables. Hey! Don’t buy a new i-phone, wait until some financially hard pressed geek or unsatisfied follower of tech trends sells his or her outmoded model for a pittance so you can buy it for next to nothing.
Technology? Possessions? I want less and less and just more cash. Here I am, trying to sell some recent but now antique technology to raise enough money to buy a new TV, and this is the reason that, risking a quadruple hernia and total ridicule that I have lugged my old obese Sony Trinitron TV to Cash Converters so that I can get enough cash to buy one of these new, sexy anorexic models.
The Cash Convertor man smiles a smug smile as I plonk my mammoth TV on the counter. He eyes the TV up and down, side-to-side, back to front.
“It works.” I tell him, at a loss to know what he’s looking for.
“Can’t find the nozzle for the gas supply,” he says
I’m lost. “Gas supply???”
“Yeah,” sneers Mr Cash Converter. “It’s just that your TV is so old, I’m wondering if they had invented electricity when you bought it.”
I know my TV is old. It was the last major purchase that I made in Francs before we all switched to our great European Monopoly money – the Euro. My TV works though.
“Does it get programmes in colour?” asks the man.
From his sledgehammer wit, I have worked out that the Cash Converter man doesn’t want it, and so, to avoid more ridicule, I take the TV set back to the car. I guess I’ll just keep the TV until it finally blows up, besides if I buy a new sexy flat screen TV, that will probably die on me within two or three years. I believe they call it “pre-programmed obsolescence.” Your bright new TV is designed to die after a couple of years, or at least of it doesn’t die, it is so expensive to fix, that you might as well buy a new one.
I should have walked out there and then, but either I am a glutton for punishment, or just stupid and naïve enough to think that my apparently Jurassic items might just interest the Cash Converters man enough to throw a few farthings my way.
“House phones!” he laughs. “No one uses them any more. I couldn’t even give these away.” Yes, a nearly new set of house phones – those we use for our landlines. Three sleek, discrete ergonomic handsets, hardly used simply because when we needed a new phone, my wife and I didn’t consult on the purchase and each bought a set of phones.
If I am to believe a report in a recent edition of the UK newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, only about 50% of UK households now have a house phone, and of those that do, only 28% of calls are made using the landline. So, if no one is using house phones anymore, why the hell are shops still selling them? Why are those who manufacture phones still making the damn things?
Next up, some DVDs – “No one buys DVDs any more. If you had some blu rays …” It’s the same with the CDs. “Of course if you’ve got any vinyl I’ll take that,” says the man.
“Vinyl? What old 33rpm LPs?”
“Oh yeah, all the rage with youngsters. I can’t get enough vinyl.”
I’ve got a moral dilemma here. Do I sell my sizable vinyl record collection while it might still be worth something? A collection of 500 albums lovingly built-up over the years. I could still pretty much tell you when and where I bought each one. All that pocket money I saved as a kid to buy records. All those hours I spent in record shops buying the latest releases or looking for bargains to build up my collection artist by artist. Al those hours I spent at record fairs, tracking down rare pressings or live bootleg albums (most of which are actually very dubious sound quality – I have a live Led Zep bootleg from a 1975 show in Dallas, where you can really only hear the feet of the fans – never put your recording device on the floor.)
Oh dear. Downsizing. Getting shot of what you think is valuable. My treasure is your rubbish.
I leave Cash Converters under clouds as heavy and grey as those in the sky that are about to unleash torrential rain upon us. Outside the queue of cash hopefuls is as long as ever. I make the mistake of nipping into the sales room to see what Cash Converters actually sell. My camera is already on sale for 100 Euros – four times more than the measly 25 Euros I got for it. Along the far wall there are shelves of TV sets – all of the slim line science fiction variety. To my left, locked glass cabinets are full of Smartphone’s. Nearly new Laptops, tablets, I pods … It’s a wonder that anyone has kept this stuff long enough to use it seriously.
Somehow, I feel that I’m missing the plot in our new ephemeral throwaway society. I suppose I’m one of a dying species – those people who buy stuff that lasts. Those people who are willing to pay a little extra for quality and durability. On my numerous visits to the local dump with a car full of garden refuse, it pains me to see people throwing out perfectly good gadgets that still work, simply because they are “passé” – like my TV.
I suppose I am out of touch. I really shouldn’t be blogging anymore, I should be tweeting. I shouldn’t ne buying films on DVD, but downloading them to watch on my i-pad. As for music, I should be downloading that to listen to on my phone. BUT, I am part of that generation that likes to possess things – by the size of your record collection shall ye be measured. I don’t want to read books on my Smartphone – I like libraries – long shelves bulging under the weight of books. I like a real camera. Phones are for phoning, not taking pictures, moreover, I still use my mobile phone to actually phone people rather than sending them a text message.
Out of touch and out of time with a box of house phones and a fistful of DVDs, I head across the car park, through the pouring rain – a lonely Luddite heading back to his cave.
I suppose what shocks me most in all this – all those people, hard pressed for cash, selling their worldly goods for a few extra pennies who have to face the humiliation of the smug, know-it-all, Cash Converters employee. What if we all just sold our stuff on the Internet? What of we just stood on a street corner, like those hawkers of old, trying to sell our worldly goods to passers-by? If we all did that, the Cash Converter man and people of his ilk would be out of a job. But at Cash Converters, you get instant cash, no questions asked and in the end, we all need the money, unless of course you are rich enough to give your worldly goods to charity – that is of course if the choosy local charity shop actually want your stuff.
I remember clearing out mum’s flat after she died, I took all her worldly goods, clothing, books, ornaments etc – down to the local charity shop – giving them away to a good cause – Cancer Research. I was shocked when I took the final car load of mum’s stuff to the shop, to find most of what I had given to the shop I, the dumpster out the back. I protested to the shop’s manageress, who just looked at me coldly and said “We only keep what we know we can sell.” My cherished possessions are someone else’s rubbish. Just goes to show that life is cheap.