What Happens To Your Used Stuff? 'Secondhand' Tells Of A Billion-Dollar Industry
Added 11-13-19 05:06:03am EST - “As "traditional bonds disintegrate in the face of industrialization, urbanization, and secularization, brands and objects become a means to curate and project who we are," writes reporter Adam Minter.” - Npr.org
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The first thing I learned about shopping after moving to Texas from the Caribbean was this: Go to Goodwill.
When I needed my first hoodie, I went to Goodwill. When the carpet in my tiny studio got dirty, I bought an old vacuum cleaner at Goodwill. What I didn't know at the time was that I was participating in the billion-dollar industry of used hard goods. After reading journalist Adam Minter's Secondhand: Travels In The New Global Garage Sale, I now understand how it works not only in our country but across the world. I also understand that most people are hoarders, humans always put sentimental value on worthless items, and we now collect things and fill the space around us faster than at any other time in human history.
In Secondhand, Minter starts with a strange question: What happens to peoples' stuff when they die? He answers the question in the first chapter — but this only opens a door into the hidden, multibillion-dollar industry of reuse. With grace, a keen eye for detail, an interesting cast of character that spend their life reselling used things, and the perennially curious mind of a great journalist, Minter takes readers from the backs of thrift stores all across the United States to small apartments and vintage shops in Tokyo, and from a truck in Mexico to an office in Mumbai, to show the inner workings of one of the world's largest markets. Along the way, he interviews many fascinating people who make a living buying, selling, and throwing away what others discard — or leave behind after their deaths — all while wondering what the future holds for this business in an era where consumers crave new things.
Secondhand is a gripping narrative. Minter is a superb storyteller who knows empathy is easier to connect with than numbers. In this book, there are plenty of both, but the people he interviews and the stories he tells are what make it an enthralling read. Also, Minter has a great understanding of how people work and how we have morphed into something new as the world around us has changed. And he also gets the way those changes affect how we act, what we consume, and even how we define ourselves:
"Historically, personal identity revolved around religion, civic participation, and pride of (oftentimes small) place. But as those traditional bonds disintegrate in the face of industrialization, urbanization, and secularization, brands and objects become a means to curate and project who we are."
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