Value is an interesting thing. It’s truly subjective. Even the appraisers on Antiques Roadshow are just giving an educated guess. After all, it only matters if two people think the value is the same. The buyer AND the seller. If you like to shop yard sales or estate sales, you know what I mean. You look at something and think, I’d pay $20. The tag says $40. Either you walk away or you or the seller make an adjustment.

Retailers regularly adjust the cost of their merchandise because of perceived value. Nobody pays sticker price for a car. It’s not worth it. It doesn’t have a value equal to the price tag. Or does it? Does anyone shop at Macy’s without a coupon? I sure don’t. At any given time, I have four or more Macy’s coupons in my purse. I don’t clip grocery coupons because it’s not worth it to me to save 20 cents on corn oil, but it’s definitely worth it to save 20 percent on a $200 jacket.

Certainly somebody thinks the jacket is worth $200, like the car is worth the sticker price. I’m sure some really smart person uses a fancy algorithm to determine the MSRP for clothing items, but I doubt the algorithm factors in value. Each of us determines value in our own way.

I like to shop at Pottery Barn. Or, at least, I like to look at the things they have at Pottery Barn. Some things are worth the price. Others are not. My husband always wants to wander through Banana Republic when we’re at the mall. I rarely let him buy anything unless it’s on sale, since I get email promotions from BR and Gap nearly every day.

So where does our foundation for value originate? I would guess it starts in childhood and evolves as we go to college and get married. Education is a primary determinant in social class, which correlates to income. But if I could have a $5,000 couch instead of my $500 couch, would I buy a $5,000 couch? That would have to be a really nice couch because I can’t see it happening. I would rather buy a $500 couch and spend $4,500 on a trip to the beach.

See, value is subjective. Obviously I place more value on a trip to the beach than on a sofa. But I’ll also place more value on a trip to Key West than on a trip to Pensacola. That’s where the buyer/seller relationship comes into play – for me, at least. It depends which seller has what I want – what I value – at the right time and place.

(It will always be Key West.)


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