I purchased some tape the other day, a brand-name roll of 33 meters of “crystal” clear plastic with gum on the back, for 24 kronor. That amounts to a little over $3.
I admit that I have no idea off that top of my head what that brand-name tape might have cost me at the local CVS in Washington, D.C., for example, but it struck me as a little expensive. (A quick search online showed an average of a little more than $1.50 for the same roll from a handful of big-name stores in the U.S.)
I am still trying to get used to the prices here and learn to stomach how much things cost. I went to lunch with a colleague last week at a trendy vegetarian restaurant on Sodermalm — she saw the price of the buffet was 100 kronor and asked, “Is that too much? We can go elsewhere.”
And I had to think — oh, yeah, that’s about $15. Hmm. For vegetables. But they were well-prepared vegetables, in a nice place with a good view — it’s worth it, no? And what will we find nearby that’s cheaper? Felafel a few blocks over, maybe. Nah, it was worth it to me.
(I’m sorry, EmmaC.! I thought Hermans was closed while you were here, but it’s just the terrace that’s closed! And the glassed-in eating area was warm and cozy, despite the cold wind blowing across Sodermalm’s cliffs…)
With respect to my new roll of tape, I also spent a few minutes justifying the expense — I really ought to be paying this much if I consider how much it cost to make in reality: paying people a good wage in a factory, in whichever country these products are made; the cost of the plastic and the resin for the stickum; the plastic cylinder at the center; the cardboard box that contains it; the shipping costs.
Tape is a throwaway object, something easy to toss in the landfill, and easy to overuse. So maybe paying its true costs would make me respect it more and use it more respectfully? At least, so goes the argument for oil and gas prices in the U.S., to cut down on the use of greenhouse-gas-producing products, right? (I’m about to sit down to read a New Yorker article considering a related question: “The Efficiency Dilemma: If our machines use less energy, will we just use them more?“)
Still, I’m wondering, why do things cost twice as much here? Is it the value-added taxes? (MOMS!) Import fees? A willingness to pay more in general because of expectations of how much things cost? (That was partly the case, perhaps, when we were living in Switzerland: Supposedly Swiss folks are happier paying full cost for this year’s model, whether it’s cars, skis, or fashion.)
No matter what the underlying reasons, my antennae are up for some kind of rhyme or reason as to what’s cheap here — it’s not the apartments, or the alcohol (ok, that’s fairly reasonably priced — but it ain’t Trader Joe’s). Maybe it’s the farmed salmon from Norway. Yum. That’s not a bad trade-off.