Tag Archives: rip-off

School Stationery Conspiracy

1 Nov

waltons-logoThe time for thinking about ordering all your school stationery for next year has come around again, which means that your school is probably supplying you with the Waltons catalogue, and telling you what to order from it.

This has been happening since I was at primary school, so that’s a little while now.

Last back-to-school season, my wife suggested that she could probably get some of those items cheaper elsewhere, to which I responded, ‘Surely not. Surely Waltons is giving us good prices, because they receive such massive benefit from being given all the school’s business.’ I figured that the volume they must be pushing would almost certainly make it worth their while to stay as preferred supplier. Also, given that the schools virtually forbid you from buying stationery any other way, I couldn’t believe that they would be ripping us off.

They’re ripping us off.

‘But,’ I hear you protest, ‘You’re bound to pay a little more for the convenience of having your stationery delivered!’

Well, let’s discuss convenience. Waltons requires you to read a catalogue, fill out an order form, take the order form to school, wait however long, and then return to the school to find your box. At our school they don’t really go out of their way to make convenient collection times either.

What about the alternative? We all go to the supermarket at least once a month. At the supermarket, they have aisles where they collect all the stationery in one place. You add the stationery to the trolley with your other shopping things. You put the stationery with the stuff you were already carrying to in the car in which you were already going to drive home anyway.

Special delivery via Waltons sounds convenient, but in practice it’s meant an additional trip to school for us, and working with their catalogue takes about as much time as moving through the stationery aisle.

And secondly, you don’t pay a little more for this ‘convenience’. Look at the comparison of Waltons’ prices with what we paid at a Leading Retailer TM (note also that this is a comparison of equivalent brands, not the cheapest products on the shelf, and the totals have been adjusted to reflect the recommended quantities, not the single unit price):


This sample represents the stuff we had on our list, not the most damning evidence we could gather against Waltons. Clearly there are some items for which Waltons is cheaper–consider getting your permanent markers there–yet Waltons averages out at 36% more expensive.

By all means do your own comparisons and get better data than my admittedly sketchy sample. But I’d recommend hitting the supermarket rather than the Waltons catalogue (or if you’re really watching pennies, just buying the things for which Waltons is cheaper), and asking your school some awkward questions about why they put pressure on us to spend 36% more that we should on stationery.


The cost of looking poor

13 Mar

I don’t care much for fashion. In the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians, Glenn Close’s Cruella de’Vil, a famous fashion mogul, ridicules Jeff Daniels, a videogame designer, for being in a useless profession. The film seems not to see any irony in that, and certainly Jeff does not echo the obvious response that I always make, sometimes out loud: ‘Look who’s talking’. (My kids watch it often, so I have plenty of opportunity).

I recently came across these pics in a UK edition of Marie Claire that my wife was reading, and quickly (and badly — sorry) photographed two of the pages out of sheer disbelief:


The fashion model has clambered into various ill-fitting pieces of sackcloth and a child’s jacket from a thrift store. She hold a stale scone in front of her eye as if to say, ‘This is the only food I’ll eat today’.

As if to mock the homeless, the one caption reads, ‘Contrast a shrunken tee with wide bottoms to balance the look’. Because the homeless choose their clothes with balance in mind. So if you could only find an eight-year-old’s shirt to wear, the best thing to do is make sure that you draw attention away from it by seeking out obese-clown slacks.

What is so utterly criminal is that while the homeless dig ugly clothes out of the garbage bags of the deceased, you as a privileged Marie Claire reader can have the above look for the low-low price of:

  • £330 for the thrift-store jacket (that’s R4000; get it while the pound is still weak!)
  • £99 for the kids’ tee
  • £105 for the sack trousers

For the whole ensemble, then, expect to pay R6400, or with the earrings and bangle included make it R11,000. (Model not included).

On the next page, there was this one:


To have ‘Chloe’ (again, I’m pretty sure that’s the name of the sack, not the model), a ‘wardrobe essential’, you merely have to pay £1,250 (R15,000). That is not inclusive of the handbag, jewellery, or even the belt. And unless you’re shaped like one of the clothes horses above, you’re going to look like an utter bag-lady in it.