The store I work in is a tourist trap.
And by that I mean:
- They buy a scarf (or whatever product) for less than £10, but sell it for £45. Or they buy a different scarf for £20, sell it for £130, or more in some cases.
- They have signs up that say all these products are from this famous Scottish brand, but really there are some products on those shelves that are from the knock-off brand and just aren’t labeled.
- Related to the above, they have signs up that say “Made in Scotland” but there is merchandise mixed in that is made in England or Wales *gasp* and sometimes even China *dun dun dun*.
- They own a billion stores with slightly different names that all sell basically the same gamut of products.
Before, I really had no problem going into touristy shops and buying things…there are some things I like to get as memorabilia that are hard to find elsewhere, such as a fridge magnet with the name of the city or country on it.
But now that I’ve worked in a tourist shop, I will probably never tourist the same way again.
I mean, it’s ridiculous really. The “thing” to buy in Scotland apparently is cashmere. We’ve got scarves, hats, jumpers (sweaters), gloves, socks…but cashmere comes from Mongolia and China. I have no idea who decided it was a Scottish thing. Sure, these products are made in Scotland (depending on the brand), but cashmere isn’t Scottish (if someone knows why it’s so big in Scottish tourism, let me know). If you want something truly Scottish, buy wool. Born, raised, and sheared in Scotland. Now that’s a real souvenir. Sure, it’s scratchier, but that’s what makes the Scottish so tough.
So today I went out to do some Christmas shopping, and because some of my sisters want things that are made in Scotland, I knew exactly where I could go and what I could get in the tourist shops…but I couldn’t do it. I’ve come up with some new tourist shopping rules, only for products that I want to be a purist about:
- Always read the label, because signs aren’t good enough. If the label doesn’t say where it was made, don’t buy (because it was probably made in China. Unless you’re in China, then by all means, purchase away).
- Examine as many shops as possible. Find a shop that’s not selling all the same things as the other shops.
- Ask questions. What is this made out of? Why is this a “thing” in this country? How is this culturally significant?
- ALWAYS stop at artisan markets and street booths. Those are real people selling their real products.
I went to some street booths today for the Christmas shopping, and got some handmade, authentic, all materials come from Scotland and made by local Scottish people products. Can’t tell you what because I don’t want to spoil it for my sisters, but I will say I’m quite pleased with all my purchases.