In a consumption economy, most people are looking for a good price, regardless of quality. But one young British entrepreneur is trying to help the environment and people's wallets with a website that researches and recommends products with lifetime guarantees.
Tara Button, 34, started BuyMeOnce in January. Within six weeks the site had more than 400,000 visitors, there to browse umbrellas, tools, cooking pots and even tweezers - all with quality guarantees from their manufacturers.
BuyMeOnce does not sell any products directly, but rather provides links to purchase items from the manufacturer or retail sites like Amazon. Button gets a fee for clicks only when she has signed a deal with the merchant.
"No one likes to feel ripped off," says Button, who had a job in advertising in London until last month. She got the idea for her site because she is frustrated that manufacturers keep downgrading the quality of their products.
"My aim is that if people start buying more durable things, companies will start making their products last longer," she says.
Reuters reached Button in Thailand, where she was visiting family, to talk about how she plans to stoke a durability revolution.
Q: How do you find products for your site?
A: It's really super easy to search by the cheapest thing. But looking for the most durable thing, that's going to take hours and going through the fine print of the guarantee information.
I do that for people, and I put stuff on the site that is best in show. At least it makes it a bit easier for people to think about those choices.
Q: People normally equate quality with high prices, but some items you feature are less than $20. How can they be good?
A: Making it durable doesn't mean it's expensive to make. The least expensive thing we have now may be the Tweezerman Tweezers ($12.08 via Amazon).
Some of the toys are also quite cheap. And lovely. Some are made in Thailand. They make a lot of rubber in Thailand, and the rubber trees get chopped down, so they use those by-products of the latex industry and turn them into rubber-wood toys, with non-toxic paints.
Q: Won't people be upset if they buy an $89 umbrella and then lose it on the bus?
A: If you buy an $89 umbrella - you remember it. That's the thing about buying slightly more expensive: If you know something is special, you take care of it.
Q: Your concept seems particularly ripe for wedding gifts.
A: Often the wedding is the beginning of the process of people setting up a home, and you want to invest in something that will last and that you will remember. My parents remember where every pot or bit of cutlery came from. They say, "Auntie Sue gave us this." And it's really nice.
I've had lots of requests to set up wedding registry. I hired an intern three days ago, and one of his first tasks is to set that up.
Q: Is there any category where no products live up to your standards?
A: Kettles is a classic example. I'm yet to find a kettle that I find happy putting on the site. We need our tea, and it's not good enough.
Appliances in general are the hardest category. I think that manufacturers are purposefully building their products not only to be less durable but also to be unfixable. So for example, the washing machines now are built in a certain way so that if something breaks, an engineer cannot access the part to fix it. They claim this is to make them more efficient. I'm sorry, I don't buy it. I find that really uncool.
Q: Do you have a favorite product?
A: The socks. When I found socks with a lifetime guarantee, that was a good day.
People treat socks as a throwaway. They get a pack of five, then they get holes. I like the idea of getting five Darn Tough socks and wearing them forever ($12.75 and up via Amazon).