22nd April 2024 – (Hong Kong) In the heart of Hong Kong, a city often characterised by its relentless pursuit of luxury and status, a paradox persists: an aversion to inexpensive goods amidst a backdrop of materialistic fervour. This cultural narrative, deeply ingrained within the city’s bustling streets and towering skyscrapers, reveals a complex relationship with consumerism—one that equates higher prices with higher value. Yet, as we navigate through the nuances of economic and social dynamics, it becomes imperative to challenge our predispositions towards cost and appreciate the true value of cheaper commodities.

Historically, the association between cost and quality has been shaped by a long-standing belief that higher-priced items offer superior quality. This perception was not unfounded in eras dominated by handcrafted goods, where the price was often a direct reflection of the craftsmanship involved. However, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution and subsequent technological advancements, this relationship between price and quality has dramatically evolved. Production efficiencies and global supply chains have made it possible to produce high-quality goods at lower costs, yet our perceptions have lagged, still anchoring value to price.

In Hong Kong, a city that thrives on the veneer of success and opulence, this bias is particularly pronounced. The city’s global reputation as a luxury shopping haven only reinforces the equating of expense with exclusivity and prestige. This mindset permeates various aspects of life, influencing everything from fashion choices to property markets, and even everyday consumer goods.

The real casualty in this scenario is the undervaluation of inexpensive goods that may offer equivalent or sometimes superior value. The modern consumer landscape is rife with examples, from tech gadgets to culinary delights, where price does not always correlate with quality. Yet, in the pursuit of status, these valuable but less expensive alternatives are often overlooked or dismissed.

One poignant example is the common pineapple, once a rare and prized possession that commanded astronomical prices, now readily available and affordable. The pineapple itself hasn’t changed; our perception of its value has. This shift illustrates a broader cultural misfortune: our diminished capacity to appreciate the true worth of goods independent of their market price.

Perhaps the most insightful lessons in value come from children, who possess an innate ability to cherish items based on personal joy rather than cost. Children delight in simple pleasures—a cardboard box can become a castle, and a puddle a vast ocean. This unprejudiced enthusiasm is something adults could learn from, especially in a society as materially driven as Hong Kong’s.

Artists, too, challenge societal norms by elevating the mundane to the extraordinary, encouraging us to see beauty and value in the overlooked. Their work reminds us that the worth of objects shouldn’t be dictated solely by their price tags but by the experiences and satisfaction they bring.

For Hong Kong, embracing the value of cheaper goods could signify a cultural shift towards more sustainable and conscientious consumerism. It involves recognising that affordable items are not merely budget options but can also be choices that enrich our lives without depleting our finances. This shift could alleviate the immense pressure to conform to the high-cost norm pervasive in the city, promoting a healthier, more inclusive approach to consumption.

As Hong Kong continues to evolve, there lies a profound opportunity to redefine what constitutes value in the eyes of its residents. By decoupling price from worth, Hong Kong can foster a more diverse and resilient economy, less dependent on luxury markets and more inclusive of quality goods at all price points. This reevaluation of value is not just an economic necessity but a step towards a more equitable society where the worth of goods—and by extension, people—is recognised beyond their price.

In essence, challenging our biases against inexpensive things is not merely about saving money—it’s about enriching our lives with a broader appreciation of what truly constitutes value. As we learn to see beyond price tags, we may discover that the richest experiences often come without a hefty cost, waiting to be valued for what they truly offer.