“Hey, Macklemore! Can we go thrift shopping?” squeaks the excited little darling at the thought of being taken by the grownup to the thrift store down the road to shop for secondhand treasures.
For a song about being cheap “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis went on to be the most successful track on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs Chart (source: BET). With over 6 million copies sold in the U.S. alone, this anthem for thriftiness made everything but spare change. Apart from all the thumping bass, the rhymes, the lyrics and euphonic melodies, what fascinates us and beckons our appreciation is how savvy the song really is. Every time I hear: “Only got twenty dollars in my pocket” I chuckle at the honesty. You and I both know what that is like: to scratch inside empty pockets. In a pop culture landscape plagued with the flashy shine of materialism, product placement and ostentatious pageantry, finally, arrives a musical message that is street-smart and sings difference.
The song is a social critique, and it jabs at how mindlessly we acquire the “things” we want. Commercialistic market forces in conjunction with mainstream media and consumerism constantly reinforce our ideas on how to buy “things”. They keep telling us that we only want something that is the “latest”, the “greatest” and the “newest” product and brand; and that to do so we also only need the Amazons, the Walmarts and Saks Fifth Avenues. Macklemore’s song grabs this notion by the collar and turns it inside out. He gives us a jarring way to think about how fun and cool it might be, instead, to shop elsewhere with bags studded with wisdom and thrift.
In an interview with MTV, Macklemore says: “Rappers talk about, ‘Oh, I buy this and I buy that,’ and ‘I spend this much money and I make it rain,’ … [but] this is the kind of record that’s the exact opposite. [The song “Thrift Shop” is] the polar opposite of it. It’s kind of standing for, like, ‘let’s save some money, let’s keep some money away, let’s spend as little as possible and look as fresh as possible at the same time.” Elsewhere, he remarks “[It’s about] how much can you save? How fresh can you look by not looking like anybody else?”
This revisionist thinking is so refreshing! It speaks to the idea of the peer-to-peer economy, or the “sharing economy.” This is an economic and social system that is built around the sharing of goods and services. It removes the “new” purchasing aspect and brings in the love of reusing to the equation. Some estimates put the value of this economy at almost $30 billion. In college we had book swaps to rebel against the hefty price tags of shiny retail shrink wrapped textbooks. At home we’ve had yard sales. And in the papers we still have classified ads. “Thrift Shop” reminded me of the same concept. The skyrocketing fame seen of Uber, Lyft and Airbnb are the result of harnessing the power of the shared economy.
“I’m gonna pop some tags” he sings. Well, why not? Why not save money by getting what you need for cheaper? Why not save the planet by reducing the waste from newly produced goods by reusing the stock of existing goods? Why not feel good from finding a steal of a deal? Why not feel refreshingly satisfied about helping someone else with a clean swap? Why not contribute to earthly sustainability in your own micro way? Exactly. There is no reason not to.
When I read about WasteGate the first thought that came to my head was this song “Thrift Shop”. It helped me imagine the possibilities that could await us. Technology reduces transaction costs and makes sharing easier. This beta version makes me hopeful that we truly are in the midst of something larger than ourselves; if anything, about what this unique platform can unleash by tapping into our own, ever expanding shared economy—the same thrifty economy that Macklemore raps about.
Snap. Show. Swap. Earn. Do it again.
With platforms like WasteGate, no longer will little darlings have to ask “Hey! Can we go thrift shopping?” No. With innovations like this the “can we?” disappears and the “we can” appears. Now it’s simply “Hey! Let’s DO thrift shopping” without all the extra effort of the physical going. This is the revolution of technology—the revolution that allows us to go forth and better ourselves and our communities in ways that are simple, doable, and user-friendly.
This is why we hope; and this is also why we WasteGate.