The art of the “ukay-ukay” hunt

July 13, 2009 9:20 am 

By Aurelio A. Pena

DAVAO CITY, July 13 — Rummaging through a big pile of smelly, used clothing has become an art to many Filipinos now getting used to shopping at “ukay-ukay” stores all over the Philippines.

This isn’t just a country-wide phenomenon, nor an Asian one, but a global trend now competing with traditional department stores, boutiques and shopping malls everywhere on this planet.

So much so, that even these conventional stores selling only brand-new clothing, shoes, and accessories are carried away by the crowd-drawing power of “ukay-ukay” marketing scheme that dumps the items they’re selling on one place and put up a big “SALE” sign.

After deliberately messing up, tossing up and mixing up all the clothes together, they make it look like an “ukay-ukay”, giving an impression (often wrongly) that the items being sold there are “cheap”. You can see this kind of selling even in shopping malls in big cities in the Philippines.

But the things you find at a real “ukay-ukay” stalls along dusty side streets and often crowded alleys can surprise you. Where else can you find expensive imported items like Armani pants, Louis Vitton bags, Charles Jordan shoes, Burberre bags, Levi jeans and Nike shoes — all GENUINE original brands — for only 1/100 of the real price? Yes, Virginia, you can buy an original Armani costing P20,000 for only P200 at the “ukay-ukay”. And, more often than not, you can find these items hardly used by their former owners!

You get lucky in getting these big bargains only if you’ve mastered more or less how to deal with the “ukay-ukay" store keepers who sell these items and have no idea how much they really cost before they were dumped there.

Mary Mina Ramirez, 32, a bank clerk in the southern city of Davao, is an occasional “ukay’ukay” buyer who found a genuine Italian leather shoes she likes among piles and piles of used shoes — and decided to buy it.

The price quoted to her first was P750, so she said it was too much for second-hand shoes, so the store keeper said their “last price” was P450 — take it or leave it.

Ramirez told the keeper she had only P200 in her wallet and said goodbye, but she was held back by the final offer: P200 was "okay" and the item was sold. It was found out later by Ramirez that the original price of that pair of shoes was P6,500!

This only shows clearly that the initial price given by the seller was double the fair price (or even less) you can get for the "ukay-ukay" item. So next time you shop for "ukay-ukay", don't accept the initial price offer by the store keeper. The real price you pay should only be about half of the offered price.

There are several instances like this when “ukay-ukay” buyers, after rummaging at several “ukay-ukay” stores for days or weekends, found high-quality imported brands sold to them at give-away prices.

No wonder festivals and city anniversaries in every city aren’t complete without the hundreds of “ukay’ukay” stalls and stores set up along major streets, often clogging up traffic but attracting thousands of “ukay-ukay” hunters, like clones of Indiana Jones — swarming all over these stores looking for any “gem” of an item they could find. (PNA)



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