Buy Once, Cry Once and other Problems with the EDC Hobby

In what’ll probably be more of a philosophical post, I’ll be exploring one of the preeminent justifications for the gear that we purchase, and the extent to which this is warranted. Mostly, though, this’ll just be me rambling about all the crap I’m dissatisfied with in the hobby , but if you guys enjoy these types of posts let me know.

You all know the saying: Buy once, cry once. These four words are pervasive throughout the EDC (everyday carry) community, and especially so as the gear you’re looking at enters what most would consider cost-prohibitive.

Understanding the Principle

The premise behind the saying, of course, is that you’ll be better off in the long-run buying that very expensive item now. Why is this? Put simply, things that cost more are generally built to a higher standard than their cheaper counterparts. And ideally, something that is of higher quality will last you through several replacements of the cheaper counterpart, thus saving you money in the long-run. Overall, this aspect holds true for the most part when it comes to EDC.

What’s a lot more interesting, to me at least, is the second reason why the EDC community pushes this statement around: While amassing a collection of EDC tools deviates from the hobby’s roots, no doubt it has become the crux of the EDC movement. As consumers, we’re always on the lookout for that next piece of gear that can be our endgame. And by buying our “grail piece” we can effectively circumvent this cycle, we can cut the pretense. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. As it happens, though, we are innately programmed to want more – more is better, more is satisfying. So if we’re eyeing a new piece of gear, we’ll try to find something wrong with the gear that we already have to justify that next big purchase.

Some Problems with the Hobby

That said, it’s not entirely our fault that we often fall prey to purchasing more than we need. After all, the industry’s success is predicated on making us think that we “need more”. In the EDC world, this presents itself in a couple key instances. Take for example limited edition products. More often than not, limited editions are nearly identical to their production counterpart functionally, but have some minor nuance to distinguish them. People buy into the idea nonetheless, hence the abuse of “limited edition” and that we have seen from many manufacturers in the EDC community. Limited editions exploit the phenomena of FOMO (fear of missing out).

Another good example of how our psyche is exploited comes in the form of the hype train. When we make a purchase we’re happy with, we’ll flaunt our new wares. Example in case: Person A asks for a recommendation, and Person B comes along promoting something totally irrelevant to the scope of what Person A is looking for. We’ve all seen it before, especially on some of the Facebook groups. And when we make a bad purchase, we’ll try to rationalize our purchase nonetheless, thus leading to a circle jerk. This cognitive dissonance is not uncommon, we are fickle creatures.

So far, I’ve made the manufacturer look like the bad guy. But it just isn’t that simple, unfortunately. Perhaps the real root of the problem lies with the chronic flippers who game the system and prey on aforementioned FOMO. I’m sure the term “flipper” isn’t unfamiliar for many of you; however, it definitely takes on some more negative connotations in the EDC community.

After certain products sell out, said products will often hit the secondary market (ie. eBay) right after. And because there’s existing hype for the product, sellers can charge – and people pay – far more than the initial MSRP. The idea of buying in early and being able to make a tidy profit, doing pretty much nothing, is alluring. And what’s more is that it works – admittedly, I myself have done it on more than one occasion. A good example is when I flipped a Steel Flame clip I snagged at MSRP for $195. The clip served no purpose to me – I was simply curious about the hype – and when I learned how much they ran for on the secondary market, well, I flipped it for close to $600.

Clearly, what I did was probably not all that classy in the eyes of many people who find sentimental value in Steel Flame’s products. And to this end, I don’t purchase their products anymore; stealing a purchase opportunity from someone who will genuinely appreciate their products isn’t right in my eyes. But it’s the people who do so every time, thus exacerbating the aforementioned hype train. Think about it. If I see stuff on the secondary market for more than its MSRP, it makes it desirable to me because 1) I know it has good resale value, and 2) it must be in high demand.

How to Make the Hobby More Enjoyable

If you can’t tell already, everything I’ve outlined so far is one big feedback loop that comes at the expense of your wallet. It’s a shame that it needs to be said because it’s common sense, but here it is anyways: Step back for a moment, and re-evaluate your needs objectively. You don’t need three of what is effectively the same piece of gear. Redundancy is important, yes, but only to a certain extent. After all, the whole premise of “buy once, cry once” is to only cry once with that one, big purchase.

Something else easily forgotten is that your “buy once, cry once” purchases should only be for things that you are very passionate about. If it’s not something that you’re going to use everyday for many, many years to come then you’re better off purchasing something that’s cheaper, but will give you a better utility-to-cost ratio in the long run. “Buy once, cry once” isn’t a justification to buy every high-end piece of gear out there.

This also means thinking about your purchases critically both before and after the fact. In terms of before, do your due diligence before making a purchase: Avoid the slick “reviews” that frequent many EDC aggregate sites. Look for reviews that give both solid pros and non-superficial cons. And after you’ve made a purchase, stick with that piece of gear for a while and see how it conforms to your usage applications. Only then is it generally acceptable to flip a piece of gear.

Along those lines, don’t support crappy practices like chronic flipping. And if you are a chronic flipper, well, think about it as breaking the chain. If you, as a chronic flipper, stop inflating prices on the secondary market then the manufacturer loses both clout and profits. Limited editions wouldn’t be such a shit show, and we could effectively dictate what we want from manufacturers. In the end, everyone wins this way: The people get what they want, and the manufacturers keep making money.

Of course, I’m not so naive to believe that all this would happen; this would require an unprecedented paradigm shift on everyone’s part. But as it stands, it’s not us, the enthusiasts, who are taking the most away from this hobby. It’s the manufacturers and chronic flippers that are emptying our wallets. Hopefully, though, you guys can try taking some of the steps I’ve outlined in the aforementioned text to get the most from this hobby without going broke.

It’s worth mentioning that I myself am not immune to the foibles of this hobby. Just the other week, I was highly tempted to purchase a Carbon Fiber Ridge wallet that I saw in-store just because it was there. It’s worth mentioning that I have a perfectly good Dango wallet already, but I was so, so tempted. And this is after I already purged all the other wallets I tried out before settling on the Dango. But when my mother, who was with me, asked me why I needed another $115 wallet when I already have one, I couldn’t come up with a single, good reason. Sometimes, and more often than not, it’s better to just walk away and appreciate what we already have.

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