In the beginning, many Nigerians had reluctantly embraced the idea of buying fairly used products, popularly called tokunbo, but now, these items have become the favourites of many. As the purchasing power of Nigerians gradually diminish, it became economically sensible to go for these products, which are not only cheaper, but are also said to be durable. There now abound many tokunbo markets that deal mainly in imported second-hand goods to cater to the varied needs of consumers. And they appeared unrivaled, until the advent of Chinese products, which have flooded everywhere.
Not only are the Chinese products sometimes even cheaper than tokunbo ones, they seem to have dominated the markets. It is simply impossible to ignore these products, which grab buyers’ attention with their flashy designs and colours. Inevitably, these two categories of products are currently competing for the patronage of customers, who are forced to decide which of them to go home with.
So now, which of these two do Nigerians prefer? Do they still pay any attention to tokunbo, now that they have the option of buying brand new items at even cheaper prices?
Some respondents told The Guardian why they opt for one over the other. Their reasons are as varied as they are interesting. Uchenna Igwe, a schoolteacher, says she prefers buying second-hand clothes for the simple reason that they come in ‘not-so-common designs.’
“Whenever I buy clothes for myself and my children, I usually go for the second-hand ones,” she said. “The beauty of these clothes is that the designs are hardly duplicated and so, when you wear them, you stand out. Wherever I go, friends and colleagues usually ask me where I got them. After they have been properly washed, ironed and scented, who can tell that they are fairly used clothes? Nobody, and you come out looking good and unique.
“For me, Chinese clothes are no-go area. I don’t like buying items that are inferior or substandard. You know second-hand products have different grades, which also determine the price. So, I always make sure I go for the first grades, which are usually more expensive, as the lower grades don’t have much quality and do not look neat either.”
But Tope Thompson, a father of four, loves buying Chinese goods on account of their colours.“I prefer the Chinese products to second-hand ones, because they are flashy and come in bright colours,” he explains. “It is not easy to tell that they are not of high quality, as they usually come well packaged. For me, that is the main attraction. My only problem with Chinese products is their durability, but then I don’t mind buying them over and over again. For instance, I have a torch light, which I have bought five times because it doesn’t last. But then, I like the fact that it is handy and when I hang it in my room, it is beautiful to look at.”
Sam Eke says he patronises second-hand products because they are stronger, original and must have met the standard quality. On the other hand, Chinese products are attractive, but not that durable.“I will always prefer original and high quality products. If I had my way, I will neither go for tokunbo nor Chinese products. I love a blend of quality and beauty in the products I buy. This way, I am sure that whatever money I invest in buying clothes, shoes or gadgets will last for a reasonable length of time and I don’t have to buy them over again. To me, it makes no sense buying all over again products I had bought before. This might be because I am not married yet, but I think I will always go for quality and durability, even though the economy doesn’t seem to be all right for now,” he says.
Lucky Abu says he will always buy second-hand products because they are more valuable than the Chinese ones. “Some second-hand products are more durable and reliable than the new ones. When I bought a second-hand phone sometimes ago, I was given one-year guarantee and looking at it, there was no difference between it and a new one. My friend bought a brand new phone, which didn’t last. Chinese products come really cheap, but they have no appeal for me. I’d rather save money for a long period to buy quality products than go for cheaper ones that are substandard and wouldn’t last,” he explains.
On her part, Chika Okoye says she wouldn’t touch second-hand clothes with a 10-foot pole, for health reasons.“Those cloths have been used by people I don’t know and I don’t want to get infected with some bodily diseases. This notwithstanding, I often buy second-hand shoes because they are durable, even though there is also body contact. However, I hope to stop buying even the second-hand shoes soon,” she explains.