Jim Mullen: One man’s trash is another man’s garbage
You have never seen such a collection of absolute junk in your entire life.
“Why would people buy such ugly, useless stuff?” I ask myself over and over, as I carry it out of our house and put it on the tables we’ve set up in the driveway.
We’re having a garage sale. And it’s not just us: The neighbors have all gotten together for a multifamily sale, and their stuff doesn’t look much better. Where did it all come from? It looks like the world’s biggest jumble shop exploded in our driveway. Thank goodness no one was injured by flying pieces of 8-track tapes.
No one is selling this stuff to make money; they’re selling it to get rid of it. English needs a word for stuff that is too useless to keep, but too expensive to throw out.
“There is a word for it,” Sue said. “Collectibles.”
Close, but no cigar. It doesn’t cover gadgets that we’ve never used, like the vertical chicken broiler or 12-in-1 screwdriver. Who collects picture frames? Judging by the stash I just hauled out of the basement, we do. Why do I have a pair of work boots? As Sue likes to tell everyone she meets, I’ve never done a lick of work in my life. They do look as if they just came out of the box. What was I thinking when I bought them?
Look at all these records! Whoops, I mean “vinyl.” The kids love vinyl, and I’ve got plenty of it. Surely some young audiophile will pay me a dollar for the chance to listen to a scratchy copy of “Ray Conniff’s Hawaiian Album.” Maybe it will be the same person who will buy my 45-year-old turntable. Good luck finding a needle for that baby. If your vinyl discoveries don’t sound like static on an AM radio during a thunderstorm, I haven’t done my job right.
A lot of what I’m selling are parts of things that used to work, but don’t any longer.
“Who’s going to buy a broken clock?” Sue asked.
“It’s not completely broken,” I said. “It’s still right twice a day.”
“That joke is so old Henny Youngman wouldn’t use it,” she said. She was having a hard time getting into the spirit of the thing. So I grabbed a plastic fish on a wall plaque and pushed the button that makes it sing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” She suddenly remembered she had things to do in the house.
What kind of fool would buy this junk? Oh yeah. Me. I’m always buying stuff at garage sales, because things are such bargains. At the store, I have to pay full-price for things I don’t need, but the same stuff I don’t need is half-price at a lawn sale. I’m saving hundreds of dollars by buying your junk.
But where am I going to find enough people just like me to make my sale work? Or, as Sue put it, “Where are you going to find a sucker as big as you?”
No problem. What she didn’t know was that I had added “Sale starts at 9 a.m., no early birds” to the sale announcement. Sure enough, 10 people showed up at 6 a.m. with their haggling hats on.
Would I take five dollars for this bicycle pump for which I no longer have the bicycle? Let me think — yes! Yes I would. I would have taken 50 cents not to have to take that thing back into the house. Will I take a dollar for this corkscrew with wings? Sure. I never figured out how it works. It would be easier to open our wine with a power drill, except all our wine comes in boxes, so we don’t even need a corkscrew. I believe they call it Cardboardennay.
Maybe this is how Warren Buffett got his start: buying things for 10 and 20 dollars and selling them for pennies. Sure, I lose money on each sale, but that’s OK. I’ll make it up on the volume.
Contact Jim Mullen at email@example.com.
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