Friday, August 21, 2009

The Garage Sale Police Do Exist

I rarely buy anything new.
It's not just the outrageous mark-up I don't like to pay, it's also the feeling that with technology, I kind of get the feeling I'm being scammed. And I enjoy going to garage sales. Not only can you find good items incredibly cheap, but, having dealt somewhat in the antique business when I was younger, I know what is of value, and give it to my ex to sell on eBay.
I've had three separate record collections in my life. the first, I started when I was still a teen, and grew to about two hundred albums, until I sold or traded most of them for pot, because I no longer had a turntable to play them on. The second came after the advent of compact discs, when I was able to buy a decent stereo at a garage sale for a mere ten dollars. With everybody in a rush to replace many albums they already had with the new format, I was able to pick up many great albums for as little as twenty-five cents. Soon that collection grew to close to a thousand records. Following my divorce, and several moves after that, I pared my collection down again to the essentials: Ramones and Butthole Surfers.
Now, I've started my third, mostly because he kids and I like collecting records, and the challenge of finding them is becoming greater, what with vinyl prices rising due to increased demand. It was at the start of the summer, while at a garage sale which had listed albums for sale, that the concept of garage sale police came up. I had filed through someone's record collection, clearly sitting in a box in their driveway and marked for sale. After sifting through them and distributing them fairly between my two sons, who had their own money and were willing to buy them, the person in charge of the sale took an album my eldest had intended to buy (McCartney Paul McCartney's first solo effort, on Apple, and very desirable) and told him "I'm sorry, I'm not selling that one". Wil was crushed, and became sad that the one album he wanted, that was listed in the ad as for sale, wasn't going home with him. Me, feeling angry, as I backed in to their garbage can by the curb, suggested, "Maybe there needs to be a garage sale police".
We've been buying a lot of CDs lately as well, as people are already dumping that format for the MP3, much easier to manage and carry around, so CDs are going cheaply as well. You can trace the history of formats, from music, to gaming systems, to movies at garage sales. VHS tapes, which used to command higher prices in the secondary market, have been discarded in favor of DVDs, which themselves are on the way out in the advent of HD Blu-Ray technology. So while many people continue to buy the same product in each new format as it comes out, I'm down here going through what most people would discard, because, guess what, the formats still work, and I'm not going to invest a lot of money in a format that will be obsolete while I'm still using it. It's the main reason I don't have a cell phone-why invest over a hundred dollars to be the first one to have the new phone when in six months you won't be able to resell it for twenty dollars?
I was junking last week after work, when I stopped by a sale being run by a twenty something couple. Not much I was interested in, until I came across a VHS copy of Weird Al's UHF, which is my son Nelson's favorite entertainers. I brought it home, and when the boys came over that weekend, we put it in the VCR (yes, I still have one, as well as several DVD players which seem more disposable) only to find someone had taped over the movie with a special on skateboarding that must have been on one of the myriad of television channels available to those brain dead enough to actually sit around and watch a show about skateboarding. Once again, Nelson's big score became worthless, and he turned to me and stated, "You know dad, there needs to be a garage sale police."
Well, now there is a garage sale police. As part of a campaign called Resale Roundup, the federal government is cracking down on the secondhand sales of dangerous and defective products. Maybe someday, we can get them to crack down on unscrupulous sellers as well. It's a dream anyway.

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