1. Congratulations Janet & Dan!

    IF IT’S MONDAY, and Ted’s got nothing more substantial for us (thank Christ), why, it must be Overpriced Goodwill Item of the Week…Day! You’re saying to yourself! Sure!

    While today’s offering is not outrageously overpriced…

    …it’s still something that you and I are betting not a whole lot of people are willing to shell out three bucks for at a thrift store.

    What is it? you ask.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…

    Our Children’s Wedding: Janet & Dan’s parents’ wedding album…for Janet & Dan’s wedding.  If you follow all that.

    And what’s more…?  It’s empty.  No photos inside!  None!

    Wedding pictures are notoriously uninteresting to everyone but the bride, but even so, if you’re going to put this out on the sales floor, Goodwill, why not leave the photos in it?

    Yes, yes, I know: Likely whoever donated it pulled the photos first and gave the thrift store an empty album. In this case – here’s a suggestion, Goodwill:  It’s personalized!  Without the pictures it’s even more worthless than it would be with them!  And you can’t get much more worthless than worthless! And it was already worthless!

    So now it’s completely worthless to everyone everywhere!

    Unless…!

    Unless – through a rather unlikely set of circumstances – some person just happens to have a son named Dan or a daughter named Janet and they just happened to have married someone else named Janet or Dan (whichever the case may be!), and they did so on May 23, 1981; and somehow, over the last thirty years, this same person, the parent that is, never got around to buying an album to put their copies of the wedding photos in, and this very person just happens to be shopping in the very Goodwill that I found this…and comes across this in the bric-a-brac section!

    If that’s the case, and you are this person, by all means, buy the album. Buy the album, sure!

    And then you contact me because I’m  going to have you go out and buy me a lottery ticket.

    Posted by on January 16, 2012, 3:41 AM.

  2. LOOK at that!  New for 2012, we actually have a little logo for this feature now!

    You’re probably saying, “Uh-oh – quality like that cost ol’ Ted plenty – it’s only a matter of time before he starts charging me for access to his site, not unlike the many premium porn sites I’m a member of.  And he’d be right to do so, Ted would, to charge me a bi-weekly fee, that is.”

    Don’t you worry:  The site is still free. (Well, for you it is.  But me, I’m hemorrhaging cash just keeping this thing online – my hosting company charges me six dollars per post, and if it features a photo or an inordinate number of letter V’s, hoo boy – that’s when they really stick it to me!)

    No, despite the expensive look to that logo, believe it or not, I crafted it myself with nothing more than a camera and a free online photo editor website.  And a little bit of elbow grease, and a small stack of Chips Ahoy! for snack.

    Anyway, to celebrate all of that, and the beginning of the new year, we’ve got a special Overpriced Goodwill Item of the Week for you!

    What’s more timely for the beginning of January than an Overpriced Goodwill Item of the Week…that’s a calendar…?

    Well, I’ll tell you what’s more timely:  A calendar that isn’t a decade old.  Three ninety-nine they want for a completely useless calendar from 2002!

    The entire cast of “I Love Lucy” would be rolling in their mass grave if they knew about this thrift store outrage; that is, if they were buried together – but it turns out they weren’t. (I looked it up.)

    And I think I speak for all of us when I say that when you have a show that’s so beloved as “I Love Lucy” continues to be some thirty years after it originally went off the air, you want to think that the cast, Lucy and Ricky and Fred and Esther, each one hilarious and unforgettable in his or her own way – Lucy with her hare-brained schemes, Fred with the wacky things he did, and all the rest – were as close off-camera as they were on-camera, and that they stayed in touch with each other until the end of their days, going out to lunch, perhaps shopping, attending each others’ kids’ bar- and bat-mitzvahs, spending holidays together, rollerblading and whatnot.

    So taking that to its logical conclusion, wouldn’t that mean that even if they hadn’t agreed to some sort of mass suicide – which I reiterate they didn’t! – wouldn’t that mean that they were so close, that when the time came, they’d all just want to be buried together for all eternity?  I think you’ll find comfort, and a measure of wisdom, in these thoughts.

    My attorney, however, thinks we’ll be hearing from Lucie Arnaz.

    I’ll tell you what Lucie should do, though – she ought to call Goodwill and demand they remove this thing from the salesfloor.

    Three ninety-nine they want!

    ¡Ay yi yi!

    Posted by on January 9, 2012, 2:33 AM.

  3. Overpriced Goodwill Item of the Week: Madeline!

    IN SPITE OF – or due to – having lost an arm when the Luftwaffe destroyed her school during an air raid, little Madeline is seen welcoming German troops into Paris in a hasty show of allegiance to their Führer. Immortalized here as a wooden push-puppet, this whimsical toy – of interest to both collectors of classic children’s book characters and World War II historians – was discovered at my local Goodwill for $1.99.

    We’re doomed to repeat history unless we learn from it.  And what we’ve learned here is that Goodwill really has no qualms about putting broken crap out on the sales floor. Who the hell do they think is going to buy this thing?  Someone with another broken Madeline push-puppet who would cannibalize this one for spare parts?!

    On that note, any readers looking to unload a Babar from the same line, please contact me. I need to rebuild the trunk on mine. (Yes, again!)

    Posted by on December 13, 2011, 2:38 AM.

  4. Stalking the Wild Animus!

    LIKE big game hunting?  Sure, there, Frank Buck, we all do.

    Here’s a fun hunting game that you can play when you and your pals are in a thrift store – any thrift store – in the greater Los Angeles area, and the best part is, you won’t actually be killing anything, so those morons at PeTA will have no reason to throw red paint on you. Unless you’re wearing fur or eating KFC.

    What you do, see, is you head over to the book section and have a race to see who can find this book first:

    It’s a quick game – it will only take a moment or so before you (or your pal) will find it.

    Why?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I have come across this book in literally every single thrift store in LA County (and often, beyond) for the last six years. And brother, I been to plenty! Hoo boy, I been to palennnty!

    Back at the beginning, you’d see this invasive species in large flocks – twenty, thirty books together, often occupying an entire shelf, leaving precious little room for the graceful and majestic Tuesdays with Morries, the peaceful Bridges of Madison Countys, those gentle giants of the lower shelves, The DaVinci Codes, and, perhaps most tragically, the once abundant but now endangered I’m OK – You’re OKs and The Cracker Factorys.  I can go on.

    Then, as the months and years went by, the numbers of this once prolific creature had dwindled to smaller packs – five or six copies per store. Today it’s definitely still out there, but the herd has been thinned to just a single copy or two in each thrift shop. Nature has a way of adapting, and perhaps realizing its days in thrifts were numbered, Wild Animuses (or Animii) have recently been spotted migrating into used book stores and remainder outlets where they’ll peacefully live out the rest of their lives, unmolested and unsold.

    You think I’m lying about this whole Wild Phenomenus of course – you’ve never trusted me, which is one of our problems we’re still working on when you even bother coming to therapy – but I know plenty of folks who will back me up on this: shifty secondhand book dealers, filthy thrift store regulars, and people who just need a place to sit down for a few hours so they grabbed a random stack of books to leaf through at Salvation Army while occupying a broken Barcalounger in the furniture department.

    Now, what’s most fascinating is that at least two distinct subspecies of this book have been sighted – possibly more. There’s the version above – which actually has been the (slightly) rarer one in my experience, and then another with a dark, primitive-looking aboriginal-type image, which I used to see everywhere.

    A little online research reveals that the book is the product of a vanity press founded by its very author, Rich Shapero.  He wrote it, and he published it.  Kind of like I did in the late 1980s with my Ann Jillian zine, though apparently Shapero had a bigger budget and didn’t have to make copies at Kinko’s at three a.m. and sneak out without paying.

    Oh, great. This is just freaking wonderful – further online research uncovers the aggravating fact that I’m far from the first person to cover the ubiquity of this book.

    So the hell with this, I’m done wasting my time for you people. Oh, sure – clearly I should have somehow magically foreseen that blogging was going to be the next big “thing” and started this website and wrote about “Wild Animus” way back in 2007 before anyone ever heard of “blogs” much less the Information Superhighway.

    …Okay, so this isn’t a total waste, let’s start over.

    Like big game hunting?  Sure, there, Bror von Blixen-Finecke, we all do.

    Here’s a fun hunting game that you can play when you and your pals are in a thrift store – any thrift store anywhere.

    Head over to the LPs and look for Herb Alpert albums.

    Posted by on November 28, 2011, 6:00 AM.

  5. Overpriced Goodwill Item of the Week!

    HEY, LOOK, I’ve decided, on a whim, to start yet another new feature on this blog. My God, how do I manage to keep so many different topics and themes up and running simultaneously? Believe me, pal, it’s like spinning plates while juggling chainsaws, a career and motherhood.

    Anyway, I could, with very little difficulty, write an entire blog not just on thrift stores, not just local thrift stores, but on local Goodwill thrift stores. But then, I’d have even less traffic to this blog (if that’s even possible) so I’ve opted not to.

    Or maybe…maybe I’d have many, many more visitors.

    Hmm…

    Aaah, then they’d all be thrift store people and they annoy me enough as it is in the stores. Christ almighty, I don’t need them visiting my blog, too.

    Now here’s the thing about Goodwill Industries: As you know they operate an enormous chain of thrift stores that raise money for charity – feral cats or something, I think. But ultimately, it’s still a bunch of stores run by a big corporation. Big corporations don’t bother me (being part of the 1% and all) and I love capitalism, but I do have a problem with dumb decisions.

    Goodwill has made a point over the last few years, as the economy’s been tanking, to promote the idea that shopping in one of their retail locations is a sensible and frugal alternative to buying – brand new – everything from a severely dented metal IKEA side table to a Hilditch & Key dress shirt with an indelible stain that’s somehow completely invisible under fluorescent thrift store lights to personalized coffee mugs featuring photos of complete strangers’ ugly children. Buy it used at Goodwill and save-save-save, they say.

    Yeah, well, someone needs to tell the people who price the donated items that.

    My local Goodwill has this shelving unit that’s about ten feet long. There’s four shelves plus the bottom of the unit.  That’s about fifty linear feet and it’s dedicated to…

    …VHS tapes.

    So in the highly unlikely chance that anyone from Goodwill Headquarters is reading this, here’s a newsflash, friend: VHS is a dead technology. No major studio is releasing anything on VHS anymore because we’ve all moved onto DVD and Blu-ray. And while you can still find one or two DVD/VCR combos for sale at major electronic stores, the last standalone VCR was manufactured in 2008.

    VHS is no more!

    The only reason any of us are even keeping our VCRs is so we’ll have something to play our homemade porn on. There’s no way I’m having all these tapes converted to DVD, I don’t care how good my abs looked then. Plus Sharon and I promised Heather, our neighbor at the time, that we destroyed  the tapes. (She and Cliff finally got back together, they’ve moved up to Corte Madera and she volunteers at Via Cordova Elementary where their kids are enrolled so the last thing she needs is some asshole at the transfer service to post everything on the internet and then Cliff finding out when one of his buddies at Firehouse 22 – Cane St. Station – sees her on Pornhub, yells “Guys! Guys! Holy crap, come here!” and then everyone else on that shift gathers around his netbook so they can watch, too.)

    Where was I?  Oh yeah.

    Furthermore, it’s unlikely most pre-recorded VHS tapes are ever going to have any kind of serious collector value in the future.  The tapes naturally degrade over the years, and even at its best, the quality is lousy compared to everything that’s come since. Plus the whole process of inserting the media into the player, and the fast forwarding, pausing, rewinding – it’s interminable compared to DVD or Blu-ray. Oh, sure, there will always be collectors who’ll want to own every single different videotape release of Star Wars likely for the sleeves alone, like idiots, and then you’ve got your jackass hipsters who might have some ridiculous 80s-themed party where part of the supposed ironic fun is watching Sixteen Candles on an old VCR while sipping old store stock drink boxes of Hi-C Ecto-Cooler spiked with vodka, and maybe I wouldn’t have called the police about the noise if I had been invited since I live right next door, but to you and me and 95% of the population, these tapes are worthless.

    But apparently not at Goodwill, brother! Not at Goodwill!

    No, here they’ll each run you a buck ninety-nine!

    So I was pleasantly surprised when I visited another thrift store just down the street, an independant thrift store benefitting pregnant homeless women or homeless pregnant women or some such nonsense, and I saw this:

    Three VHS tapes for 99¢! See, they get it! And by the way, when they’re not on sale at this place, they’re charging half of what Goodwill charges – just a buck! (Interestingly, the videos in clamshell boxes – virtually all children’s movies – weren’t on sale.  Was this because they realized parents were more willing to pay “full-price” for a kids film that their child will likely watch over and over and over, or because whoever priced them wasn’t too bright and thought that the larger plastic cases made these movies inherently more valuable?  We’ll never know, because I didn’t ask anyone, not really caring about the answer and knowing you wouldn’t, either.)

    Now what you’re saying is, “Ted, so Goodwill charges two bucks a tape. Would you deny them this, knowing the money goes to a good cause – shoes for the blind or whatnot?”

    No.  The point is that no one buys them! The tapes just sit there and each week there’s more! These things multiply nearly as fast as most of the people who shop there! All these VHS tapes are taking up valuable thrift store shelf real estate that could better be utilized displaying donations that shoppers (i.e., me) would buy.

    Namely vintage tiki mugs, Sillsculpts, and any sort of cast and crew item from the production of a popular TV show or film that I can turn around on eBay for twenty times its (already high) Goodwill price.

    Posted by on November 22, 2011, 6:00 AM.

  6. Exciting Find in the Art World!

    I’m still awaiting confirmation from the Picasso estate, but I’m fairly confident that I have in fact found a long lost and very rarely seen painting that many art historians see as an important and heretofore missing link between the famed artist’s Blue Period and his later, more abstract work.

    I swear to you this is no Nigerian scam (I do all that under a different website) – but I am going to need one or possibly more investors to help me acquire the piece.

    I was in that dingy thrift store across from CVS in Reseda the other day looking for a sturdy pair of hip-waders (best kept secret among those who butcher our own meat) and I happened to glance up – I don’t know why, I think something flew by my head, but thank God I did look up! – and there she was, way up on a shelf in the corner of the store next to some framed piece of crap poster of Mickey & Minnie Mouse in ugly 80s clothes. I nearly had a trauma when I realized what I was looking at.

    My God, it’s breathtaking. Breathtaking. Notice how the nostrils seem to follow you from whatever angle you look at it on your computer. I don’t have to tell you – finding something like this in some filthy thrift store is what every boy dreams about!

    …And me without the 99¢ they were asking for it! (I’d just come from the grocery store and had no cash on me  – and it would have been obnoxious to use a credit card for something less than a buck.)

    If I know my modern art history, this is very likely the legendary Portrait of Madame Pineau Wearing Hipster Glasses (1911), which Picasso reportedly sold to pay off a Monopoly debt (though some accounts have him trading it for a Milky Way Midnight to satisfy a late-afternoon dark chocolate craving).

    So here’s where you come in: You go to the store, buy it, and then if it’s the masterpiece I believe it to be, we split the profits. And if it’s worthless, hell, you’re only out a dollar. You can paint over it and use it as a sign for your yard sale next weekend. And if you’re getting rid of your hip-waders, let me know.

    Posted by on June 29, 2011, 9:00 AM.

  7. A “Puzzling” Thing!

    I WAS AT one of my favorite thrift stores in lovely Rosemead, California recently, and I’m not going to mention the name because frankly, I want to save them the embarrassment. Oh yes, it’s going to be one of those posts!

    There I saw a jigsaw puzzle for sale, and knowing how much the missus and I enjoy getting out the ol’ card table and working a jigsaw puzzle on a Saturday night, I thought, sure, maybe this might be something I’d like to pick up.

    So I bought it.  And here it is:

    Above: The Whitman Junior Guild 63 Extra Large Interlocking Pieces Jigsaw Puzzle, #4429, in original box, circa 1960s.

    I don’t know if you can see in that upper-right corner, but this baby originally retailed for 49¢ American. But you’ve been smoking puzzle glue if you think I was about to pay that much for it. No, you’ll notice above the AW in JIGSAW a handprinted “10¢” – a much more reasonable price for this.

    –That is, if it was complete.  As it turns out, a very big if, and yet, I don’t want to give anything away!

    Anyway, we’re poring over this for puzzle, Mrs. P and I, for the better part of three consecutive Saturdays. This wasn’t any 24-piece “baby” puzzle. Interlocking sixty-three individual puzzle pieces, especially when you’re bombed on cheap gin mixed with root beer schnapps (Why? Why?!), arguing, and in my case, dodging the occasional heavy glass ashtray, these things take time. Finally, we’re in the home stretch and something’s not quite right. There seems to be two pieces left but three open spaces in the puzzle. What gives?

    Well, we look on the floor. We look in the puzzle box. We look under the table. Someone bangs her fat head on the bottom of the table coming back up and nearly knocks the entire thing over, which would have gone right into the Hummel shelf. Have another drink! Jesus!

    Eventually, after more hollering, we realize we’re missing a piece. (Yes, we checked the back of her sweaty legs).

    Here’s the monstrosity we were left with:

    Every time I see that enormous gaping hole on the left side it just enrages me all over again.  Goddamn it!

    Would it have killed the old bags at the thrift store to quit bitching about the edema in their vericose vein-twined cankles for two minutes and count the damn puzzle pieces before putting this out on the sales floor? It’s not like this was a 2500-piece Milton Bradley Big Ben we’re talking about here. And the box doesn’t say “Around 63 or So Pieces.” It says “63 Pieces!” And how many pieces were in there? Sixty-Expletive-Deleted-Two!

    Sixty-Two!

    Which makes me wonder who the boy and girl were. They’re probably in their fifties now. Gee! Makes ya feel old, huh? And the dog? Long dead. Sorry.

    So if you’re either of the two kids, email me! I speak for all of my readers when I say we’ve been wanting to know how appearing on a 1960s jigsaw puzzle might have changed your life. What kind of doors did it open? And, if I may, did it present any sort of unexpected challenges?

    Posted by on May 24, 2011, 9:00 AM.

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