Friday, June 19, 2009

Thrift Store Conventions: Electronics

I only do it about ten times a week, max. I tried to on Tuesday and it was shot. No picture came on the television just a black screen. This RCA television came new to our home three years ago fresh out of the box as a gift. In less than a year, the DVD stopped playing and now, three years out, the whole darn thing is officially junk. We left it in the alley for electronics and appliance vultures that circle our neighborhood. They once devoured an entire dishwasher in less than an hour. Perhaps I should take better care because I don’t know how much of the appliance they use and then recycle. But, it’s too late now, they flew by night and that tatty television is gone. I’m guessing its carcass is completely disemboweled in some den in the Denver metro area.

This left us in a conundrum. We don’t have the money or the desire to race out to some superstore and purchase the latest generation of television. Despite what the world tells us, we felt no need to upgrade. I wonder if that is an American thing, when personal or home electronics or appliances flop it is mandated that one must upgrade to the latest generation regardless of what one can afford or truly needs.

To my family, television is television. It’s not an experience. We don’t have cable. We’re very predictable; PBS, CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, 60 Minutes and maybe an evening show if we’re too dog-tired to read to the kids. 60 Minutes comes from my childhood with my grandfather and we would watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom beforehand. Now my girls and I watch PBS’s Nature after 60 Minutes. Good to know that some things stay roughly the same they just might get shuffled about.

My husband, Mr. Golightly, quickly solved our problem. He took a television he’d bought at a thrift store for $20 a few years back from his garage workshop and replaced the toasted telly. He likes to watch football games while he does manly things that involve power tools which occasionally result in stitches in this workshop.

I spoke yesterday with the cashier at Goodwill and asked if they check TVs to ensure that people aren’t donating toast. She explained they plug them in to ensure that, unlike my television, a picture comes on but they don’t have time to hook TV’s up to cable to gauge picture quality. If a recent generation TV comes along, they will do further testing. Besides, customers are free to find an outlet in the store and make their own determination. Furthermore, customers have 10 days to return the product if it doesn’t meet needs.

We are up and running with the old new television and it only involved a little household shuffle, not $700 or more. I’m curious to know how long this television will compare to its out of the box rival, a kind of a John Henry thing. My old new coffee maker is still brewing up morning joe as told in the November post A Kindness Like No Other.”

What happened to the days when electronics and appliance companies took pride in the quality and durability of their product? I’m reluctant to buy new. After so many breakdowns with so many repairmen telling me it’d be cheaper to replace the appliance than repair it, I’m quite disenchanted and figure I’ll stick with thrift.

My grandparents just replaced their clothes washer of over thirty years. In the last ten years, I’ve gone through three. Things are wickedly wrong. How can we feel so at ease tossing huge things like clothes washer/dryers, televisions, PC monitors over our shoulder and buying more just to add that to the waste stream in a few short years?

I’m not so certain that the super stores that worked on making items “more affordable” to the public did us much a favor. Based upon my personal experience, I have the firm impression that a cheap price on the new goods market translates to poor quality. Add to that the constant turnover of product and I must wonder if we are we actually paying a higher economic and environmental cost in the long haul. I think we are and that makes me think that cheap is ultimately steep.

12 comments:

Elizabeth said...

We have Freecycle in our area so when our TV died, we put a message on Freecycle and one family gave us two TVs--a 20" and a 13". When these no longer work, I'll do the same thing.

Alan said...

I think you are preaching to the choir here. Older is better. I've been saying this more as I age.

Sandra said...

I'm so glad I found your site. I LOVE to go thrift store shopping. I went to Goodwill today looking for kitchen curtains. I am trying to do a coffee theme in there. I found a brown herringbone print bed sheet for $2! I bought some No Sew and I am about to cut it in half and make my kitchen curtains. Now, if I can get lucky on some type of coffee border for them....

Gena said...

I couldn't agree with you more. In the past 7 years I have gone through 2 deep freezers (bought new), 3 washers, 3 dryers (all purchased new) and almost had to buy a new stove, but instead spent over $300 to have it repaired. We do not buy high-end appliances. We just want them to do the job.

On the other hand, I have another upright freezer that is probably at least 35 years old, was given to me and is still running strong. My neighbor has the refrigerator that her parents owned and it is still fine. It is just unbelievable to me sometimes. Not to mention frustrating and costly.

Love your blog, too.

Kay said...

I think along the same lines too. The crayons I used when I was a kid was strong, and broke rarely and only if I handled it very rough. These days, my daughter goes through a packet in a month or two and everything breaks, even when 'I' handle it carefully. Things are not the same anymore. I don't like it either. :(

KentuckyGal said...

Our last microwave was purchased for $2 at a yard sale. It is the biggest one we have ever had. It's a little quirky but otherwise works as well as any other we have had in the past!

Miss C said...

It reminds me of the commercial that was playing for a while for that new steam washer where the woman is fantasizing about destroying her old washer and dryer in different ways (giant slingshot, steam roller, etc)so that she can buy this magnificent piece of crap instead. It seemed wrong to me to push this sort of idea on consumers...

Anonymous said...

I JUST finally was forced to get rid of my 1981 Maytag dryer. I was convinced that thing would NEVER die. In four years of owning a Kenmore washer, I have had it serviced four times. The sales lady at Sears told me to hango on to that 1981 dryer cuz they don't make em like they used to. Then she said " I probably shouldn't say that because then you won't buy new." It was sad to say goodbye to that faithful dryer, but...my hydro bills are smaller.

Anonymous said...

Amen!! I could not agree more. I have a relatively old dryer, electric, and the repairman said that it will last forever if you clean the lint filter every time and vacuum out the backside every so often. My last one was 25 years old.

Anna said...

Agreed! My latest pet peeve is vacuum cleaners. The third generation vacuum repair person at our local store (his grandfather worked at Hoover back in the day) told us that vacuums selling around the $100 price point were basically disposable--they were meant to last about a year and then be junked. Our Hoover canister lasted eight years but with lots of expensive and persistent maintenance. Yet my mom is still using my grandmother's Hoover from the late 1930s and it works fine. Oh it makes me frustrated!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the informative post on buying a TV from a thrift store. You're right - years ago, TV's and other appliances lasted for years.

We had a TV go "kah-put" on us last year so hubby just had to buy the latest and greatest. I would have been happy going to the Salvation Army (or pawn shop) to buy a used tv.

KentuckyGal said...

OOooooh, do I have something you'll like. We moved several years back from Fort Worth to Kentucky (more family up this way). Prowling Main St one Saturday morning, we found a nice-sized yard sale where I picked up a couple of sweaters, DD got a toy (given to her by the homeowners).

Our find of the day, though was a large dinosaur of a microwave oven, that was marked $3. When we went to pay, they only charged us $2! And we used it for 3 years!!!