Do you remember the movie with the three-legged dog named tripod? It’s my kind of humor that just goes ahead and calls out any possible elephants in the room to get them out of the way, and you can’t name a dog tripod unless you really love him just the way he is.
I had an experience with the fire that was like the ghost leg that the amputee feels. I was missing my tripod, the photographic kind. I really liked my tripod. It was an old style aluminum tripod that extended to nine feet high, and while it was aluminum, it was made before they started offering titanium alloys and thin walled aluminum tripods, so it was a little on the heavy, clunky side. I could set that baby down and it wasn’t going to tip over. I bought it second hand so long ago that I don’t really remember where, when, or even where I lived at the time, just that it fit me. It was nice and comfortable, like Linus’ blanket.
When everything goes, you think about the things that you really enjoyed having. I missed my tripod. I didn’t think about that I didn’t have any cameras anymore either, though they were much more valuable. I thought about the thing that would be harder to replace because that’s what you want to get back.
I was thinking about it every now and then. It seemed like I should have it, like maybe there was some reason it got saved, but I couldn’t really decide why I felt that way.I chalked it up to irrational feelings and bought another tripod in Goodwill to close the open thought loop. It was nice, but not the good fit I had before. At least it got the thing off my mind.
Some months after I bought my new-old tripod, I was talking to my son. He had borrowed my tripod, the favorite loved tripod that I thought I had lost. He feels the same way about that old thing that I do. If I hadn’t let him use it, it would be gone now. Generosity always pays off because it feels good, but I love it when it pays off in triplicate. I told him to bring it back next time we got together. He gave me a little fake pout and said “All right”.
Before I saw him again, the light bulb that had been dim for maybe six months now, came on. The Nikon, the Sony, the 3 Canons, several Kodaks, both Olympus, the underwater equipment and all the macro and micro lenses and filters and cases were no more. I called my son and said “Hey you know what? I don’t have a camera, so what need do I have for a tripod?” I told him he could keep it until such time as I did have a need.
It’s funny how feelings, like loss, can help you to miss the obvious. I’m looking forward to the time when I move into camera mode. It will be one of the clues that life is getting back to normal, when I can feel the luxury of being able to attend to what kind of camera would best suit my future uses. And when I do, I’ll trade my newer used tripod with my son and get Old Faithful back.
Those thrift stores, they’re a new store every day right? That same river you can’t step in twice? Yet, like that river they’re constantly the same and still changing. There’s always the promise of adventure. You never know what you’ll see, from something exactly like one your grandfather had to something you can’t even begin to imagine. I bought some tools once from a Canadian Hardware store, just because it was so odd for me, the original curiosity queen, not to be able to find or figure out what they were. I thought I’d eventually find something about them. Now I have a good source in a new FB group, but the tools are gone and I’m not sure if I ever took a photo. I’m not the only one who will buy a mystery item. One day a shopper was leaving a store with a thing in her hand. I asked her what is was. She said “I have no idea.” I asked her what she was going to do with it. She was going to use it to display jewelry that she made. I could clearly see that was perfect for jewelry display.
Shoppers are from all corners too. From artists to those barely getting by, from hoarders to historians, from the wealthy to the wonderers and wanderers. Some shoppers are talkative and some are afraid to even acknowledge you if you speak to them. Some are proud to recycle and explore. Others are embarrassed to be shopping second hand. Some people carry as much baggage into the store as the bags of stuff that they carry out.
On one recent visit I was making my rounds and finding a few things when I looked down on the bottom shelf and laughed. There hiding in a low corner was a food sculpture with a fork suspended in the air by a tower of spaghetti shooting up from a plate like Old Faithful. Then I heard “What’s Funny” asked from behind me. I picked up the plate and showed it. We both laughed.
My new friend of the moment said “That’s great… Well you would appreciate this”. Reaching for a wax figure, she held it up and said “I saw this and thought ‘It’s missing its eyes’
“Then I turned it around and it’s a wizard. It’s like life. You never know what you’re looking at.”
I laughed again. That was awesome, profound and adorable. We talked a few minutes. She was a retired science teacher and an artist and I told her about my blog, how I was seeing how much of my life I could rebuild in thrift stores and the about the Etsy store. She asked me if I was an artist, I mumbled a bit and said well I don’t really call myself an artist. She said. “That’s okay, Leonardo DaVinci didn’t either.” my new friend is Brenda Segal, a retired teacher and artist and she posed for my post with her find of the day.
Sometimes the treasure you find in Goodwill isn’t on the shelf.
If your search is for the tangible, you can find this awesome sculpture and other treasures, at least for today, at my booth at the Queen in Marietta.
As a long-time supporter of thrift stores and Goodwill, both as a donor of stuff and as a customer, I was glad to see some of the savvy marketing and new technology that they are using. I was shopping Goodwill and other thrift stores long before Shabby Chic was chic.
Back when conspicuous consumption was the nation’s modus operandi, I was still shopping for a good cause while recycling unwanted household items for that same good cause.
The deals were better for a shopper when I was not in the majority and the demand was lower, but they are still good now, and given the same deal at Goodwill and an overstock store, I will give the business to Goodwill or another non-profit when I can. Most have important causes, but I do that even when I don’t care about the particular cause. It keeps things out of the landfill.
Russ and I have been on a big Goodwill kick lately. We have opened an account with Etsy for some of our current crafts and plan to expand with time. We are looking for things to up-cycle. We are always looking for that unique breakthrough idea that sings, and when it sings, it needs to sing “art” and nothing less. I want it to truly be an UP cycle.
It has been a blast so far. We looked for the Goodwill in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on our recent trip through the area. Would this Goodwill be different? What might we find in the Secret City? It was a nice store and there was a much larger Science Fiction book section than I have ever seen at any other Goodwill. Otherwise there was not too terribly much to distinguish it from other locations.
We did find interesting differences in other Tennessee towns. We found some with new stock as well as the regular recycled donations. I asked if new stock was becoming typical and the storekeeper told me that all Goodwill stores in her district carried new stock, that employees went on buying trips and that some merchandise had come from “the shopping network.” This was news to me. I had this image of buying trips, just like the end buyers for high end department stores make. As fun as the image was, I don’t get very excited about new goods in a second hand store and I didn’t find anything at this location that moved me to the point of purchase.
There are a lot of shifts taking place in charity and overstock outlets as the current economic conditions have a larger segment of the population looking for discounts, bargains and other forms of frugal spending options.
These shifts have some charity organizations scrambling to replace goods that were once donated as seconds, but now have a market in discount stores. At the same time, the price gap in second hand and second quality stores closes in to reflect the greater demand. New marketing techniques in Goodwill are well timed to fit in this shifting marketplace.
The best store set up that I have seen since this renewed purpose to my old passion has taken hold was in Thomasville, Georgia, a part of the Big Bend (Florida) district. Shelves were custom made here to fit above the clothing racks so that while shopping for clothing, household items and nick knacks were right there calling for attention.
In electronics, the televisions sets were running just as they would be in a retail outlet allowing comparison. The aisles all had end-caps with merchandise, just like a regular retail outlet. The video, music and other media had shelves custom fit to their size so that the display was easier to process visually and took less space than it would otherwise. I bought a white ceramic owl container because it reminded me a little bit of Woodsy Owl.
When I went to the checkout and complimented the college student clerk on the set up as the best lay out I had ever seen at a Goodwill (or any other thrift store) he was really psyched. He spoke enthusiastically about the manager responsible for the set up. Apparently he puts these features in all of his Big Bend locations. The part I couldn’t tell just by looking is that this manager keeps track of what is selling and makes sure that there is a proportionate amount of display space dedicated to those items. I was already impressed before the clerk talking!
After returning home, I found some other interesting Goodwill news. I saw an internet link to some items that had been donated by the newest owner of a cabin that had once belonged to June and Johnny Cash. The claim to fame caught my attention, but it was also clear that there was no claim that the items had been owned by the Cash family. I followed the link until I saw a site with a set up that looked very much like ebay. There were categorized items with photographs. I did not know that I could shop at Goodwill on the internet! Fantastic! I rarely buy because shipping and handling fees move most items out of my price range, but I do go back every now and then to look for something hard to find.
Their 100th anniversary was in 2002 and long before that date, Goodwill became to thrift stores what Kleenex is to facial tissues and Coke to soft drinks. That is, people often use those brand names as generic, even when they mean to refer to other brands.
At seven years into their second century, they seem to be looking forward very well, maximizing their market niche and continuing to do good works. In an ever changing marketplace this is no small task. As fads come and go some things are worth keeping. They encourage customers to share their purchases and use the information to find out about trends and see what they could have priced higher. Of course, I prefer lower prices, but I also understand that these stores have a primary goal of serving their charity. These techniques are part of the reason Goodwill has lasted and some other stores have not.
I hope after the current wave ofShabby Chic and “Green” peak there will be some follow on that will keep people using common sense to shop economical places where they can recycle while at the same time support a worthy cause. It just makes good sense to support institutions that meet multiple goals and needs the way that Goodwill and other thrift stores do.