Wednesday, September 05, 2007

When a Bargain is Not a Bargain

I love bargain shopping. The idea of getting something for almost nothing is always a real coup--even if this means buying that item used. I have bought used furniture, used cars, LOTS of used dishes (we call those 'antiques'), and gently-used clothes. Whenever I can, I buy used books, DVDs, and CDs.

I also try to encourage the boys to buy used video games. LOTS of big savings there...especially on Amazon Marketplace. At times, I can find the titles they want for less than half of retail. The only trick is convincing them that the $20+ savings is worth the week or so it will take for the game to arrive in our mailbox.

But there are times when buying new items is the better--almost necessary--way to go. MSN Money recently had an article listing the 10 things you should never buy used. Taboo items included electronics, mattresses, car seats, and shoes.

While the writer cited mostly higher-dollar items, I feel that there are a few lower priced, everyday items that were left out. Below is my list of items that shouldn't be bought used. I am not making this stuff up. I have seen each and every one of these items for sale at garage sales and thrift stores. And while these are among the best places to find rock bottom prices, they should be approached with the caveat that people will sell anything.

WARNING: the following may be deemed gross to some. If you have a weak stomach or are easily offeneded, stop reading here.

Don't buy used:

Tupperware-like storage containers. Think about what we use these for--storing food, mostly. Specifically leftovers that may or may not get eaten. Unless the meal was really good, leftovers will sit for months in the refrigerator. The food languishes in the plastic Petrie dish we know as Tupperware (or Rubbermaid, or whichever brand you use). Months later, when the refrigerator is cleaned out, so much mold will have engulfed the food that it is now unrecognizeable. When this happens around here, I throw the entire dish away.

But not all people do that. They will endure the sights and smells of rotted food, and risk damage to their psyche just to get more use out of a plastic food container. And then that container--along with others just like it--will be in their yard sale a month later.

Bedding. Sheets, blankets, pillows, all of it. Buying used bedding is worse than buying a used mattress. In fact, it's almost as bad as buying used underwear! The bedding may be freshly laundered, there's still the stigma of knowing that other people slept on those sheets before you. Sick people, potty training people, smoking people, sweaty people, and yes, horny people.

Anyway, if you're trying to save money by buying used pillowcases, it's time to loosen the purse strings a bit. I think the same sentiment was echoed on an episode of Friends. The cheapest blankets in a TJ Maxx clearance bin are way better than anything used.

Crayons and Markers. Used markers usually mean dried-out, USELESS markers. As for crayons used ones are usually missing their labels. But even if they're not, they could be harboring germs. When Kyle was in first grade, his teacher had to discard all the crayons in the classroom due to exposure of hand-foot-mouth disease. That's what she got for insisting that the children "pool" their supplies.

Anyway, children's art supplies aren't that expensive. You probably have enough change in your sofa cushions to buy Junior a box of colors at Big Lots. That will change, however when he takes art classes in college.

Cleaning supplies. Mops, feather dusters, brooms, and the like. I don't even want my own dirt in the house. Why would I want someone elses?

Towels. See "bedding" The only exception is towels used for washing the car.

Hair accessories and styling implements. Combs, brushes, curling irons, rollers, scrunchies, barrettes, etc. Two words: head lice.