Friday, January 27, 2012

Great kitchen finds from Goodwill

I remember reading about planned obsolescence many years ago in an American history textbook... I was stunned to realize that someone had the audacity (in the negative sense) to deliberately create products they knew wouldn't last, just to make more money.

So when I find second-hand items that I suspect may be years, if not decades, old that still work wonderfully, I'm thrilled.

Recently I found two at Goodwill. The first is a blender. Alas, my beloved Magic Bullet has stopped working. (While it's still under extended warranty, I'm not sure I can get it replaced. Hubby didn't screw the base on tightly enough once and liquid leaked into the gears). Since I love my smoothies, I knew I needed to find another blender quickly. I made the rounds to my favorite area thrift shops, finding several blenders that seemed cheaply made and upon testing, did not work very well. Then I found this one:

While Oster still makes blenders that look very similar, it's the kitchy yellow color that makes me suspect it dates back to the 1970's. And it works beautifully! The price: $7. Compare this to Oster's new blenders with glass rather than plastic jars (this one is glass), which run about $50.

The second item is a chopper. I've had two Ronco Chop-o-Matic choppers in my life, one that I owned before my marriage, and one that my husband purchased after we were married. Each of us had been convinced to by it by what seemed to be an amazing demonstration of the product's capability at a mall kiosk. In both cases, the product failed miserably. (Note that the average review on the Amazon link gives the product 1.5 stars! And most of the manual competitors listed on the page, except for the one by the always fabulous Kitchen Aid, fare little better in customer reviews).

So what did I find recently at Goodwill? This one:

This chopper is advertised around the web as a vintage product, with a glass jar, made in the USA by Gemco. The price at Goodwill: $4, compared to about $15 elsewhere. And again, it works amazingly well!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reuse again... and again

I love second-hand shopping for numerous reasons, including the inexpensive prices, the ability to obtain higher quality goods that I could afford if they were new, and the fact that it's great for the environment.

For example, due to thrift shopping, my daughter received more gifts from her father and me than we could have privided her if we were buying new. We gave her a set of roller skates, a bigger bike, a boy Barbie, a dress, several cute tops and pants, and a Christmas teddy bear, all in excellent condition, for about $50 total.

Some object, however, that the second-hand market isn't practical for society at large since it always requires a first-hand market. That's true, but the complaint usually assumes a one-to-one relationship between the first-hand and second-hand market for each item. In other words, someone buys something new and donates or passes it on, then someone else gets it second-hand. Once the second person has finished with the item, that's the end of its life cycle.

Many items, however, can have multiple life cycles as long as they're still in good condition. Well-made, durable items like bikes and children's clothing (since kids tend to outgrow things quickly) can be passed on multiple times to multiple users before they're no longer in good condition.

Here's a good example: I purchased my daughter's old bike $8 from a thrift store two years ago. She has recently outgrown the bike and we found a larger one, in great condition, for $10 at Goodwill. It's very possible that either bike had multiple users (say, an older and younger sibling) before being donated and purchased by us.

One of my daughter's friends, two years older, also got a new bike for Christmas. Her mom and I planned at first to pass on both old bikes to younger children, but they were too big for the younger children we knew.

So I came up with an even better plan for passing on the two bikes. I had a meeting in Olympia today and had to pass through Lacey, where Alaffia, my favorite natural body care company, is based. Alaffia has a project, Bicycles for Education, in which they collect bikes from Washington residents to ship to Alaffia's founder's home country of Togo. These bikes make transportation to and from distant schools possible for many rural children who wouldn't otherwise be able to attend.

I dropped off both bikes at Alaffia's headquarters today and was able to have a follow-up conversation with them about hosting a bike drive at Marlene's Natural Market in Tacoma (which will take place in June). So you see, many items can be used not once, not twice, but again and again and again, for older children, younger children, and children across the world!