Friday, October 15, 2010

The 3 R's

How can we forget the Classic 3 R's?  "Readin', 'Ritin' and 'Rithmetic."  The 3 R's were the mainstay of the American educational system well into the Post WWII years.  Now, of course, those # R's have been replaced by a mind-numbing array of acronyms gone wild.

However, the 3 R's persist in a reincarnated form today.  Gone are reading, writing and arithmetic.  Today's 3 R's are: "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle."  Luckily, ba-zillions of Americans take recycling seriously.  It's a wonderful cultural phenomena and it's really making a difference in this Nation's profligate consumption of earth's dwindling natural resources.  Meanwhile, the growth of the "real simple" movement has spawned much more interest in the "Reduce" part of the two R's.  More and more people are realizing the folly of rampant, thoughtless consumption.  So, there appears to be some progress in the "Reduce" area.  Perhaps the least favorite of the New 3 R's is "Reuse."  This is the one aspect of our throwaway society that's been a tough sell.  Why bother to fix something when you can buy something new for cheaper than the cost and hassle of a repair?  We have to admit we often fall victim to that mentality, too.  It's a tough equation.

We had an interesting encounter with all of the 3 R's yesterday.  That's why we started off this blog post with a tutorial on the 3 R's.  Here's how the incident evolved.  First, Susun dropped her hot rod digital camera while in San Diego.  The camera died with its telephoto lens in the fully extended position.  She brought it home.  It's been sitting on my desk looking somewhat like a dead gecko with its tongue sticking out.  Periodically, Susun has asked if she could throw the camera away.  I have balked each time, mumbling only that I needed some time to "think of something."  Finally, the "something" came yesterday when the proverbial lightbulb above my head flashed on.  I listed the camera on eBay for a dollar.  I explained the damage and basically said I just wanted to send the camera to someone who could use it for parts or possible repair.  Lo and behold, someone has already bid a dollar on the dead camera.  So, YIPPEE, it's going to a new home and doesn't have to disappear into the trash!!!  I'm clearly not selling the camera with the idea of making money.  Nope, the process of dealing with eBay, Paypal, the seller and the Postal Service will take up a lot of time and, no doubt, be fraught with arcane hassles.  To me it's just paying homage to the New 3 R's, two of which say, in essence, Don't Throw it Away!  It's great to know the camera's life will continue someplace else.

Speaking of the 3 R's, that's really the essence of Thrift Stores.  They are a poor man's eBay, a place where anyone can come in off the street without a fancy eBay and Paypal account and engage in all of the 3 R's for sometimes as low as a mere dime.  It's been forever since I've seen something priced for a nickle in a t-store.  A dime seems to be the lowest price.  But those stores are still a place where you can actually buy something for a dime.  Where else is that possible?

Clearly, we both love shopping at the t-stores.  We each, of course, have our own goals and objectives in those stores.  Susun somehow finds components of her amazing wardrobe.  I think it's been at least a few decades since she bought any apparel actually NEW off the shelf of a major retailer.  I'm guessing 100% of her wardrobe is from t-stores.  (She will correct this assumption if it is wrong.)

Meanwhile, I have this unwritten mental list of stuff I'm looking for.  It's the old "I'll know it when I see it" sort of thing.  I go to t-stores each day with the firm conviction there's something waiting there for me and only me.
Yesterday was a classic example of how the t-stores fit the 3 R's like a hand in glove.  I struck out on the first two stores.  I walked out empty handed.  It was looking grim at Deseret Industries, too.  Nothing leaped out and cried, "BUY ME!"  I meandered into what they call the "Yard Area" and peered at the golf clubs.  Nope, no new left-handed clubs.  But suddenly, from out of the garish jumble of stuff crammed into the backroom, there it stood, black and tall--a roll of 30 pound roofing felt!  WHA---WHOOO!  For a mere $2, i was able to take home the material we need for the porch project.  The people at the metal roofing company are firm and explicit in their Commandments--"Thou Shalt Use 30 pound felt under our metal roofing!"  Well, the new cost of a full roll of such felt is $20.  We need but a fraction of a full roll for this job and it had been paining me greatly to contemplate having to buy a full roll.  So, click, click, click, chalk up another episode in the modern rendition of the 3 R's.

As we were lugging our roofing felt through the remainder of the Yard Area, we spied out another potential rescue--a 1.5 gallon Thompson Water Seal deck sprayer for $5.  I checked it out and determined it was missing a gasket but would probably still work even without the gasket.  So I went to the manager and told him the $5 price was unfair.  He offered it to me for $4 and I countered with $2 and we settled on $3.  Ya gotta love t-stores!  We took it home and, sure enough, it worked fine without the gasket.  So, we hot-footed it to Wally and scored a gallon of water sealer for $6.50 and then proceeded to treat our entire cook shack for less than $10.

Obviously, this vignette meets the "Reuse and Recycle" parts of the 3 R's.  How does it meet the "Reduce" aspect?  Therein lies a great story.  The Sherwin-Williams Company has a paint store right next to Harbor Freight.  They put a 30% coupon in the newspaper.  So, I went over there a couple of days ago and inquired about some sealer for the cook shack.  The smiling man there happily told me such a job would cost ONLY $200 as I would need three different gallons of material selling for ONLY $65 a gallon.  Luckily, I didn't faint and hurt my head on their hard, slick floor.  Maybe I should wear a helmet when I go into stores like that because someday I probably WILL faint!  Anyway, I likewise smiled very sweetly and told him that the cost of the chemicals would far exceed the cost of the cook shack and slowly backed out of the store and then ran away as fast as I could.

So, the moral of the story here is that I was able to water seal the cook shack at a more than 95% savings over what the "retail" cost could have been.  Deck sprayers start at $20 and go up in price.  Add that to the ridiculous chemical cost and do the 'rithmetic.

Yep, today's 3 R's are a very important part of our lives.  Susun takes care of the Recycle part of our lives and I more than hold my own with the other two R's.  Life is good.

Cheers, jp

1 comment:

Marti Spudboater said...

You are a guru of thrift. The ultimate deal dude. And your three R's, both old school and new school beat up all the competition. I've discovered with no sort recycling in Boise I rarely have much trash. Glass remains a problem and I wish I could come up with something creative. How many wine bottle candle holders or glasses can one person possibly need?

The irony of Idaho Youth Ranch thrift store in Boise is they get alot of good stuff and sell it on E-Bay now. Truly unfortunate because the public never gets a chance to purchase truly good items; just the junk that is leftover. Our Youth Ranch stores have been known to sell stuff at full price or even more. And in this economy, that is ridiculous.
I, too, always haggle. Except when it's a Craigslist item that reflects what it should cost. There is a point where asking folks to reduce their price is insulting. I've had people try to get me to cut my cost to ridiculous. And I just won't get suckered in. Some things are worth hanging on to until you get a fair price, not a ripoff offer. I remember selling some of Megan's ice skates and the person mentioned they could sell them on E-Bay for 4 times as much. I told her I was not going to sell them to her. I wanted a kid who needed skates to get them, not some scammer trying to make money.
Anyways, carry on Johnny.