Junker’s Blues

"Lo, there shall come an ending!" – Stan Lee

What has transpired: Having spent hours carefully sorting through a mixed bag of records and then carelessly leaving the whole batch behind to pick up the next day, the junker finds his labors benefiting another when his deal is blocked by the son-in-law of the collection's owner. Mr. Son-in-Law, also known as the Fop, keeps all the records the junker cherry picked but helpfully offers to sell the junker all the stuff he didn't want in the first place. The junker refuses and does his best to put the deal behind him, but bad pennies have a way of turning up again.

Illustration by Nathanael Roney.

"I think I just saw a bunch of records you might have tried to get," said the owner of a local secondhand shop, a few days after leaving the fop's house with a (technically) stolen Frank Zappa record under my arm.

There was only one bunch of records this could possibly be. This is a one-flea town, so to speak, and word gets around. I'd already been consoled on the rottenness of my deal-gone-wrong from a variety of sources. People would stop me in the Goodwill, and be like, "I heard the news — so sorry for the loss," as if my grandma had died or something.

So upon hearing that the records were back in play, I prepped myself for bad news. Never at a loss for predicting the worst possible outcome, I internally jumped to self-defeating narrative numbers 12 & 35. The perfect downbeat ending to the tale would be this:

The fop decided to sell the records to a dealer after all, and if I would have just been nice during the initial visit, rather than angrily swiping a record to make some kind of confused ethical point, I would have wound up with a third phone call from him, asking me if I'd consider taking the whole thing on for my original price plus $100 or something. Instead my gesture and lousy attitude put me at the top of his "do not call" list and now I was going to have to look at those records for the next few months whenever I checked this particular spot.

Now, I may know no shame when it comes to getting records, but I got my pride, so I put on my game face and asked, "Did you get 'em?" in what was hopefully a neutral, disinterested but collegial voice.

"No way," the dealer said. "That guy is nuts. First off, the records were terrible, or, you know, not terrible, but I couldn't sell ANY of them. It was like all the good stuff had been picked out. But because of their condition, I figured I'd make a dime on the dollar offer. And when I told him what I could pay him, he acted insulted and left in a huff."

It's hard to leave in a huff with over 1,500 records, or anyway, it takes a long huffing time, so once again, I could imagine a rather uncomfortable exodus for the fop.

This led to jolly conversation. Few topics are more fascinating to operators of secondhand stores than the eccentricities of shared customers. Keep that in mind if you frequent their shops — they talk about you. Behave accordingly.

The next time I went into this shop, there were the records, in those same boxes, looking at me tauntingly. 

We meet again, said the bad records.

"I thought you weren't going to get these things," I said.

"He actually came back, apologized, and asked if I'd honor my original offer. I made him a new one, and I didn't take everything. He probably got turned down or lowballed by everyone in town before coming back here."

And so, hopeless digger that I am, I found myself going through this junk for the third time, looking to find something that I wouldn't mind buying from my fellow dealer that rage prevented me from buying from the fop.

About a week later, I went into the Goodwill over on Tunnel Road and was delighted to see a small buggy (remember, they're buggies, not shopping carts) full of records had been wheeled out next to the record rack. I dived in, and about five records in realized that, sure enough, I had seen them before.

Look through us, said the records.

They were from the collection. It was the stuff that the second hand dealer had refused to buy the second time they'd arrived at her shop.

But I'd finally had enough. I wasn't digging through them this time. At least not any harder than to make sure that he hadn't put any of the good ones in by intent or mistake.

That was five years ago, and it was the last I ever saw of the once proud collection acquired by the bohemians and inherited by the fop.

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2 thoughts on “Junker’s Blues

  1. Ah. This story is all too familiar.

    Sometimes we have people who sell us movies or games that will leave with their stuff and come back. By this point the collection will be missing the items with the better resale value, and they want the original asking price. Now we tell them that it is a one-time deal, and that we don’t price them individually. It can take hours to go through someone’s collection!

    Earlier this week an elderly couple came in with an out-of-print John Candy film. It was worth something, so I offered $10. They got upset saying that it was worth $40 online. I had to inform them that Amazon takes a 1/3 cut and there is no guarantee that it would even sell. They left, but I have a feeling that they will be back…

  2. Did they come back?

    Did they want you to give them $40? $20?

    VHS or DVD?

    Used goods model is 25% of what’s going to be the asking price. That was the standard Whizz model, IS the standard at Downtown books and serves as a decent guide in most transactions of actual useful, rather than chancy items.

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