Watching the gas prices creep up past $2.30 is giving me flashbacks to those awful months in 2008 when gas was nearly five dollars a gallon. Those times were hard on everyone, including the junker. This is a nickel-and-dime game, and for a while, I was really wondering how I was going to continue to locate my product. It did actually do me some good; I now plan the most efficient “junk runs” possible.
I may traffic in largely recycled goods, but that doesn’t actually make my job green. In order to mine raw materials in the “field,” time and energy has to be spent wandering. And in the old days, before the gas crunch forced me to reconsider my perambulations, I’m sure I left a carbon footprint that looked like one of those dance-instruction charts from the ‘50s and ‘60s, with the black and white feet jumping all over the page.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if I were guaranteed some finds every trip, but thrift stores are even more unreliable than flea markets. The secret cost of buying junk is the number of times you go somewhere and leave empty handed. It’s like baseball batting averages. You don’t get a hit every time. You strike out a lot more often.
Before going thrifting, always grab something you want to get rid of and throw it in your trunk. I discovered this technique by accident when I donated a bunch of stuff to Goodwill. While collecting my blank receipt (Tax-time tip: Blank Goodwill receipts are the junker’s answer to corporate tax shelters) I noticed a shopping cart full of records. I asked when they were going on sale, and they kindly told me they’d push the cart out front for me to check out. It turned out to be full of rare ‘50s jazz, and that ended up being one of my best thrifting days ever. Ever since, I’ve kept a box of random stuff in my trunk, because you never know when you may need to take a peek, especially since most Goodwills have now installed one-way mirrors on the swinging doors to their back rooms, and you can’t peer in at what’s about to hit the floor anymore.
“Doesn’t this taint your donations with mercenary self interest?” you may ask. “How often has this technique brought you fruitful information? Could you have used some other, less ethically dicey methods to get it?” To which I would answer, “Who do you think I am, Dick Cheney? Leave me alone!”
I start at the Patton Goodwill by the DMV. Next I hit the Salvation Army, also on Patton, in the strip mall with Sherwin Williams and Sally Beauty Supply. Don’t try to get back on Patton from the Salvation Army —you have to cross too many lanes of traffic before the light, and if you fail you’ll be stuck in Patton U-turn Hell. INEFFICIENT! Instead, cut through the KFC drive-thru and turn left on Louisiana. From there it’s a quick jaunt to the Goodwill by the K-Mart up the hill. Yeah, I know it’s not very good, but you never know. Get back on Patton heading to downtown, and take the Westgate Resort exit to that weird little thrift by the Fed Ex building. Get back on I-240, take the second Tunnel Road Exit (No.7) to the Goodwill on Tunnel. Then take a left on Swannanoa River Road and follow it to the Habitat for Humanity. Hint for Habitat hitters: Parking in the covered area is for suckas – there’s a lot directly across the street from the the place that gives quicker access. Enter through the side door by the loading dock. Make a right out of the parking lot and take another on Short McDowell Street. Go left on McDowell, make a right on Southside, and turn up Coxe to the ABCCM thrift. From there I take Hilliard to Haywood and am back in glorious West Asheville. 16.5 Miles round trip. A city gallon.
Deciding what time of the week to do this, whether to visit any of these more than once week, and their relative quality, are all subjects for future columns. Thank heavens efficiency is its own reward. At least I have that for solace when I come home with jack squat otherwise.