Thursday, September 23, 2010

To Make a Profit Or Not. That is the Question.

Since Tom and I have what I call "baby tv cable", we're behind the times and rather clueless about what's out there on all those zillions of channels we can't see. (Which ok, is probably not a bad thing in most cases.)

But last week, through our subscription to Netflix, we discovered Hoarders. Wow. That program scared us. We beheld bits of deja vu regarding our back porch, our bedroom closet, and our barn. 

That show was good for us. 

I even began clearing our back porch a tad (emphases on 'a tad') and we both promised each other we would never, ever become so out of control with our junk, er, collections.

But then today, after Tom left for physical therapy, I discovered the show, American Pickers.

Uh-oh. That just may be our downfall. American Pickers is the complete opposite of Hoarders. The two stars become absolutely giddy when they find the yards and barns of hoarders and then offer money for the hoarders' rusty/decaying old objects (which they then re-sell. That's their livelihood.)

For fun I googled American Pickers just to see what people said about it, and as usual, I was sorry I did. My oh my, some people surely do enjoy losing their minds and their manners while on message boards. They accused the two American Pickers guys (and the whole History Channel) of everything evil under the sun.

And ok... When the guys bought a saddle from an 88-year-old veteran for $75 (his own stated price) and discovered later that they could probably sell it for between $1,500 and $5,000**, I did feel bad for the older gentleman.

People on the message boards felt the two A.P. guys should have been beaten and/or shot/tortured/blown-up.

Yet I had to ask myself, what if these guys had made that deal with my own grandfather? How would I feel? And you know? I would feel guilty. Guilty because *I* hadn't said earlier, "Hey Grandpa! That spiffy dirty old saddle that is (decaying/falling apart) in your garage is worth around $3,000 to a collector who would oil it up and cherish it. Would you like me to try selling it on Ebay? Or would you rather keep it?"

Put another way, I'd cite the relatives of the elderly sellers for being thoughtless or unkind rather then the Pickers. Family should look-out for family rather than leaving it to a couple scraggy strangers who drive up in a white van. Or to a sweet little couple like Tom and me who are still searching for that one deal of a lifetime.

So there's that.

And there will always (I hope) be this, too: We live in a free country where a man can choose a price to sell what he owns. Or he can choose not to sell it. He can buy a thing and sell it for a profit, even a large profit, if he can find a buyer. Or he can keep the item for 50 years, treat it well or poorly, then sell it to a couple of guys who just show up in his yard one day willing to buy it for a price, he, himself, names. And the two guys can pay that price or barter a lower one and pay that if the seller agrees.

It's called freedom. Free enterprise. It's called living in America. And it's also called let both the buyer and the seller beware. But it is not called stealing. I'm not calling it that, anyway.

You may disagree and that's ok. At least we still have that freedom, also.


** Ok, to be fair to the Pickers, they did not know the value of the saddle when they bought it. Only afterward did they go to a professional saddle guy for an estimate and they seemed genuinely shocked. On two other episodes they kept giving the women more money than they were originally asking and Tom and I found that quite honorable.

And--they returned to the older gentleman's home and gave him a gift. The man had no problem with the guys. No. Problem.

Update 2019: Mike and Frank have, on camera anyway, proven themselves two of the most respectful men I've ever seen. All these years later Tom and I still enjoy this show.


Some people on the message boards also said the two American Picker guys were disrespectful toward the sellers, but in the one and a half episodes I've watched, I've not noticed that--at all!

Frankly, I saw the opposite, but maybe I missed something. What I've seen is that the guys do get a bit giddy at the deals they make and when they're speaking to the camera perhaps they phrase things imperfectly. But I can understand that. I so know that giddy, heady feeling which has made me say plenty of things I've regretted later.

P.S. So Tom arrived home and together we watched three episodes of American Pickers. He loved it. Says it's his new favorite show. Uh-oh.



Unknown said...

Debra I completely agree with you. I have not seen the show even though I have seen it listed on the guide. The way you explained it is exactly how I would have reacted. I bought a Sony Handy Cam video camera that uses DVD's with a roomy carrying case for $15 which was what the lady said she wanted at the yard sale. I was giddy, not to her face, but it is like new and I used it recently to record an hour long interview with my 102 year young Aunt Katie. I will treasure that DVD for ever. There will always be people that love to jump on anyone if given a chance. Hope you have a great weekend.

Pat said...

American Pickers is one of our favorite programs, and I agree with how you see it. More times then not, I've seen them give more then the seller wanted, just to be fair.
Their purpose is to re-sell what they buy, they can't pay fair market value and make a profit. They also buy things in the hope they make a profit!
As far as Hoarders goes, it always leaves me so sad. Usually some trauma has caused them to go into this behavior. LIke I said, I usually feel broken hearted for them and their families.

Anonymous said...

I've seen a couple of episodes of Hoarders and it's pretty sad. There's some obvious mental illness going on and it's kind of mean to put them on TV where the rest of us can say "whoa that is really weird". It's the same with other shows on TV that bank on the the weaknesses of people (Divorce court, COPS, etc).

As far as the shows about antiques and collectibles, I guess you have to enjoy them immensely to not only seek out and pay for the stuff, but find a place to keep it.
I know that my thinking has changed drastically in the past couple of years regarding antique and vintage things. I'm just not as interested in these things anymore.
I've even gotten burned out on genealogy, which was my passion for decades.
The one exception is I still love reading old books, including cookbooks and home economics-type books, but I do keep pruning my collection to only those that truly are re-readable and those reflect my taste to a T.

Pearl said...

Wow you have been missing out, those are my two favorite shows. And your right just because a man is 88 years old does not mean he doesn't know what he's doing. But the Hoarders show still makes me clean out my junk I think it's been good for America. We are the land of plenty and just think of the people at the Salvation Army or any other place like it that anyone can afford to go to and get nice stuff now. I have three girlfriends that are clearing there homes out now because of this show and I have never seen the guys disrespectful. It's good ole American fun!

Anonymous said...

Oops - I forgot to answer the question :)
As far as making a profit - I think there are some people who make a living buying low and selling high. For them, I'm pretty okay with it.
But buying something at a ridiculously low price from someone who doesn't know the value is wrong. You should at least offer to tell them what it is worth, and if they say they don't care - go for it.
I belong to a Freecycle email group for people who just have stuff they want to get rid of. It's local. The rules make it clear that others can sell what you give them for free. You offer something for free if someone will just come pick it up. We've gotten rid of a king size bed frame, an old sewing machine, a computer hutch, two big garbage bags of fairly nice young women's clothes and a pile of Taste of Home magazines this way. Basically it all boils down to will I have the time, motivation, or opportunity to sell these items? (no) Or will I let them sit around and gather dust and be in the way? Yes, someone could come pick them up for free and make money selling them themselves. I say, good for you. I just wanted them out of here.
I just hope the day doesn't come when I have to sell other people's castoff stuff to make a living.
Okay..I'll be quiet now :)

Judy said...

My Monday night routine (after 10 hours with a one, a three and a four year old) is to pop a bowl of popcorn and turn on the TV. I start with Antiques Roadshow, then American Pickers, and on to DVR-ed (is that proper English?) episodes of Hoarders, or Hoarders - Buried Alive.

Doing it in that order helps me keep my perspective on 'things'.
On Tuesday? I gather up my weekly 25 things to donate to the neighborhood thrift store.

I think the Pickers guys are cool. I'm sure much of it is staged, but they do seem to be having the time of their lives.

Auntie sezzzzzz... said...

'Uncle A.' has watched 'American Pickers' since the start, and I watch it too sometimes... Around reading a book. :-) It's fun. The guys are nice. They are genuinely sweet, about lots of those people.

Hope you base your views on the show, on your watching of it. Not on icky Message Boards. -sigh-

I can't even watch the Hoarders programs. I almost get sick to my stomach. -sigh- We have never collected, and we still have so much "stuff" to get rid of! -sigh, sigh, sigh-

My dream goal... To have nothing, which we do not love and/or use. A very, very elusive goal. Even for those who never went to yard sales. -sigh-

I know! Stop sighing! Just go to a room, or a closet, or a drawer, and clean it out! Sighing does nothing put "put-off". I know! I know! :-)

Now, where is that bottle of "go-do-it-ness"? :-)))))

And of course! Hooray for American Free Enterprise! Long may it live. Long may we guard it.

Gentle hugs...

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

I haven't seen the show, so have no idea about it. I am happy to buy something at a yard sale for less than I believe it is worth, but it is more of a moral problem if someone like the American Pickers offers way more than they know something to be worth. The difference between $75 and $5,000 is rather too large to seem just like free enterprise to me.........It feels like taking real advantage of someone else in not a very moral way.

Beth said...

Ah, yes. I actually saw that episode of American Pickers. At first I felt badly for the old gentleman, but then I don't think that the Picker guys realized the value of that saddle either. So I don't think any wrong intent was there.

As for the hoarders show....I have been in homes very much like this (as a home health nurse). There is usually so much more going on in those situations then just collecting stuff. Usually these folks are wrapped up emotionally in their things and the memories that they hold. It is a definite mental health issue and I applaud these folks for seeking help. i do think it is too voyeuristic (sp?) for it to be on TV.

My mother always told me to not love something that can't love me back. Things have no capacity for love. I came into this world with nothing, I'll leave with nothing. (Can you tell I am not really a collector? LOL)