Friday, November 5, 2010

Hey lady...Stop what you're doing and step away from the Star Wars set!

I had a frustrating experience at a local Goodwill store this past week. One of those disappointing moments that all good garage sale/thrift store hunters endure at some point. Tell me if this has ever happened to you.

Normally when entering a Goodwill Store, I head straight to the Men's shirts to begin my rummaging. I am pretty fast, but when you factor in some quick eBay look-ups, it still can takes some time to do. Once through the shirts, I head towards the miscellaneous stuff which is usually in the back of the store. This includes toys, electronics and all the knick-knacks. So on this particular day I went right to the men's shirts as I always do, spending about twenty minutes buzzing through the racks. As luck would have it, I found a duplicate of a baseball jersey I had recently sold for $20.00 on eBay. Not huge money, but now I had one more in the same size which I could easily re-list with no work on my part, a nice find. So I was feeling pretty good about this Goodwill visit but that was quickly about to change.

I then made my way over to the toy section in the back of the store. As I walked up the aisle, I watched another customer lean into the shopping carts used to haul out newly arrived merchandise. A smart technique for any thrift store scavenger, these carts are filled with fresh inventory so you want to be the first to look it over. This diligent shopper was digging deep into the cart for something! She looked like Lucy bobbing for apples in that Peanuts Halloween special. But instead of an apple, she pulled out a prized Lego "Star Wars" set from the bottom of the cart! As you may know from my earlier blogs, these sets can bring in huge eBay money. Thinking hope was not completely lost, I hovered near the women as she examined the box. All the while I am thinking to myself, "Put it back lady! Puh-leeze put it back!" My silent wish had no effect because she tucked the Star Wars Lego kit under her arm and walked away. Rats and double rats....she was buying it!

As she headed to the cash register, I just so happened to follow with my jersey. (Does that make me a stalker? Hey, I was planning to leave anyway!) I was about two people behind her in the check-out line, close enough to read the Lego set number on the box lid. Because I have a perverse need to torture myself, I immediately looked up the set on eBay as I stood in line. I clicked on "completed listings" and up comes closing prices ranging from $40 to as high as $130! This lucky women paid only $5.99 for the set. As she left, I wondered if she was aware of it's true value or was it just an impulse purchase for her kid? Once outside the store, I watched the lady drive away with "my" Lego set. I briefly thought about throwing myself onto her car window and begging her to sell it to me. I decided against this tactic. I realized any money I made from the Lego set would be off set by my medical expenses after falling from the speeding vehicle!

But there is a happy ending to the story which proves everything works out in the end. The following day I was in another thrift store and happened across two vintage Mattel "Speak n Say" toys. I paid a buck for each and while they may not be as hot as Lego Star Wars sets, I will probably sell each for around $30. When I snatched them up I looked around to see if there were any stalkers (like me) watching. So it's all garage sale/thrift store karma, right? It all evens out in the end.

Do you have a "just missed it" moment? Misery loves company, so feel free to share your story with all us.
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  1. Dude, I feel your pain. We have all done the "hover and hope" ourselves.

    Good Hunting


  2. Thanks Bill. Next time, I am pulling the store fire alarm to distract my competition! ;)

  3. Just posted a Goodwill board game find on my blog. One of my worst misses was at the college where I was in grad school a few years ago. In the education building was a table upstairs for free materials. I checked often and every once in a while there were textbooks professors no longer wanted. Snagged a few $40-60 books there for free over a year or two. One day I walked in and there were literally stacks of new textbooks and paperbacks on the table - but an old woman who was taking classes was busy filling her rolling cart up with them. NO! I should have told her to leave some for other people, as I don't think she was getting them to sell - just hoarding free stuff! Probably at least a few hundred bucks I missed out on.

  4. Ouch Dave! That's what they call a "honey hole" on the TV show, American Pickers. Imagine what you could have done with them on Half.Com! That greedy lady should have been sharing! Thanks for the comment....