Just in time to stop all those Wall Street traders from jumping off (or trying to sell many times over) the Brooklyn Bridge — the Columbus Day holiday interrupts the fevered selling of stocks to promote fevered selling of sheets, towels and trinkets. Little did Christopher C. know, when he sailed the ocean blue, that Nina, Pinta and Santa Marie were heading for Macy’s and Wal-Mart. But the white sales will probably be blue this weekend as shoppers hold onto their incredibly shrinking credit cards, breathlessly awaiting the resumption of the economic saga “As the Market Churns” next Tuesday.
Market watchers are already forecasting a dismal Christmas shopping season. But I was wondering if people are really holding back, or just saving up to buy some truly nice mementoes of the Last Days of Capitalist Excess — so to find out where the bargains might really be found, I turned to eBay.
Never a disappointment, here’s what I found for the thrifty Columbus Day shopper, right there on the front page of eBay:
- For $349,900 you can buy your very own Bentley automobile. The small print says that “this listing is restricted to pre-approved bidders or buyers only.” So, I guess that only Warren Buffett will be able to bid on this item. In even smaller print, the auction notice says that you can get “low monthly payments” for this item — but I think that Warren will pay cash.
- For a mere $275,000, you can get a luxury bus, just like the presidential candidates drive around in to convince us plain folks that they are plain folks, too. This baby is all tricked-out inside with track lighting and special cabinetry and a huge television and sound system. Sigh. I prefer tent camping.
- For the more modest buyer, there’s a very nice Piper airplane for $12,300. I almost want to run out for my pilot’s license.
- For the political junkies, you can get a genuine Richard Nixon autograph for $300. Hmm. I wonder if they’d throw in a nice Spiro Agnew?
- There’s a really nice “old” Barbie for $30 “in great shape with a hand crocheted wedding dress.” I wonder if she’s sitting in a room by herself like Miss Havisham?
- And, for those who are looking for the gift that says, “You really shouldn’t have…” there’s a Kenny ChesneyCD for$5.
Now, I know that some people don’t like eBay because all that auction stuff and waiting to see if you’ve won your Elvis lifelike blowup doll can be too much suspense. For such shoppers, craigslist.com has instant gratification in its bartering section. No money changes hands! This is truly the shopping center post-crash. Here are just a few of the tantalizing bargains offered today:
- “I’ll do your garden if you clean my house..$1” Wow. Knowing a thing or two about housekeeping as I do, I’d be sure to look inside the window before accepting this as an even exchange!
- “Use of your big chain saw for airline flight”… Hmm. Somebody’s going to give away 25,000 frequent flyer miles to get a chain saw for logs in the yard. Home Depot cannot be happy about this.
- Many, many people are offering laptops in various state of disrepair in exchange for useful items like “gift cards or money.” Caveat Emptor: when the ad says the laptop “has issues” that means “broken.”
- Someone else describes a used-up used car in great detail — “this car will not run again without a ton of work…” — but will reluctantly give it away in exchange for a 60 inch television…
- And this one has me scratching my head: “5 euros for $5″… somebody, please tell that person where he/she can go to get a fair currency exchange!
Might be better to stick with baking some nice holiday cookies for your friends. I suspect we all really have enough stuff to last us at least until the market rebounds.
Seriously, now, I’m not trying to make fun of the economic crisis, just trying to find a laugh amid difficult days.
But many people are really having a tough time, and this may get even worse. The ruination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for example, has left the Washington region without the largest sources of charitable gifts for people in need in this area.
So, on Columbus Day weekend, let’s think about the idea of the New World — and let’s discover some new ways of living in it. Instead of feeling stressed out about all the things we can’t buy in the upcoming holiday season, how about sharing some gifts with people who really are in great need? Make donations of good used clothes and household items to Goodwill or other charitable collection agencies. (Disclosure: I’m on the Goodwill board.) Instead of buying stuff on credit cards that will make you miserable in February, make some smaller cash gifts to local organizations that actually provide direct services to people in need. If you’d like to learn more about a charity so that you can make a gift — or in lieu of a gift, perhaps volunteer your time — check out Network for Good.
For more information on possible charities for your cash or volunteer support:
See also Catalogue for Philanthropy
See also Meyer Foundation list of grantees
(Disclosure: I’m currently on the Community Foundation board, and formerly on the Meyer Foundation board. These are two of the best charitable foundations in this region, and they serve the vast network of public charities that help so many people here.)