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Tasteful San Antonio: Purchasing Power

A while ago, before I had any money, I signed up for the local Freecycle e-mail list. (Yes, surprisingly, SATX has a Freecycle list.) Now, I don't know what Freecycle is like in other cities, but I have now been on this thing for, like, a year, and I have never -- not even once -- seen something listed on San Antonio Freecycle that I would want to have. In fact, I have never seen anything that anyone would want to have. It's all just junk -- filthy kid's clothes, bust-ass furniture, old magazines.

Today there was a listing for a broken DVD player, in Universal City. Which is a suburb of SATX about 20 miles from downtown. Now, you can go into any department store in America and buy a brand new, working DVD player for $25, $30. And here is someone who is offering a broken one that you have to drive way the hell across town for. And the thing is, I guarantee someone will take it. Who is doing this? Isn't their time worth anything? I honestly don't understand. If it was a WORKING player, it would be one thing, but...

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ortho_bob
Aug. 23rd, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC)
I have a bulging plastic sack filled with old coffee grounds, banana peels, yoghurt pots, soiled diapers and beer bottles if anyone wants it. Only 82 miles north of tasteful San Antonio.
also_huey
Aug. 23rd, 2007 08:56 pm (UTC)
So far, the two finest freecycle hits I've gotten are my lawn tractor (a 20-year-old snapper that's probably still worth $1000) that the guy couldn't get to start - it had a loose wire - and a 40" rear projection TV that had a bad convergence IC and a couple blown speakers. $50 worth of parts (including the case of beer I drank while fixing it) for a projection TV and a tractor? I can live with that.

Right now, I have a busted stereo on the workbench I got from freecycle. I need to take it apart to see if it's a solder joint, which'd take me half an hour or so to fix, and cost nothin, or a blown power-amp IC, which is probably a $50 part, probably throw the thing out if that's what the problem is.

So, yeah, if that busted DVD player was anywhere near my house or my office, I might go get it. The problem could be of the general class of problems known as "an untied shoelace" - this is actually pretty common with TVs and lawnmowers, like my tractor or my projection TV - or it could be somethin' more serious. Don't know until you look.
ludickid
Aug. 23rd, 2007 09:34 pm (UTC)
But it's not a $3000 lawn tractor or a $5000 big-screen TV. It's a $30 DVD player. It just doesn't seem like it's worth the time to repair.
also_huey
Aug. 23rd, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC)
See, you're thinkin' about this all wrong. If you already know a priori that yer gonna spend the whole Sunday afternoon sittin in the garage and suckin' down cans of Busch while the NASCAR race is on, you can add to that mix a soldering iron, a couple screwdrivers, and a busted DVD player you got from Freecycle, and when the sun goes down, maybe you'll have a free DVD player. Otherwise, all ya got left is a pile of empty beer cans and a deep-seated hatred of Jeff Gordon.

Now, if'n yer idea of fun isn't takin' apart a DVD player while the NASCAR race is on, you can probably skip this one, but if you are, it's somethin' to do with yer hands besides playin' with yer nuts.
hipsterdetritus
Aug. 23rd, 2007 08:58 pm (UTC)
There is a "free pile" in the basement of my co-op and I've actually found some useful things there (an old Raymond Chandler paperback edition of "Playback"; broken but otherwise pristine-looking '60s radios that I use for decor; a copy of classic Mac game Flashback that will come in handy if I ever find a Mac that can run early-mid '90s software), even if most of it consists of the kind of crap you've mentioned. (Plus worn-out art supplies, rickety kitchen appliances, computer monitors and -- this was a huge disappointment -- empty sleeves for various mid-late '90s underground rap 12" records.) So it could just be the fact that you live in a joyless dystopia that keeps the free swag undesirable.
rum_holiday
Aug. 23rd, 2007 09:17 pm (UTC)
I have a Mac in my closet that can run early-mid 90's software (PowerMac 7200). Free. It's in Chicago, though.
rum_holiday
Aug. 23rd, 2007 09:23 pm (UTC)
Man, it's been hard for me to face the fact that nobody wants my old busted crap. But nobody does! And if I put it up on Freecycle then somebody would go to their ElJay and make a snarky post about how people put their old busted crap up there and nobody wants it!

I did finally find that old, old 20 lb. "lap top" I used to use in the early 90's for chatting online, back when the internets was the information wagon trail. I can't quite get it out of the closet yet, but I couldn't find it for a long time, so we're making progress.
ludickid
Aug. 23rd, 2007 09:37 pm (UTC)
I just...it just seems like, how can your time be so valueless that you want to spend it fixing something that only costs like $20 new? A computer, a big TV, a car, sure. But it just doesn't seem economically feasible to spend time fixing something that it would cost relatively little to replace. Maybe I'm too consumerist these days, or maybe since I do so much freelancing I've become kinda hyper-aware of the value of my time, but it just seems crazy to fix something like a toaster or a DVD player or a clock.

Also, I'm not really so flipped about the people trying to get rid of the busted crap as I am the people who actually take it.
oilyrags
Aug. 24th, 2007 01:55 pm (UTC)
Proposition Joe is VERY DISSAPPOINTED in you.
autobotsrollout
Aug. 23rd, 2007 10:31 pm (UTC)
I'd like to point out, just to be the downer, that this is the epitome of disposable culture - disposable appliances. Wouldn't it be better to repair this player - which likely only has one part making it not work - than to buy a new one? DVD players are all pretty much interchangeable anyway, regardless of what Sony tells you.

But, here's the kicker - if you don't know how to repair it yourself, you probably can't get it repaired, because any place with a technician capable of repairing it would charge you upwards of fifty bucks.

It's environmentally and economically absurd, but that's how it goes.

(Also, as a broken DVD player, it's still good for set dressing. When I was working as a prophouse assistant a couple years back, Freecycle was a daily run for us. "Go here, here, and here to pick up these things. We'll rent them out.")
feisty_robot
Aug. 24th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
I lived in Montreal for several years and the folks there are trash-pickers like no other. I'm not talking about homeless dudes looking for cans, or broke college students trying to find a free sofa that doesn't smell too much like pee, but ordinary folks.: middle-aged couples in performance fleece, out for an evening stroll will stop and pick through your curbside leavings. And I don't just mean they'll look over your neatly arranged pile of old plates and velet paintings to see if it's worth hauling home; people there will tear into sealed garbage bags and root through your kitchen filth. Looking for gold, I assume. Who knows, maybe a Quebecois snowbird will divert his RV to SATX and pick up that DVD player.
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Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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