Thrift stores drowning in Christmas impulse gifts from yesteryear


Last year, the Washington Post covered the fates of The Thing, that Christmas impulse gift that stores place in enticing locations in the store to convince you that you simply gotta have it. The twirling apple peeler, the liquor carousel, the portable chocolate fountain (for your fancy party, no doubt).

After a few years, some of them show up by the garbage-bagful at the Opportunity Shop thrift store. "We get three or four fondue sets a month... Sometimes we get stuff and I don't even know what the stuff is."

Comments (16)
  1. nathan_works says:

    Is it good or bad that I know of people that have the first two, and have put them to great use ? We borrow a friends apple peeler regularly every time we make apple pie or apple sauce.. 10 times faster than peeling by hand (and no one gets stitches when they slice their palm open while peeling..)

    The friends with the dispenser are heavy drinkers, so they regularly exchange their bottles, and the set-up make parties with drinks easier.

    Funny that the amazon description doesn’t include whether it’s "real" chocolate or some vegetable oil mess (from comments in the previous blog entry on the fountain)

  2. Hyacinth Bucket says:

    I simply must have one of those chocolate fountains for my candle-light suppers.

  3. Gabe says:

    Hey, that twirling apple peeler is great! My wife got so tired of borrowing her mother’s that she got her own. It would have been a welcome Christmas present. I can peel apples faster with that thing than she can put them in the pie filling.

  4. Mike Dunn says:

    The Chia Pet, the prototypical impulse-buy-Thing-that-you-only-ever-see-in-December item, has started to appear in stores around here. I saw a Chia endcap last night, in Fry’s of all places.

  5. CDarklock says:

    The problem with the liquor carousel is that it only really works with traditionally-shaped 750 ml bottles. So my Captain Morgan’s Private Stock, with it’s charmingly rustic brick shape, can’t go into it. Neither can my 1.5 litre bottle of Bombay Sapphire, which would overbalance it anyway. And even my vodka of choice – Pravda, a Polish variety – comes in a distinctive bottle with a long and slender neck that drops straight through. So even though my Bookers bourbon fits nicely, as does my LaPhroaig Scotch, it’s simply not what I had hoped. Decanting my liquor into other bottles doesn’t interest me, so into the closet it goes.

    But it was the thought that counted, after all, and certainly my parents recognised the core interest in rapidly-dispensed hard liquor.

  6. hmmm. says:

    I bet Alton Brown could find another use for that apple peeler, or he might just build his own out of a drill.

    the liquor carousel would have been useful in college.

  7. A local radio ad from a jewelry store points out that you never see diamonds for sale at yard sales. Hint hint wink wink

  8. Anonymoose says:

    @Alfred Thompson:

    Right, and the fact that diamonds are considered so valuable has a lot more to do with marketing, rather than intrinsic value.

    Perhaps this article might interest you:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200612u/diamond-flashback

    ‘He recounted one test conducted by a British magazine: the editor bought diamonds in 1970 and tried to sell them in 1978, but could not sell them for a price anywhere close to the one he had originally paid. Epstein also wrote of a wealthy woman who tried to resell a diamond ring she had bought for $100,000 from Tiffany & Co. in New York City. After shopping the jewel around in vain, she gave up.’

    ‘In fact, Epstein argued, the reselling of diamonds was discouraged by the diamond giant De Beers, whose livelihood depended on the perception of diamonds as “universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance.” In order to stabilize the diamond market, De Beers needed to instill in the minds of consumers the concept that diamonds were forever—even though, as Epstein pointed out, “diamonds can in fact be shattered, chipped, discolored, or incinerated to ash.”’

  9. dpratt71 says:

    Another vote for the apple peeler! I wouldn’t have bought it myself because it looks like one of those gadgets that wouldn’t work in "the real world". Someone gave it to me as a gift, and I’ve come to love it.

  10. Jonathan says:

    I must link to Paul Graham’s excellent article "Stuff": http://www.paulgraham.com/stuff.html

  11. Will Hughes says:

    One of my uncles works in a ‘thrift’ store and was just talking to me the other day about this exact thing.

    He relates that the other side of christmas into February is when they get their best donations, however. Apparently they’re typically unwanted, although thoughtful/practical gifts.

  12. John says:

    Yea, and we use our twirling apple peeler all the time!  Now that USB hard drive that I impulse bought the other year, that’s another story: )

  13. Dan says:

    Also, if you like good coffee, an Aeropress will make a decent shot of espresso without needing a giant steam-powered espresso maker. If you don’t want shots of espresso, then it’s just a Thing, of course..

  14. Alexandre Grigoriev says:

    Anonymoose,

    Epstein makes a mistake. A diamond doesn’t leave ash; only CO2 and slight amount of nitrogen compounds which are routinely present as impurities.

  15. Usually, I HATE giving & receiving impulse gifts. But, the hot chocolate maker where you microwave the carafe & top off the cocoa mix with a battery-charged mixing wand is INCREDIBLE. And kids can do it themselves! And it makes damn good cocoa! Got me hooked! If you see one, buy it for a tired mother with young children. She will love you.

    Check out my blog, The Thrifty Chicks, http://thethriftychicks.blogspot.com. I’ll teach you how to buy the re-used cool things. Hey, there are even new things at the thrift store. Yup! I bought a new Banana Republic jacket for my daughter with the original tag of $99.99 dangling right next to the Goodwill tag of $4.99 (5% the original price).

    I’ll also teach you how to shop so you’ll never be a sucker to those damn impulse buys again. It’s all in the blog.

    Thrift to the masses!

    Ms Shopping Golightly

  16. Usually, I HATE giving & receiving impulse gifts. But, the hot chocolate maker where you microwave the carafe & top off the cocoa mix with a battery-charged mixing wand is INCREDIBLE. And kids can do it themselves! And it makes damn good cocoa! Got me hooked! If you see one, buy it for a tired mother with young children. She will love you.

    Check out my blog, The Thrifty Chicks, http://thethriftychicks.blogspot.com. I’ll teach you how to buy the re-used cool things. Hey, there are even new things at the thrift store. Yup! I bought a new Banana Republic jacket for my daughter with the original tag of $99.99 dangling right next to the Goodwill tag of $4.99 (5% the original price).

    I’ll also teach you how to shop so you’ll never be a sucker to those damn impulse buys again. It’s all in the blog.

    Thrift to the masses!

    Ms Shopping Golightly

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