Why Secondhand is First Rate

March Men's Room column

Perfectionist Steve Jobs famously took a decade to pick out a couch. I understand that kind of obsessing. New furniture is expensive, the endless options paralyzing, and salespeople are positively stalkeresque. Plus, even when you finally do make a choice, the bill arrives and buyer’s remorse sets in.

That’s why I shop exclusively on Craigslist. That imitation leather couch in my living room? Craigslist. Faux cherrywood cabinet in my dining room? That’s Craigslist, too. The handsomely-worn recliner in my home office? You guessed it.

The options are limited on Craigslist, and as Jobs teaches us, that’s a blessing. Most Craigslist furniture can be quickly ruled out due to 1) excessive wear and tear, 2) unsightly and/or mysterious stains, or 3) just plain fugliness.

When you do find a good deal, your mission is clear: a tunnelvisioned race to reach the seller before another bargain hunter beats you to the punch.

A few years ago, I set out on a Craigslist quest for an armoire-like cabinet. My buddy Gary and I sped to the address the seller provided and stepped into a crowded office where a dozen salespeople at small desks were frantically working the phones. A wiry guy finally called from across the room where he was pulling reams of paper from the cabinet. It was much bigger than it had looked online, but the manager acted like it was a done deal, so I handed him the cash, and he promptly disappeared into a back room, leaving us to navigate the logistics of the cabinet’s egress.

Salesmen scowled as we knocked papers and knickknacks to the floor. The top scraped the front door, but our momentum carried us out to the street, where we quickly loaded the cabinet into Gary’s pickup and made our escape before the salespeople turned into an angry mob.

A few months later, I called about a listing for a top brand TV. The seller said it was still available, but I should bring two people along since it was very heavy. This seemed excessive. I figured Gary and I could handle it.

Siri directed us to a newly constructed McMansion. The seller, a Botoxed woman with two little kids in tow, led us to her garage where the TV sat in the middle of the floor. The lady hadn’t lied over the phone. It was an old-school model with a picture tube. The thing was massive.

Gary and I rolled up our sleeves, took opposite ends, and tried to squat lift the behemoth into the back of his truck. On our first attempt, we struggled to get the TV just inches off the floor before we had to set it back down to regroup. We failed again on the second try. The seller flashed an “I told you so” look, and her rugrats, fingers in noses, stared at us with disdain. Finally, on our third try, in an ill-advised act of sheer ego, Gary and I managed to hoist the TV into the truck. Panting and sweaty, and certain I had inflicted irreparable damage upon my lumbar regions, I handed the lady five crisp twenties, and Gary and I drove home in triumph like whalers after a kill.

Getting the TV from the truck to my living room was accomplished through a strategic combination of moving mats, heroic feats of leverage, and excessive groaning that would have impressed the builders of the Great Pyramids.

That TV is still in my living room today. Sure, it’s not the latest technology, but it has a great picture, I paid a seventh of the original retail price, and due to its heft, it has as much chance of being stolen as a walk-in refrigerator.

Good luck finding that kinda deal at your neighborhood big-box store.


To view more of illustrator Mark Weber’s work, go to markweberart.blogspot.com.


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Categories: Culture