In this blog post, I’d like to share some of my experiences purchasing appliances at thrift shops. I will also introduce you to the ECA volunteer who works hard to make sure that our appliances work the way they’re supposed to.
Hunting for appliances
When my son graduated from college two years ago, my spouse and I helped him furnish his first house out in Madison, Wisconsin. He needed everything from linens to appliances and furniture. We, of course, started researching where all the thrift shops were located and began our hunt. We had pretty good luck finding what he needed at thrift shops, except for his bed and the linens for it. Our list included electrical and mechanical items such as lamps, a toaster, a small microwave, surge protectors, a bedside clock, a coffee maker, a blender, and several other kitchen appliances. Unfortunately, at least half of the appliances failed once we got them home. While they all “turned on” when we plugged them in at the thrift shop, they didn’t actually do what they were made to do when we tried to use them.
For example, an electric mixer spun the blades when we turned it on, but there was no way to get the blades to release, which we discovered after using it to mix a cake. The microwave turned on and then at about 15 seconds in, popped a circuit breaker each time we tried to use it at home. When we tried to return these items, we couldn’t. Most of the stores had an “All Sales Final” policy. So, I learned my lesson. Now I only buy mechanical or electrical items from stores that test and inspect them thoroughly, and I make sure that their policy is to refund my money if they fail.
Here at ECA Thrift Shop, we have a volunteer by the name of Fred, who is an amazing fellow and a man of many talents. Not only is he in charge of testing the mechanical and electrical items we sell at the thrift shop, but he helps maintain the various systems that keep the shop up and running. He comes into our shop two mornings a week and is always “greeted” by an overflowing work bench filled with things mechanical, electrical and/or technological. Fred has worked as an airplane electrician, machinist and estimator for Boeing and the Bremerton Shipyards. Nowadays, he is retired from those jobs; typically, he can be found volunteering or riding his motorcycle. In his life, Fred has had 23 different surgeries, most on joints, limbs and digits. It is a wonder he can move, let alone do 1500 mile motorcycle trips while sleeping outside in a tent.
When items like toasters, cameras, speakers, lamps, keyboards, or a chocolate fountain are donated to ECA, they are set aside on Fred’s bench, waiting for him to determine exactly what the item is (if we’re not sure), and most importantly, to determine whether the item works as it should. Fred thoroughly tests each item to make certain every function is working as expected.
If minor repairs and/or cleaning are needed, Fred does that, too. Each item that passes testing is marked by Fred on its tag to indicate what the item is, that it has been tested by him, that it “WORKS”, and anything else he thinks the customer needs to know about it. Items that don’t pass testing are not sold at the ECA thrift shop.
Fortunately for us and for our customers, Fred is very thorough and takes great pride in his work. And based on his frequent smile, he seems to enjoy doing it. We get very, very few returns of mechanical and electrical items, and that makes him (and us) very, very happy. Even so, should you EVER purchase an item that has mechanical or electrical parts from Eastside Community Aid Thrift Shop and find that it doesn’t work once you get it home, we will refund your purchase price.
Here are a few of the electrical and mechanical items currently on sale in our shop. Each one has been tested and has earned the “Fred Seal of Approval.”
The “Fred Seal” is not as famous as the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” but it’s important for ECA customers. It is a reminder that there is a thorough, hard working person behind the scenes helping to ensure that ECA Thrift Shop sells high quality, useful items that work the way they’re supposed to.
Have a great week!
Susan is a frequent volunteer at Eastside Community Aid Thrift Shop, where she sorts, prices, and stocks merchandise to her heart's content. Before retirement, she owned and operated a consignment shop for women's plus size clothing in Seattle. Through trial and error and talking with customers, she learned a thing or two. An avid "thrift shopper," Susan loves to buy clothing, especially when she gets good quality and value for her money.
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Eastside Community Aid
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Eastside Community Aid Thrift Shop is a 501c3 tax exempt nonprofit organization.
All donations made to us are tax deductible. Tax ID #91-1155373