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  • Writer's pictureHaley Keller

The Joy of Buying a Broken Toy

My 4yo loves Goodwill. I have only taken him to the thrift store a few times, but each time I have allowed him to choose a toy to take home. Colin scours the store and shows me toy after toy and we discuss if it’s "the one." It’s fun and pretty challenging to find the winner. A lot of projectiles which are a no, a lot of baby toys which he wouldn’t actually enjoy, and a lot with missing or broken parts.

One time not too long ago, he found a garbage truck that lights up and makes noises when you push buttons. It was missing the back door and the lift, but a small plastic piece of the lift still moved up and down when a lever was pushed. Colin was in love and so we took it to the register and bought it.

When we got home, he shouted to his brother and dad that he had a new toy garbage truck! I watched as they all excitedly examined it, played with it, and then figured out how to make it better. Soon, a rubber band was holding a Duplo garbage can filled with marbles. They pushed the lever and watched as the garbage can went up and down, dumping marbles in the top that immediately rolled out the open back. They laughed with glee and soon pushed it around the room, making marble and Duplo block pick-ups.

Colin and I talked about how this toy previously belonged to another child, and they gave it to Goodwill when they were done playing with it. Then we were able to purchase it and play with it too. He excitedly told me that when he is done with toys, we should give them to Goodwill so someone else can play with them too. It’s yet to happen (to his knowledge) but we’ll work on saying goodbye to old toys one of these days.

I went on to tell him why I like buying things at Goodwill – keeping things out of landfills (we just watched Wall-E), saving resources by not purchasing another new item, and paying less money by purchasing something used. He seemed to understand all of that except the money part. He just couldn’t understand why something would cost less used instead of new. Now, he doesn’t have a really good understanding of money yet at age 4, but enough to know the concept of more or less. I was stumped on how to explain this to a 4-year-old. What, exactly, is the added value people receive in being the first to use something? All I could think to say is that some people want to pay more money to be the first person to use something.

From selling merchandise at my brewery, I know that the average mark-up for most retail items is 50%. Half the price of an item you buy goes to the store you are getting it from. That covers the cost of the store’s overhead (the expenses to operate the space and pay their employees) and some added profit for the business. Before it reaches the retailer, it also runs through the hands of a distributor, wholesaler, manufacturer, and the company creating or sourcing the raw materials, all of whom take a cut for their overhead and profit too. Not to mention taxes paid along the way.

The value of a new car is said to drop an average of 20% in its first year. Many resold items, when sold by individuals, tend to fall in line with the 50/30/10 rule: 50% of retail cost for unused items, 30% for slightly used items, and 10% for visibly used items. Used items sold at resale stores, like thrift stores, antique shops, used car lots, or used book stores, have higher prices due to the store’s overhead costs.

I did some research and found a similar garbage truck for sale on Amazon for $25, meaning we paid roughly 20% its original price. Someone obviously bought that garbage truck toy new for me to later buy it used. Did they get 80% more joy out of the truck than Colin? I highly doubt it. But I thank them for paying full price and then breaking it and then donating it, so that we could buy it for less, creatively brainstorm how to repair it, and enjoy it too.


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