As pointed out before, I love local newspapers. Not the kind of local newspapers who win Pulitzer Prizes or break news stories. I’m talking the kind of newspapers who print two different pictures of the “Circle 4 Kids” blanket making group. Why two pictures of the same fifteen ladies (and five blankets – only two of which look as if effort went into. The other three are large pictures of officially licensed cartoon characters with trim sewn around them)? Because those fifteen ladies are guaranteed to pick up copies of the paper. Cha-ching! Double the circulation for the week.
The police log was more of the same: woman calls police to report loud noises on her front porch. Police arrive and determine it’s the wind. A report that kids were kicking a ball in a field. Police report and say that’s a good thing. A woman reported that someone stole her flag and flag pole. She left her name and number in case they return them. Someone reported that a van was parked on their street. Police reported that the van was parked legally. Kids playing football apparently lead one of them to break his nose. His own nose? What a sore sport that kid was.
Then, of course, there are the classifieds. Classifieds, for those born in the age of Craigslist, is a place where people pay by the word to sell things they no longer want. Years ago small town newspapers used to make a killing on classifieds. A perfect place to sell their combination color TV/AM/FM Radio/Record Player.
But these days it’s not the cash grab it used to be. Now it’s down to twenty-five people who only have land lines. But one type of item stands out to me. There are three ads for cemetery plots. Over 8% of ad revenue comes from people who, what? Don’t think they’re going to die?
Then there are two ads in a row. “Cross country ski machine” is followed by “Cross country skis and shoes”. Both carry the same name and number. Why not combine that into one ad that says, “Thought cross country would be fun. It wasn’t. It’s cold and miserable. Fifty bucks takes everything.”
But it’s not all people who’ve made terrible purchases in their lives. Some people have items they know are still of use. Like the fellow selling the Smith-Corona Electric Typewriter. Besides being the all important ‘electric’ he wants you to know it’s also ‘portable’. No matter when they were made, pretty much every typewriter is portable. BUT, he also wants you to know it’s ‘in new condition’. New condition? How is that possible for a fifty year old piece of technology? It was only used once to type a suicide note?
The rest of the ads are dotted with baby stuff, bed frames, ‘precious heirloom dolls’. Wait, what? I think they’re missing the point of what an ‘heirloom’ is. Or maybe I’m wrong but isn’t an heirloom something one generation passes on to another generation of their family? But who knows. Maybe now-a-days an heirloom is ‘something one buys off a stranger that says ‘heirloom’ on the
In all of these classified sections there’s always one ad that seems to be there each week. In this town it’s a guy, let’s call him Joe because that’s what the ad says, who is selling a bunch of X-Files stuff. Every week Joe, the motivated seller, calls the newspaper to tell them to re-up his ad because he knows this week will be the week.
Joe may be motivated but he’s not a great businessman. I say that knowing because his ad is always the biggest in the classifieds it’s the most expensive. So, even taking into consideration that, as the largest ad, it may still be only $10, he’s run it faithfully for the last eight months. Same ad, same items. So that means he’s spent at least $320 to sell an item he wants $50 for. That’s more than a bad ROI. That’s a bad return on your investment if your goal is to get people to your house to kill them. X-Files style, of course.
But none of those ads are what caught my attention. It was an ad for a ‘Video Cassette Recorder/Player’. They also want you to know that it’s not one of these horrendous Beta machines. It’s the classic VHS. Good to know. Good to know. Another selling point is that it’s ‘high quality’ and in ‘new condition’. Out of the twenty-five ads fifteen say either ‘excellent’ or ‘new’ condition. I feel bad for the person who is taking the ads. You know they want to get their byline on the front page. Maybe break a story about some tainted cafeteria mac & cheese. But no. All week long they know there going to sit at their desk awaiting another opportunity to type the ‘new’ or excellent’ for the next ‘8 solid pine chairs!’ And yes, the exclamation point was in the ad. I wonder how much that costs?
But I wasn’t interested in the VCR. I mean, even in ‘new condition’ who would be? The last movie released on VHS was ‘A History of Violence’ in 2006. And if you wanted to rent movies where would you go? A disgruntled Blockbuster employee who took the stock of the last Blockbuster? No, the ad got me going because I started to wonder what else this person had.
So I called him.
In a crystal clear phone line (thank you land line!) he sounded nice, polite, eager. I told him I saw his ad in the local paper and, although I wasn’t interested in the VCR, I was wondering if he had anything else for sale.
“What is it you have in mind?” He says in a sentence that was last heard on a VHS tape.
“Well, I was wondering if you had an 8-track player.”
Wow! I could tell by his response he was not a motivated seller.