Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Effluence of Affluence.

From The WiseGeek

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of garbage a day, or a total of 29 pounds (13 kg) per week and 1,600 pounds (726 kg) a year. This only takes into consideration the average household member and does not count industrial waste or commercial trash.

If this sounds like a staggering number, you would be surprised to know that Americans are not the number one producers of garbage in the world. In Mexico, the average household produces 30 percent more garbage than in America.

I think the reason that Mexico has more waste than we do is that they get almost all of our junk that doesn't end up endlessly recycled through "garage sales". The ultimate resolution of Reagan era "trickle down " economics.

My search for "garage sales" on Bing resulted in 30,7000,000 hits. Searching "yard sales" added another 20,600,000. There are approximately 110,000,000 households in the United Sates, then for every 2.05 household in the U.S. there is one "garage sale" or "yard sale" website.

One of the more interesting hits was the Henrik Bering review called "Royal Yard Sale" of The Sale of the Late King's Goods: Charles I and His Art Collection by Jerry Brotton.

The book and review describe the disposition of the art collection of Charles 1 of England. Who, it appears, acquired a lot of his work at a variety of distressed "yard sales" of his fellow monarchs.

When Charles fell on "hard times" he fell hard, culminating with his revolt against Parliament and his beheading on January 29, 1649. Parliament decided to pay for some important things with Charles art so the first recorded Anglo-Saxon yard sale took place. (I am sure there were earlier prototype but this is a good one)

  • The sale commenced in October 1649. Things did not get off to a great start. By releasing enormous quantities of art all at once, they flooded the market. Some former royalists were naturally hesitant about the idea of buying their late king's possessions, while Puritans were not supposed to harbor such aesthetic desires. This did not prevent three enterprising colonels, acting on behalf of international buyers, from making excellent buys, snatching up some of the best pieces. Others just sat back and waited for prices to fall............ The sale petered out when Oliver Cromwell was installed as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1653. Cromwell was no fool. .......

The royal yard sale netted $26,500 pound (1649) a large sum but my guess is the appreciated value of some for this art in 350 years is staggering.

Another interesting hit was the Interior Design Institute of British Columbia they held a garage sale on June 20, 2009 it was to benefit "Habitat for Humanity", but the idea struck me as interesting and I bet there were some very chic and over priced tchochkes on the tables.

I couldn't find any "institute", "organization" or other national or international agency for "garage sales" . The closest thing would be eBay but that's on-line and not "live performance" so there is a window of opportunity for a wise Post Consumerism Blog follower.

Another item I think deeply about, could we pay off the national debt by collecting taxes on garage sales. Would we tax the sale price or the "value price. (more on that later) I am not alone here

At a recent Longmont (Colorado) City Council meeting, councilwoman Sarah Levison was so concerned a local estate sale was not collecting sales tax that she called authorities to "go out there and figure out what was going on."

Levison voiced her concerns during a Tuesday's City Council meeting, which was exposed on the Longmont Advocate blog written by local activist Chris Rodriguez.

The councilwoman's words say it all.

"I noticed that they were not collecting taxes for the city of Longmont," said Levison. "I wonder if there is any system to check on when there are professionally run estate sales to ensure that we are collecting taxes. I hate to think that we might have lost several hundred dollars of tax income that day. I'm also wondering whether or not we could connect with the state to find out if they reported the amount of state sales tax and if we could go back and try to collect it. We need every dime we can get these

In my neck of the summer woods, in the Pacific Northwest we hold a 28 mile long Memorial Day wekend community garage sale. Lets say 5% of the community takes part or 150 homes. If each sale nets $1,000 and the tax rate is 8% that's $12K lost sales tax to the state.

If there are 110,000,000 home in the United States and 5% have annual garage sales that's 5.5 M homes times $80 tax or $440,000,000 lost revenue. Not enough to make a dent in our problem, but it's still spending money for government.

Back to the sale price or the value price issue.

Neither I, nor my wife, are garage or yard sales shoppers. We do buy most of our clothing and shoes on-line from trusted discount retailers with attractive return polices, like free shipping of return items. My wife sometimes orders two sizes and then returns ones that don't fit. She also likes to shop at second hand stores, and we both shop at the discount clothiers, but we don't normally do yard sales.

That said, I had decided to punish myself this summer (a very early American idea) after getting a $268 speeding ticket, by forgoing a new gas barbeque grill.

Our charcoal grill of 20 plus years is still hale and hardy due to an obvious manufacturing defect that made the steel too thick, to either rust out or burn through.

The other night, we were talking to our neighbors, who are wonderful and frugal folks. Amoung their recent yard sales purchases were two motor scooters with 160 kilometers on them, helmets included for $1000 (for both). Retail sale new about $2200. We were impressed. We mentioned that we might be buying a gas grill at a yard sale deferred until "next summer" due to my punishment.

A few days later they stopped by to say a yard sale down the street had a decent grill for $20 with a tank. Tanks retail for about $33 (plus tax) at your local home and yard store, so the grill was actually thrown in for free. I went down a few blocks and the price had been reduced to $15 and the tank was at least half full and the igniter still worked. The retail for this grill and tank is about $135 plus sales tax. My price at yard sale is about a 90% discount. I did have to power wash it though.

I must have the bug, but I will be careful. Saturday I was dropping my considerably less than 29 lbs of weekly garbage off at our compactor/transfer station and spied a really dirty outdoor chair in the "Freebie" area. Upon closer observation it was completely coated with dirt that a good power washing would resolve. Now I am the proud owner of a $15 lawn chair, perfectly good and clean.

My question is should I list this as income on my federal tax returns next year?

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