The Scavengers

Does everybody remember the story about the man who bartered a red paperclip, and after fourteen trades in less than a year, he ended up with a farmhouse?  (If not, that was an amazingly cool story, and you can read about it here.)

Well, I’m not actually devoting my Throwback Thursday to the paperclip trader, Kyle MacDonald.  (Though it doesn’t escape me that his last name is MacDonald and he eventually ended up with a FARM house.  *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*  Ha ha!)  But it is a “feel good” story.

In keeping with this month’s game theme, my Throwback story is this…  A few years ago, I had some step-parents who recently moved into the step-grandmother’s house after the grandmother passed away.  They sold their own large house and brought their own furniture and had all of the grandmother’s furniture as well.

They worked to get rid of all the excess, and were finally left with three extra couches.  The problem was where they lived in Pennsylvania, the city didn’t provide garbage disposal for items that large.  They didn’t have (or know) anyone with a truck.  And none of the places that they contacted to try to donate the couches would pick them up.

So, just when they started to sit down and figure out where they could rent a truck, someone rang their doorbell.  It was a few kids from a church youth group who were on a type of scavenger hunt which was based on the red paperclip man’s story.  (A scavenger hunt qualifies as a game, right?)  They were carrying a cheval mirror with them, and they said they had to trade the item for something bigger.  Apparently, all the groups were given the same initial item — a church T-shirt — and had to compete to see who could bring back the largest bartered trade.  The items they received were then put up for sale at the church rummage sale.

So, when my step-dad said he had a couch, the kids were thrilled.  But when he asked if they were allowed to take all three couches, they were beyond excited!  They called some of their friends with pickup trucks, and within an hour, they hauled off all three couches.

My step-parents found out later that the kids who came to their door did in fact win with their three couch trade, and my step-mom still uses that mirror to this day.  Talk about a win-win situation where everyone came out on top!

So tell me: Have you ever bartered anything and received something bigger or more valuable than what you traded?  Did you remember the red paperclip man’s story?  If those kids had come to your door, would you have helped them, and if so, what would you have given them?  Do you think that type of scavenger hunt would be fun?


42 thoughts on “The Scavengers

      • Vindaloo is her favourite curry. Curry powder! You mentioned it just the other day. I travel miles to get the blend (rather than blend it myself these days) I like to cook with as the supermarkets here charge a fortune for tiny amounts yet if one finds an ethnic shop one can by a mass of good quality at 1/4 of the price. So it is always off to the little Nepalese shop in Folkestone when we need to stock up!

  1. i love this and once traded a battered camaro i had bought from my brother for a saab that didn’t run. great trade! one day someone came by and asked to buy the saab for parts. Yes!

  2. The paperclip story is too good to be true, Rachel, and the MacDonald name is waaaaay too suspicious for me. 😉

    Your step-parents’ three couches won a contest AND brought funds to a church AND earned a nice, useable mirror. Now that tale I can buy into, just wild enough to be true! And from a trustworthy source besides. 🙂

    Your post reminds me of a couple of things. One work-related Christmas party at a colleagues house, we were all asked to bring one white elephant item for a game, unwrapped. They went on a table, and then a bowl was passed around with little scraps of paper with numbers on them, one to the number of people in the room and gifts on the table. That was the order of gift-selecting. The catch was, picker No. 2 had the option of taking anything on the table OR what picker No. 1 had selected. And so on. So, really, picker No. Last would go home with whatever they liked … if they had the guts to take something away from another guest.

    I remember that when my turn came, I was thrilled to pick what I really wanted to go home with, one of those hanger-thingees that lets you put five pair of pants on it in the space of one hanger because it goes straight up and down. Then the assistant managing editor picked next and took it right away from me. I don’t remember what I went home with, but it was not the dozen CDs that I brought with me, thankfully.

    The second thing is how my dear wife Karen and I have a rule that whenever we buy something new for our beloved Little Bitty house, something has to go out. Furniture, appliances, dishes, whatever. No room! So we put the “retired” item out on the curb and watch the faces of the happy people who stop their car or truck and haul it away with them. We have one guy who roams our neighborhood every garbage night on a Rascal and takes his pick of items, actually.

    Great post today, Rachel.

    • Several years ago, when my kids were in elementary school, our city had trash pick-up day. This wasn’t the regular garbage, but for junk that people wanted to clean out of their houses, basements, garages, back yards, etc. We weren’t supposed to put out large furniture, but some people did. We put out old bikes, canning jars, small furniture, lawnmowers or other tools that didn’t work, broken stuff of all kinds. There were huge piles of stuff on the curbs in front of people’s houses. Many of us looked our neighbors trash/junk and found a few treasures. Our kids’ bikes went quickly. I picked up a couple of end tables. People were out with their trucks picking stuff up. It was great! Wish they would have another trash pick up day.

      • We cleaned out garage recently. We are only allowed 2 garbage pickups a year for big stuff, so we have to save the big junk until we have enough to make it worthwhile. The last time we threw stuff away, someone garbage picked a chair. So this time when we cleaned the garage, the chair ended up back in our garbage! It was so funny how it mysteriously reappeared! 😀 And while we started out with a HUGE pile of stuff, furniture, mirrors, flower planters, etc.,, by the time the garbage truck came, the only two things that were left was that same chair and an over-sized entertainment center. 🙂

    • That sounds like a lot more fun than the regular “Secret Santa” gift exchange at work. Did you end up with something good anyway? And I like Karen’s strategy, too…I used to do that when I bought my kids toys… The Barter Fairy” would visit them to take one of their old toys away when they got a new one. (Yes, really.) 😀

      • Great strategy with the kids gifts, Rachel. 🙂 And, no, I do not recall what I went home with in the gift exchange game, so it was not something that caught me eye early on!

  3. I traded my single mom status of one son fir a marriage to a wonderful man and had 2 more sons after that. Lol. That’s the only thing I could come up with. Hahaha. Love the paper clip story and will be challenging my kids to take on the same barter hunt. I would have traded that mirror for all the baby products my son has just grown out of like a high chair, car seat, red walker, and baby bouncer.

  4. Great story! I can’t think of anything I’ve traded–maybe buying pizza or sandwiches for our friends who helped us fix up our house and move into it many years ago. I guess that was a great trade.

  5. Our church youth group does that every year…the bigger and better trade. They have come back to church with furniture. Although they don’t have a sale, they give stuff like that to Goodwill.

  6. When I was a kid, I traded my retainer for a coin collection. I still think it was the best deal I ever made, but my mother was not too pleased. I’ll never forget my friend popping the retainer in her mouth. Ewwwwwwwww……….I have no idea why she wanted it!

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