Every now and then I sit down to prepare an episode of this amazing podcast and go through all the trappings that encapsulate the perfect writing scenario. I decide on the restaurant, I locate the desirable seat, which has is preferably a comfy booth with plenty of room to spread out my stuff, order the food, then get to writing. On most occasions, I’ve already decided what I’m going to write about and have become sufficiently submerged in the goo of mental hype so that when I break out the blue tooth keyboard and see that it will turn on despite my constantly forgetting to change the battery that was put in it five years ago, I’m able to immediately go to town on the story.
Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work out so easily. Sometimes I can’t decide where I want to eat and drive around aimlessly, looking at restaurant signs, going, Nope. Nope. Nope. Ungh uh. Never. Nyet. Nine. Maybe ... ehhhh ... Nope. And that just puts me in a foul temper, which usually makes the mental hype goo stinky. And then there are times like this one, when I see that a dining room is BACK OPEN since the pandemic started and I shout to the rooftops, THERE! ORDER ALL THE THINGS AND EAT THEM INSIDE LIKE A STARVED CARNIVORE!
Unfortunately, I got so overwhelmed with the thought of eleven herbs and spices being devoured in their own confines that I left my bottle of fresh mental hype goo on the kitchen table with the laundry that needs to be folded and hung.
Lucky for me, I keep a running list of topics on my phone for just such a scenario and I started to skim over them while my mashed potatoes cooled. Nope. Nope. Nope. Ungh uh. Never. Nyet. Nine. Maybe ... ehhhhh ... nope. But the I saw it ... there at the bottom of the list. The Bin Store!
I’m Michael Blackston and I’m about to fill your in on one of the latest obsessions that fills at least an hour of week of my Funny Messy Life.
It started with a man in my church - a man my daddy worked with, before he retired, at the Georgia National Guard. It was before the pandemic started and nobody thought anything about rummaging after strangers through big, wooden bins full of items that were returned to retailers and had now been loaded into a truck and dumped out for sale at enormous discounts. The man from my church caught me on the way out after the service and said, “Tell your daddy to quit going to the bin store. He don’t need no more crap.” He was joking around, of course. It was his way of telling me to say “hey” to my daddy’nem.
But I was intrigued and I asked him what he was talking about. He went on to explain to me that the bin store was a new place that had opened up[ in the building where Family Dollar used to be. He told me how it worked and that he saw my daddy in there all the time.
The next time I saw my dad, I asked him about it ... after I told him Bill said “hey”.
Dad’s eyes grew large and filled with what you might describe as unbridled whimsy as he dug around in his own head, like a child recalling the first time they saw the castle at the center of Magic Kingdom. My dad’s head is quite the realm filled with glass and clay and plaster and arrowheads. And lately a lot of God, which is a good thing.
“It’s a place like no other, my son. At the bin store, your wildest dreams can come true on any given day. It’s a place of miracles and pain. A place of lovely, fragrant aromas and sometimes, the unmistakable stench of unwashed body parts. At the bin store, treasures be found and fer certain, monsters be thar too!”
That was all I needed to hear, I mean, come on! Treasures and monsters ... miracles and pain ... lovely fragrances. I wasn’t crazy about the aspect of unwashed hind parts, but hey ... sometimes you have to make sacrifices.
Here’s how it works, if you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of a bin store. And I’m sure they each have their individual nuances that make them special in their own way.
You enter through the doors and immediately get the sense of both chaos and possibility. The central feature, of course, is the bins, which should be filled to the brim with stuff you might want. Yes, it’s stuff somebody else didn’t want, but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all that. But it’s not a yard sale. There are items I’ve run across that were obviously pre-owned, but for the most part, it’s new ... just maybe damaged a hair or missing a small part. Some of it, though ... WHOO BOY, SOME OF IT ... is pristine, high quality stuff you’d pay a pretty penny for.
But wait, you don’t have to pay a pretty penny for it. Why? Because it’s the bin store and they dumped a truckload of junk in the bins that people are just trying to get rid of. Wherever it came from was a place where it had no value for whatever reason. Maybe the demographic was wrong or when Amazon shipped it - there’s a bunch of Amazon returns - it wasn’t exactly what they thought they wanted. Maybe that’s part of the allure. Maybe knowing I might be able to save something from the Bin of Misfit Crapola is what’s drawing me there, on top of the thrill of the hunt. After all, I don’t hunt things that can run away, except the mouse that’s in my pantry - his name is Jerry - and I can’t catch him because I refuse to kill him and he ignores the humane trap ... a trap I bought at the bin store.
The next reason to check out your local retailer of bin sweetness is the prices. Now, at this time, I have a bone to pick with my local store. As I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of changing things up, especially when I’ve just gotten used to the system. When the store first opened, They had a tiered format. The day they dumped a fresh truck, all items were six dollars. That’s awesome to start with, because I’ve found some amazing things on what most of the regulars creatively called, Six Dollar Day. But the next day was ... wait for it ... FIVE DOLLAR DAY! Everything that wasn’t bought the day before was even a dollar cheaper. Then it was Four Dollar Day, Three Dollar Day, and finally, Two Dollar Day. Those of us who weren’t worn out from thinking up clever names for the different days could get anything in the bins for two bucks! It’s a gambler’s paradise because what you aren’t willing to buy for $6, you can try to wait out and get cheaper. Maybe it’ll still be there and maybe it won’t. That electric tea kettle you had your eye on - you know, the one with the tiny dent you decided you could turn toward the back side of the kitchen counter - yeah, it might get buried beneath layers of torn boxes of dental floss and packs of male grooming kits called, MANSCAPED, or it might catch the eye of someone who loved it for what it was and didn’t care if the dent faced the wall or not. Then again, it might be there on Two Dollar Day, victoriously shining like a beacon in all its chrome-plated glory. But now, they’ve changed their structure. Every day is Six Dollar Day and the bins are filling up to obnoxious levels because people come get the new truck stuff that’s worth $6 and ignore the lesser merchandise. Then they dump another truck and the unwanted stuff just stays. The initial structure cleared the bins better as people were willing to spend a couple of bucks on the discarded trash left after most of the good stuff is gone.
It’s not always a successful trip, either way. Sometimes the bin store yields treasures beyond my wallet’s capacity, even at the low prices, and sometimes the pickings are as desolate as the brains of the average politician. I have a kind of niche product I’m typically on the lookout for. Musical or recording equipment are especially irresistible. Take the microphone that I’m using to record this podcast. It’s made by Amazon. Amazon Basics is written right on the side, but it’s nice and heavy. It’s sturdy and it’s directional, which is great for podcasts and vocal recording because directional means that you have to be directly in front of it with it pointing directly at the face part of your face for it to pick up like it’s designed. Normally, I’ll be using my RODE NT1 fancy-pants professional condenser mic to record the podcast, and condensers pick up from everywhere around you. It’s one of the things that make it so important to sound treat your studio well if you’re gonna use a mic like the NT1 and now I’ve run off on a tangent, so let’s get back to the bin store.
Anyway, I’m using the Amazon mic this time to prove a point. The sound is nice from a microphone I dislodged from underneath a pile of bed sheets and off-brand sanitary napkins. When you order it from Amazon, it comes with a nice XLR cable and has a 4.5 our of 5 star average rating as a product. Amazon charges $20 for it. And guess what? I’ve bought three of them from the bin store! For me, it’s fantastic because people are ALWAYS asking to borrow my microphones for things like weddings and such. They don’t always make their way back to me, so these bin store finds are a real steal! It’s something to consider as well, if you’re thinking about doing some recording of your own. One of the first problems new podcasters discover is getting their hands on halfway decent equipment. This episode experiment goes to show that you don’t have to have a RODE NT1 or better to achieve good sound.
I also love other equipment such as the accessories that go with microphones and recording gear. I’ve bought three different boom arms with shock mounts - - items that can get quite expensive - and outfitted my studio with more professional style equipment. I won’t go into the details about boom arms and shock mounts. Look them up on Uncle Google if you’re curious.
I just wanted to give some praise to the humble bin store. I didn’t even mention $20 bag day, which is the best day of all - the day when you’re invited to fill a garbage bag with whatever is in the bins and the entire bag is only $20. It’s another way to clear out the smalls that clutter up the bins. There hasn’t been one of those days, either, in a while and I’m jonesing for it.
So if you have one, check out your local bin store. It takes a minute to get into the groove, to get over the feeling that you’re dumpster diving. But I promise, once you find that thing, and you’ll know it when you see it, you’ll be hooked. Like me and daddy.
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