Review: The Specific Melancholy of an Old Woman’s Bring and Buy Stall

pictured: a vicious cycle of senior citizens stocking up on bric-a-brac, bought from other senior citizens


What’s being tested?

The terrible aura of sadness and isolation created by the bring and buy stalls  -usually consisting of worn vhs tapes, carriage clocks and mail-away ceramic Tetley teabag mascots, among other things – of lady pensioners between the ages of 72 and 89, and the effects and practical applications of that sadness.

What we found

Pros:

The melancholy created by the assembled unwanted items is powerful, but not inescapable. Refusing to acknowledge the seller unless purchasing (as per the usual car-boot or bring-and-buy browsing protocol) will only exacerbate the reach and potency of the sadness, as many older women simply sell for the social element involved. A nice chat about the weather and a big smile is very often preferable to a purchase in the opinion of the aged stallswom’n, and our testers found that doing that warbly whistle that old men do also helps. Being thought of as a nice young man or woman is more often than not the reward for such civility, which we found to be fantastic value, given that the unspeakable things this world often forces us to do in the name of survival often serve to distance us from the individuals we had wished we would become.

In fact, we found that buying from the Old Woman’s stall was a great way of helping her ease her own personal melancholy, as it allowed her to offload many of the relics from relationships she may have once enjoyed with, say, children, or other loved ones who no longer attempt to keep in touch. In that sense, you may be able to pick up a bargain on account of her lonliness, especially if you’re shopping for audio cassettes or worn Babysitter’s Club paperbacks.

Finally, we found that being aware of the melancholy was largely a good sign, as it reaffirmed the idea that you were not, on some level at least, a monster. We also found that this specific melancholy was largely preferable to the melancholy experienced when looking into a derelict side street shop with 1970’s fittings, at sunset on a Tuesday teatime, or the melancholy of the same high school anecdotes of a man who never enjoyed high school, ten years later.

 Cons:  We found that the specific melancholy experienced wasn’t, in itself, particularly lucrative. Unlike other famous melancholies, the melancholy of the Old Woman’s Bring and Buy stall could not, despite our best efforts, be effectively captured in an arty-but-sellable black and white photograph, or a consolatory ditty in a cheap greetings card celebrating an illness or a death.  Further to that, a few of our testers even felt that the awareness of the melancholy was not proof of sensitivity or compassion but rather a simple propensity to feeling uselessly sad about trivial things.

Our testers also found that the same powerful melancholy produced by the Old Woman’s assembled objects could be generated by objects in the individual’s possession, especially after the Bring-and-Buy experience. Poorly carved holiday nick-nacks bought by relatives that the individual cannot throw away or sell are significant examples of this, as they represent an intent to amuse on the part of the relative, and the slightly ham-fisted but endearing result of that intent, despite the object itself being a total eyesore.

Verdict

On balance, we found that while the melancholy created by an elderly woman’s bric-a-brac stall had some interesting potential, it was something that was ultimately worth avoiding. Unfortunately, our testers posited that this was largely easier said than done, given that old woman desperate for cash now only have to create ebay profiles or appear on cheap daytime television programmes to be able to sell their depressing junk. Even in their traditional environment of the car boot sale, old lady car boots are very often undetectable right up until the point when you happen upon them, given that the old ladies generally drive small cars, and are also small themselves. Our recommendation is that you avoid church halls on a Saturday morning at all costs, and also attempt to cheer up a bit.

Review: Selling/Giving Away Books etc

pictured: approximate value - £11.71

What’s being tested?

The act of earmarking books, CDS, DVDs, video games, toys and other things for resell or donation, with the goals of optimising the seller’s fiscal bearings, freeing up previously occupied living space, and redistributing articles of culture back into society.

What we found

Pros:  We found that selling books, CDs etc was a great way of increasing not only your personal income (albeit by a very small degree), but also your own sense of cultural philanthropy, especially if you donate your former belongings. Our testers also suggested that selling or donating books etc was a fun way of ‘sticking it to the man’ i.e. the bloated music and publishing sectors, and that, if enough people sold or donated the same product, then that would send a clear physical warning to any other potential purchasers of that product about the quality of their prospective buy.

We also found that having a clear-out of old books etc. emboldens the individual with a sense of new beginnings, and that ejecting ‘old culture’ from his or her life feels like positive progress, even when the individual is, in reality, really just selling old books (etc). It was suggested that jettisoning ‘old culture’ was a good way of creating room for ‘new culture’, both in the individuals living space and in their head (though our testers warned that the combination of the new found space and money may lead to the individual simply trying to fill that space with rusted American diner paraphernalia or ‘cast-offable’ statuettes of Japanese cartoon characters) .

Cons:  Our testers found that the kind of books etc sold or donated second hand were, relatively speaking, rarely of any actual cultural worth, as most individuals primarily intended on ridding their houses of all the old inkjet printers, hardback copies of “A Beginner’s First Filmless Digital Camera” and Dilbert’s Desktop Games CD-roms that still occupied so much space. Said items were also found to have remarkable staying power, returning from car boot sales, multiple online auction listings and anonymous early morning charity drops with a grim and yet strangely touching tenacity. In fact, we noted that it was often very difficult to sell or donate anything, as a result of a residual emotional attachment the individual was found to have with each and every object they intended to ‘pass on’ (especially if the earmarking process was conducted over a longer period of time). We found that every item that we attempted to sell or donate had a memory or memories attached to them – memories, crucially, that were only ever re-remembered when a proper consideration of each item was conducted. As selling or donating these items would mean losing the ‘bridging’ element between the prospective seller and his or her otherwise forgotten past, giving up old inkjet printers and Dilbert’s Desktop Games becomes an intimidating prospect. A pile of such items, then, constitutes an unprecedented assault on the individual’s emotional and sentimental fortitude.

Additionally, we found that the process of selling or donating cultural belongings was extremely susceptible to outside criticism and snobbery, though most of that was subsequently found to be largely hypocritical. For example, it was observed that if the individual attempted to sell or give books, the outside perception was that the individual had no time for, or couldn’t handle, books. If the individual attempted to sell or give other things, with books absent from that roster, then the outside perception was often that the individual had never had any interest in books in the first place, or had never tried books, and as such had none to sell on. This criticism was found to be generally  unfair. Another noted criticism, however, was that a large surplus of donatables was a reflection of repeatedly poor value judgements and a sign that the individual was either lacking in some area of their life (with a habit of attempting to fill that void with ill-considered knee-jerk physical purchases), or that they simply had no idea how to cope with money, and by extension modern life. This criticism was found to be largely accurate.

Verdict

We found that, in selling or donating books etc, it was easy to feel like less of an individual as a result of jettisoning so much culture, and that feelings of guilt at trading in precious words (and memory bridges) for easy coin were fairly predominant. On balance, though, our testers felt that the vacuum left by ‘old culture’ was an important one, as it left us the free space to become new individuals, informed and emboldened by the literary (and other entertainment) mistakes of the past. They stipulated that it almost wasn’t worth it, though, as the money you get for selling books etc. on the internet is next to nothing.

Review: The 3rd Time in the Same Shop in 3 Days

Pictured: A large shop comprising of smaller shops that may have been 'bothered' by individuals on more than one occassion over a small space of time

What’s being tested?

The social and psychological ramifications of visiting the same retail outlet for the 3rd time in as many days.

What we found

Pros:  

We found that visiting the same shop over the time-period on test could help instil a sense of belonging or community, in the individual and individuals the individual encounters while revisiting the said store. It was recognised that if upon the 3rd visit the individual had not yet been politely asked to leave or forcibly ejected, then that individual was still ‘wanted’ on some level. Frequenting the same local shop was also found to be a largely positive practice, as it could be interpreted as the individual supporting local business and, as such, contributing to the triumph of our shared humanity over our instinctual inclination towards personal gain and prosperity.

Our testers also found that, even on the 3rd visit in a relatively short space of time, it was still possible for the individual to form the limited-but-cordial relationship that qualifies as the optimum bond between civilians and shopsm’n. Screensaver conversation staples like “We should really stop meeting like this!” and “How’s things?” were still observed to be welcomed, if not actively solicited, by most store staff, (most businesses train their employees to write off up to 4 days non-conversation as ‘shyness’). Alternatively, a casual-but-knowing nod from the individual was found to create the impression of a likeable shoplifter in the minds of most shop staff, which many may like to adopt in lieu of actual personality or confidence, and may also come in handy if the individual is a genuine accredited shoplifter.

In some cases it was even observed that individuals who visited the same outlet on 3 or more occasions over 3 days really just didn’t care what anyone else thought of them or their routine, which in itself was deemed largely positive. It was concluded that these individuals realised, or even didn’t realise that they realised, the inevitability that their actions were not as closely scrutinised as they might be tempted to feel they are, because most people are generally engaged in other more important or interesting pursuits.

Cons:  

Our testers felt that individuals who had entered the same shop or store 3 times in 3 days may have been actively seeking to create a sense of belonging or community in that store (as opposed to simply inadvertently finding themselves with that sense, over time), and as such should re-examine their relationships and priorities. We also found that an individual who visits the same outlet regularly will have most likely absorbed the general aesthetic of that outlet into their subconscious visual palette, and will therefore gain a great deal of satisfaction from noticing minute changes, like a new copy of The Rural Advantage or the removal of a promotional sticker from the inside of a chilled drinks cabinet. This heightened awareness was seen to be a largely negative thing, and it also created the additional possibility of the individual being shocked into coma by something large and unexpected, like a visit to a new place, or unexpected human kindness.

We also found that individuals who have visited the same shop 3 times in 3 days will begin noticing other such individuals, and may feel an obligation to communicate with those individuals on some level (with furtive nervous glancing being the most likely method). This has been known to lead to large pockets of individuals who have visited the same shop 3 times in three days nervously glancing at each other, in that shop, out of a sense of obligation. These build-ups can be a severe problem for businesses, as they block important aisle space and marketing vistas.

Finally, it was observed that most shop staff are generally totally bored most of the time, and, even over a shorter visitation period (two days, for example), will recognise the frequency of the individuals visits. These same bored shop staff will, in most cases, attribute the individual with an insulting nickname based on the nature and pattern observed in the individuals ‘schedule’, and while this nickname will remain secret, the knowledge that it exists has been enough to stop some individuals visiting the previously well-frequented store for at least a week.

Verdict

We found that, while sources of genuine comfort in the midst of such uncertain times are few and far between, relying on a routine that involves simply frequenting the same shop, on numerous occasions over a relatively limited period, could result in the individual being labelled a nuisance, especially if the shop frequented happens to be a bra shop, or a shop that generally sells items of a private nature to members of the opposite sex. Adapting the routine to engender a positive outcome is a preferable alternative – getting into the habit of taking regular exercise or worrying violent countryside pests (i.e. badgers) are popular substitutes. Our testers were keen to point out, though, that spending half an hour every other day in WH Smith just reading the magazines and not paying for them is totally ok.