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As Long as We Remember...

February 13, 2005

Thar's Profit In Them Thar' Baskets

Tom McLaughlin

I hate Longaberger Baskets. You may wonder how anyone can dislike a woven concoction of reeds and glue. But to this day I can't stand the sight of them. Well, maybe I don't hate them as much as I used to.

I was an auction junkie. Anywhere, any time a sale was announced, I was there. I have an Internet book business and purchasing volumes for resale was a major part of my concern. I would stand in the broiling sun or teen-temperature cold awaiting the box of books I knew I could make a reasonable profit, usually at least 400-500 per cent, at a minimum. Health reasons brought that part of the enterprise to a screeching halt.

Every time, it seems, I waited to purchase a particular box lot, the auctioneer would start selling these baskets just before my lot was to come up for the hammer. There would usually be 30-50 items all different and all had to be explained.

Each basket has a distinct characteristic. Some have a particular date of construction while others have different styles. They were all too expensive to be of any practical use, like holding drill bits or a collection of errant screws. The auctioneer would hold each one up, explain the particulars and mouth a long drawn out count. Who will give $25? Now $30? No? How about $28.50? No? $26, then? I have $26 now $27? No? $26.50? Good $26.75 in slow excruciating cadence reminiscent of a long high mass church service when I was a kid.

I would be in tears of utter boredom awaiting the finish of these dust collectors. Of course, when the baskets were finished, the next things to be sold were the accessories for these things: little items that go into the baskets like checkered red and white cloth that would cover the inside of the containers.

By this time I was ready to find a gun and go out and shoot myself or secure a rope and end it all from the nearest tree. The box of books I wanted waited patiently for all this agony to be over.

Of course, when the item finally came up for bid, the price would escalate past the point where I could make a reasonable profit and I would go home empty handed cursing the name Longaberger. And this happened more times than I care to remember.

This is true!

One time, I sat between two ladies who talked across me during the Longaberger sale. They were discussing the attributes of each basket as it was presented. I offered to allow them to change chairs with me so they could sit closer together. They both declined.

I turned my mind off to the conversation until the lady to my left informed the other one that she sold her collection of baskets for $5,000. I perked up. Those things can be worth that much?

The lady reacted like she had lost a child and asked why on earth anyone in their right mind would sell such precious gems. I wanted breast implants she confided across me.

Oh, I understand.

She then squirmed around in her chair and proceeded to un-zip the front of her blue jump suit and displays her newly rejuvenated assets. The other lady said "my they are nice."

She gazed at me expectantly and I said they looked wonderful. (What else WAS I going to say?) She then zipped and re-focused her attention to the auction and concentrated on rebuilding her collection.

I had no idea what body part her investment was going to pay for next and did not ask. To this day, I cannot look at a Longaberger basket without visions of her assets floating in my mind. They were nice.

Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
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