Monday, April 14, 2008

10 Things You Should Never Buy Used (and Three You Should Never Sell)

Welcome visitors that are passing through with the Festival of Frugality or the Money Hacks Carnival and dropping in from MSN's Moneycentral blog by Donna Freedman! Please make yourself at home here in Mrs. Nespy's World!

Look--a real post today. Yea, me! Yes, I am a thrifty/frugal shopper who loves finding deals at consignment or thrift stores. However, we really should draw a line sometimes. I once saw an article entitled "10 Things You Should Never Buy Used" on MSN Money (it's probably still there if you want to look), and I wanted to create something like that for my readers. Some of the ones listed in that article are here, but additional research has been done to include some others and some addition information (not really into plagiarism, you know). Here it goes:

Mrs. Nespy’s list of 10 Things You Should NEVER buy Used

1.) Car seat/booster seat – Unless you know the people who are the previous owners (and by know, I mean well—like they are your sister or something), never buy a vehicle safety device for your child second-hand. If these seats are in accidents—even minor fender-benders—they can be rendered unsafe. Without knowledge of the driving history of the previous owners, you do not want to risk using a car seat that would not protect your child in the event of an accident.
What to do? The new ones are more expensive, but this is one of the wisest investments you can make for your family. If you have to buy second-hand, please only buy from someone you know well and would trust with your child’s life—because that is what you’re doing. Even if you do this, please check with the NHTSA to make sure it has not been recalled (and therefore pulled from retailers’ shelves).
2.) Mattress – Okay, this one just seems gross to me. However, even if you can get past the concept, you really only should buy new mattresses. There are several health-related reasons for this including dust mites, bodily fluids (yes, it’s gross, but it is true), and bed bugs. Yes…I said it, bed bugs. What are they? They are not just part of a cute little rhyme you use when putting your children to bed. They are real live blood-sucking insects that live in mattresses. They were almost eradicated in the 1950s, but have been on the rise worldwide recently. Speculation is that the increase in world-wide travel has taken these creatures abroad and they are rampant in some places. Most places have regulations that either prohibit the sell of used mattresses or require tags that require markings noting that the mattress is not new. Same thing goes for refurbished mattresses, which are made with recycled mattress parts. That’s why that big annoying tag that says “all new material” is on your mattress. Make sure you have one.
What to do? If you can ALMOST afford new, haggle with the salespeople. This is one area where there is wiggle room for the sales staff, so see what you can do. However, it is true to say that not everyone can afford a brand new mattress. The best bet here is to contact a second-hand store that is under the eyes of the government (to assure they are following the laws), such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, and purchase from there. They are required to have sanitized and thoroughly cleaned the mattresses…and they don’t accept items in terrible condition in the first place.
3.) Helmets – Same as with car seats, if these have been in an accident, it is best not to endanger your skull by putting it in there. And some internal, hidden damage could have occurred, so there is no guarantee that your self-inspection would catch any damage done to the shell. This goes for helmets of all types… motorcycle, bicycle, skating, etc.
What to do? Same as child seat…buy new or from someone that you literally trust your life with.
4.) Children’s shoes – Children’s feet are developing at an intense speed and are still very pliable. While it is uncomfortable to wear adult shoes that have been broken in by another person, it can be downright detrimental to the development of a child’s feet. Serious foot problems could result that would require corrective surgery later in life for that child. Please take the time to buy good, supportive shoes for your child—especially the ones that they will be wearing for an extended period of time. And never put hard-soled shoes on your infant. Infants really don’t need shoes until they are ready to walk, and then they need “walking shoes” designed to assist in the correct development of their tootsies. As long as it is not a safety issue, barefoot is always best, so if they are inside or you have a foot-friendly yard, let them run barefoot (or with socks indoors in the winter)
What to do? My advice is this—splurge on the pair(s) that they will wear regularly. For instance, our son has one pair of tennis shoes that he wears almost daily to school. Since he is wearing these for a total of over 12 hours a day, it is worth buying him good, supportive, new shoes that can take the shape of his little feet rather than forcing him to work with what someone else has worked in. I do use second-hand shoes from my sis-in-law but only those shoes that were seldom worn by her son and will be seldom worn by ours (like church shoes that he’ll only wear 2 hours max one day a week). Other than his one good pair, we do go for cheaper versions of others since they will not be worn much. Really, his long term health is worth at least a few more dollars.
5.) Bathing suits – Yeah. That’s just gross. My son is the only exception, as his are bleached heavily and he wears swim diapers under his, so there is no direct contact.
What to do? Splurge. They aren’t that expensive at Target.
6.) Skates – Just like shoes, above, even if you can get over the thoughts of what might have lurked between the toes of the previous owner and have heavily sanitized them as well, skates—if have been used for any length of time—will mold to the foot of the user and therefore, will never properly fit. They will then cause you much discomfort and possible actual foot damage.
What to do? Unless you really know what to look for, buy only from known sources who don’t skate, but really wanted to learn. If they gave up quickly, there is your opportunity.
7.) Make up – Yep, people sell their make-up on eBay, and do you know why? Because people buy make-up on eBay. No buyers = no sellers. So, even if they have only used it one time and decided it was the wrong shade, even if they have noted “sterilized for your safety” (yeah…explain to me exactly how they did that), don’t fall for it. You can get a number of diseases including pink eye, cold sores (yeah…that’s herpes, folks), nail fungus, skin-based staph infections, and even strep.
What to do? Have you noticed that there are a lot of websites out there (see the list of blogs I read) that tell you how to get some seriously cheap make-up at pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreen’s and Rite Aid? Look at other stores’ clearance shelf (I was able to stock up on some blush and eye shadow that I loved, but that was being retired once). Just two days ago I posted here about E.L.F.'s deals/prices. Keep your eyes open folks, as there are plenty of ways to get most of it inexpensively. Unless you like the type that you can only buy at a counter in a department store (sorry…totally foreign ground for me)…in the case that you can spend $38 on a tube of mascara, I’m guessing you probably aren’t searching eBay for make-up (or much of anything else).
8.) Hot Tubs – Seriously, people. Disgusting. Have you ever seen a set of jets properly cleaned out? It takes a LOT of chemicals and a LOT of work—more than most people are willing to invest (yeah…it’s easier to sell if than really clean it good). And who knows who/what has been sitting in that tub. Ughhh.
What to do? Buy brand new only or find something else to spend your money on. Even if it is family you want to buy from…you just don’t want to know them on that level.
9.) Plasma TVs – With the cost of these TVs, I can see what this could be appealing. However, due to old technology, you can easily get your hands on a set that has images burned into the screen. If you are buying an older model (which I’m guessing you are since someone is selling it), you might have a TV that was made before all of the kinks were worked out and plasmas were failing left and right. Without a store to return it to or a warranty to call on, you are out some big money.
What to do? Sit on that want. As technology advances, the cost of these will plummet eventually. Even last year’s model can be found at a huge discount already—especially when stores are trying to clear the way for the newest version. Like computers (which I am not adding to the list, but I will give them a quick reference here), the designers are working way too quickly to justify buying used and dealing with outdated technology.
10.) Certain car parts – Okay, I’ll admit, this one I know nothing about, but in my research for this post, I found a list of parts that could cause either some serious headache or a real safety hazard by purchasing used. I am throwing it in because although I don’t rebuild or fix cars, I can see why it would be appealing to buy second-hand parts. Since it could be a huge mistake, I am including it.

Bonus: Three Things to NEVER Sell

--Your Hard Drive – There are many people building computers out there who are just itching to get some spare parts. Looks like an easy buck, right? Well, a co-worker in our IT department was elaborating on all of the personal information that can be acquired from a hard drive—even one that has been “cleaned off”—by a person who is very skilled at finding this information. Same note—don’t ever let the guy who recovered the hard drive of your fried computer keep it to salvage parts. Even if he is completely honest and trustworthy, who knows what the people who buy it will be up to? We’ve made this mistake before. It’s now in the past, so I just hope it doesn’t come back to haunt us.

--Your hair* – Yeah, sounds weird, right? I was thinking about this while getting ready for work this morning and pondering over this post. It occurred to me that about 10 years ago, my hairdresser cut off a LOT of my hair and bagged it up because he thought he could sell it “for a wig or a weave or something” because it was healthy hair. Now, I ponder this—what if the person wearing that weave or wig committed some heinous crime and left my DNA behind at the crime scene? Far-fetched? Yeah, probably, but what if it happened? I could certainly prove that I’d been at work that day at that time, and by the way, I’ve never even BEEN to Saskatchewan, but I don’t even want the cops calling me.

--Drugs – It’s illegal. And just wrong. Get help. Seriously
*Note--Please know that this is said tongue-in-cheek. I know there are organizations such as Locks of Love that are wonderful ways to contribute to people who can use your healthy hair.
Photo credit: Pyzam


  1. Great post!

    And you really gave me the eebie-jeebies on some of those details, comical but creepy:)

    I'm a big Ebay fan, but I've never come across the used make-up; seriously, do people really believe the "it's been sterilized" statement? I mean, there are so many sales on make-up, why would you buy it used from someone you don't know???

    And while I'm a huge thrift store fan, I have a hard time with the fact that they have a used underwear know what I mean? LoL

  2. Response to MyKidsMom: I too thought it was bizarre that Goodwill had a lingerie section. However, after seeing it, I decided to donate some bras that I had, ummm, outgrown, as they are really high quality, name-brand items that would be great for someone. The two days I tried to donate them, the receiving dock was "manned" with what appeared to be a 16-year old boy. I couldn't leave them with him, so I kept driving.

  3. Okay, confession time (don't tell anyone) I HAVE bought bras from Goodwill... I have a hard to find size that many stores don't carry and my best bet (at a price that won't break the bank) is the thrift store.

    It's the underwear (literally) that I couldn't get past. In the same way that the TOP part of the swimsuit I'd be just fine with, LoL. And the price different between those areas of lingerie are usually quite a substantial difference.

  4. Good list, especially the safety seats and mattress points! Although I'm not completely sold on the necessity of new shoes for little kids. Do you still have any links handy that argue the importance of brand new shoes for little ones?

    My older daughter (17 mo) would be perfectly happy to run outside without shoes if our property wasn't a breeding ground for rocks! How does going barefoot compare to shoes?

  5. I found you through MSN's smart spending blog- Interesting article- lots of things to think about. Honestly there aren't many things I buy used, but one thing I always buy used is skates. The skates I have right now are currently on their 4th owner. I bought them for $50, brand new the boots would have cost me $400 and the blades $600. I sanitized them and had them heat molded to my feet.

    To me, it doesn't make sense to buy skates new if used ones are available (if I ever have the budget to buy new skates, I might- since my feet aren't growing, but why spend $1000 when I can spend $50)- but especially for kids who need a new pair every 6 months or so. It's not like a tennis shoe that you can buy a little big. The blade might last you through a few boot sizes, but eventually the foot will also outgrow the blade, and those need to be replaced too.

    However, makeup? EWWW.

  6. Ooh, I never thought about that, about the hair. That's rather scary.

    Many podiatrists say that used shoes for children are just fine. They usually outgrow them well before they "break them in" sufficiently to be conformed to their feet. Personally, I figure that if shoes don't look worn, they're probably not very worn on the insides, either. ;)

  7. I'm so glad you mentioned not buying shoes second-hand. My mother has had numerous operations on her feet to correct problems from wearing hand-me-down shoes from her older sister. They grew up during the Depression, with all that entails. Her podiatrist told her that her problems are the result of wearing second-hand/hand-me-down shoes.

  8. about the underwear .... I have been known to buy undies in large quantities - 6 / 8 / 10 pack and then find out they don't fit so well... as in they ride up or slide down or in some other way are unsatisfactory... I am not going to use them so, as new they get passed on to the thrift shop. But when I have brought home undies for my kids - new looking to me - washed them thoroughly - no way they'd use them!