Good Deals Hard to Find

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

It has been said of me throughout my adult life–perhaps also true of years unfolding soon after infancy–that my antenna has been on “24/7” alert for good deals.

Many deals, though, have soured due to timing issues. I mean, how was I supposed to know as a lad that the once-raging demand for Davy Crockett’s coonskin caps would flag so unexpectedly? After all, they were disappearing from store racks at 98 cents a pop for a long time.

Dr. Don Newbury

On a visit to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in the mid-1950s, I stared in disbelief at the clearance price on “gen-u-wine” coonskin caps for a mere 11 cents each. I envisioned a small fortune awaiting my claim. Surely I could quickly quadruple my investment with hotcake-like sales upon my return to rural Brown County. So, I bought a boat load. Okay, so it was a small boat, but the better part of a $20 bill was expended. Alas, the fad was coming to an abrupt halt. I was left holding the bag, or, in this case, caps. My “clabberhead” nickname seemed well-earned when sales quickly “piffled,” and coonskin caps had bombed at garage sales too, toted to “make offer” tables. Odd as it may seem, an exterminator–perhaps thinking he’d found live ones–made a successful bid for the whole table.

Here’s another experience that causes feather-ruffling at our house.

Upon retirement from higher education, I remember sporting a cunning smile, thinking that I’d outsmarted the stock market. No, not cattle. I’m referencing the symbolic bears and bulls on Wall Street in New York City, where flashing lights follow stock market goings-on.

I had invested a tidy sum on what my wife has always called “sweet chariot stocks.” When I bought them, they swung low. She hums the “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” melody regularly to keep me in my place.

Now, drumroll please. I wish to point positively to the time I brought the rental car folks to their knees during a visit to Canada.

In retrospect, maybe the going rate of the well-known brands wasn’t out of line at all.

Very much in line, seemingly, were the rates offered by Rent-a-Wreck. Details are fuzzy, since this memory harkens back to the 20th century, 25-30 years ago. The Rent-a-Wreck folks were cordial, assuring me that all car-related expenses incurred along the way would be reimbursed 100% upon our return a week or so and a thousand miles later. All we had to do was present receipts.

I’m hesitant to call the vehicle a “clunker.” That’s what my wife called it when the oil light first reddened. Soon, mounting vehicular problems suggested that the vehicle was several rungs below clunker status.

It fairly drank oil. So, I bought a case, wondering if I could locate the correct orifice. Since my cardiologist has suggested frequent exercise stops when on long trips, there’d be two birds eliminated if I could find a stone at each stop.

At each one, I walked around the car several times, while wifey needled with her blasted musical “hums” from the passenger seat.

These stops occurred roughly at half-hour intervals. (This could be an exaggeration, like the size of the fish snagged decades ago.)

A blow-out necessitated a tire purchase, and other expenditures filed under “miscellaneous” in our bulging stack of receipts. To make a long story less long, pleasantries were exchanged when the vehicle was returned. Expenses were close to the amount owed, so the befuddled attendant suggested, “Let’s just call it even.”

Eureka! The rental had cost us nothing, except time. This remembrance was triggered by astronomical charges at rental car counters these days. One company’s recent daily rate spiked to $500; I heard of an outrageous weekly quote nearing 50 grand for an SUV.  No one is singing “Happy Days Are Here Again.” Blame it on COVID-19.

   Dr. Newbury is a long-time public speaker and university president who writes weekly. Email: Phone: 817-447-3872. Facebook: Don Newbury. Twitter: @donnewbury.

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