Stores say Y2K gear returns minimal : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

-- Linkmeister (, January 08, 2000


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Stores say Y2K gear returns minimal

Tuesday, January 04, 2000

By Rona Kobell and Teresa F. Lindeman, Post-Gazette Staff Writers

Gerald White might have had the closest thing to a Y2K return: a cordless phone that stopped working Jan. 1.

The University of Pittsburgh computer science major yesterday took his place in the exchange-and-return line at Wal-Mart in North Fayette, along with shoppers returning toys, batteries and animal- shaped lanterns.

"I bought it a month ago, and on the first it just quit working," said White, who had no idea if the problem was related to the millennium bug or to something else.

It was not exactly the onslaught of propane tanks, generators and survivalist gear that merchants feared would come back to their shelves after an uneventful Y2K.

"I worked all weekend and I saw people buying tons of toilet paper, canned goods, propane tanks -- you name it," said Jeff Walton, who mans the door at Sam's Club across the street from the North Fayette Wal-Mart. "I thought, there's going to be a lot of this product returned."

But Walton and other retailers were surprised to find the Y2K bug had not bitten back. That's in part because Wal-Mart's customers did not overspend on Y2K items in the first place, said Tom Williams, a spokesman for the 3,000-store chain.

Both Sam's Club and Wal-Mart put Y2K displays in the fronts of their stores, and the merchandise -- batteries, bottled water and canned goods -- went quickly.

John Foldi of Imperial didn't stock up, but his girlfriend did -- and she wasn't planning to return her stockpile. "She was worried sick," he said. "I told her nothing was going to happen."

Ed Miller of Bridgeville showed no fear, either. "I think people who bought all that [stuff] are stupid," he said.

Those who did return were reticent about admitting it.

One Mt. Lebanon resident, who declined to give her name, stopped at Sam's Club after returning collapsible 5-gallon water jugs and some fuel for her camping stove at Dick's Sporting Goods. She planned to keep the two weeks' worth of food she bought, and the kerosene heater.

"It would have been an adventure," she said of the averted Y2K calamity. "It brings out the pioneer in you."

Nationwide, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which also owns Sam's Club, said it was following usual return policies. Home Depot Corp. and Kmart Corp. promised to do the same.

That wasn't the case at Sears, Roebuck and Co. In October, the national chain posted signs and printed warnings on its receipts that any portable generator returns after Dec. 31 would require a 20 percent restocking fee. Prices ranged from $400 to $2,000.

"It's very expensive for Sears to take a return for such a large item," said spokeswoman Peggy Palter.

Specialty stores also braced for an onslaught of returns but were pleasantly surprised.

Fred Gunter, owner of the Exkursion outdoor store in Monroeville, said most of his regular customers will be able to find uses for the freeze-dried food and high-tech sleeping bags bought for the bug. He said many just turned the possibility of an apocalyptic disaster into an excuse to treat themselves.

"I had a lot of people that bought $700 sleeping bags," Gunter said. "Really, really expensive ones.

"They justify it by saying, 'I always wanted this anyway.' "

It was the same with his top-selling category: water purifiers ranging from $60 to $300. People who could never quite commit to the devices in the past used the rationale that they were making sensible preparations for the unknown.

Those who feared the utility companies might let them down trickled into stores like Street Track N Trail in Conneaut Lake, Crawford County, which sold more than 10 generators a month pre-Y2K, compared with about two a month normally.

Confluence Hardware in Somerset County also saw a Y2K-related generator boom -- and the store had no plans to take the items back. Sales staff warned customers they weren't returnable.


-- Linkmeister (, January 08, 2000.

Everything I got was as much for hurricanes as y2k. We had Fran and Floyd, which we joke were F-ing hurricanes, but the effects were no joke at all. Driving through the east part of NC after Floyd showed pretty conclusively that TEOTWAKI happens to some people as a part of Life. Preparation is a good idea anyway, and ironically the best effect of Y2K may be reducing the loss of life and property after future, inevitable disasters.

Nobody around here paid much attention to hurricanes before Fran. Now, if you want to see the 'herd' move, wait till a hurricane is even *visible* on the Weather Channel. As soon as it shows up the stores are hit. Two weeks without water or power has a real effect on your head. No, folks, keep your preps, especially if you live on the East Coast. Next summer is supposed to be even worse than the last two.

-- Forrest Covington (, January 08, 2000.

What was purchased was peace of mind. What was expended was the fear, anxiety, worry of being unprepared to face uncertain change with the tools, skill and time to successfuly cope. Though the potential uncertainty of the damage from y2k is ebbing, there are so many factors that yet loom with the potential of causing abrupt uncertain change in my life.

A strong community identity and a tradition of extended family and support accompanied us through the rapid change of much of the past two centuries. With our mobile society, fractionalized family units and high degree of division of labor, this is feeling of family, clan or community is fading away - leaving us with an isolated feeling of being on our own; left to our own devices. Once ya got peace of mind, it is really difficult to take it back. Preparation fills a nagging instinctual hole in our being. It is as if a part of us is psychologically being held snuggly and securely. It leaves us feeling more in control, with greater independence and less vulnerability.

I exchanged fear for peace of mind. I think many others did as well.

-- anon (anon@anon.calm), January 08, 2000.

It's going to be a kick watching the sheeple who are selling back their prep supplies at a 20% loss, when they have to get back in line and buy them back at a higher price than what they originally paid!

-- Hawk (flyin@high.again), January 08, 2000.

Floods, tornadoes, blizzards, ice storms--Minnesota gets them all. I'm glad I'm prepared. I'm sorry though, that my house is built on a slab. I'd like to have a storm cellar. My supplies? Right where I put them. I'm not sorry for one single purchase, even the stack of bic lighters. Pollies, go bother somebody else, but first, you'd better prepare for bad weather. Just because we skated past rollover with minimal disruption doesn't mean you won't get a blizzard or a hurricane before this time next year. I'm prepared to be wrong. Are you?

-- Liz (, January 08, 2000.


FEMA puts out a publication about surviving tornadoes, and how to reinforce your home. It's called "Taking Shelter from the Storm: building a safe room in your house". FM 320 is the number. I believe that you can go to and see how to order it. It's FREE.

It does mention how to build a shelter in a slab-construction home.

You probably could build a root cellar type of room under a slab, if you braced it up properly. I am not qualified to advise you how to do so, but I'm sure you could find some local person to advise you.

-- Bill (, January 09, 2000.

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