The p's and q's of post-Y2K

Sure everybody wants your leftover Spam, but what about the rest of your armageddon inventory?

For The Record

January 09, 2000

For many of us, the (mostly) glitch-free turn of the century means there's now little need to hunker in the bunker surrounded by cases of batteries and pork and beans. But a question remains: What the heck do you do with all the junk that was supposed to see you through the chaos of Y2K?

Across the nation this past week, food pantries announced they are more than willing to take any excess Spam and Yodels off your hands. But as for the rest, unloading them might be a little tougher:

Generators: Don't even think about trying to return the $4,500, 11,000-watt Honda gas generator you bought so that you could watch "Sex and the City" and "The Sopranos" after the world came to a fiery demise. "These are not vacuum cleaners," Greg Marks says of the high-end generators he sells at Pete's Cycle Co. in Baltimore. "We're not obligated to take returns." He pauses. "Within reason, we would," he admits, finally. "But we would have to charge a 20 percent restocking fee."

Gasoline: Ralph Bombardiere, executive director of the Gasoline and Automotive Service Dealers Association, a trade group based in Brooklyn, N.Y., can say in a heartbeat where would-be survivalists should put their extra gasoline: "Put it in your car and burn it," he says.

Service stations won't accept returned gas, he says. "That would be against the law." And don't get any bright ideas about storing excess gasoline for the coming of Y3K, either. After about a year, gasoline breaks down. "It turns to shellac," Bombardiere says.

Guns: In the final weeks of 1999, the Valley Gun Shop in Parkville was selling lots of Mossberg Model 500 short-barrel police-type shotguns to people who wanted to protect themselves from impending chaos. Now, as 2000 begins, manager Patrick Laughlin says, he's not accepting returns.

As it is, no one has even asked so far. "Now that people have got something, they're going to keep it," Laughlin says.

Besides, he says, the need for a gun might arise, maybe even in the near future. But Leap Day? "People are talking about Feb. 29," he says. "Then there's the fact that 2000 is actually the last year of the millennium, not 1999. It makes sense to have something."

Survival guides: Selling those copies of "The Y2K Family Survival Guide" and "Bust the Y2K Bug" probably won't yield a windfall of cash, according to Courtney McCullough of Normal's Books and Records in Baltimore. Of the thousands of used books lining the store's shelves, few are best sellers, and even fewer are trendy books or computer books. "The thing with used books is, when we buy something we can't send it back to the publisher if it doesn't sell. We have to hope somebody buys it," McCullough explains. Just like bunker dwellers, sellers of used books want items with shelf life. McCullough recommends holding onto survival guides in case of snowstorms, hurricanes or power failures, much in the way he's holding onto the bottles of water he bought last week, just in case. He's found a new use for them already. "My 3 1/2-year-old daughter is arranging them as toys right now."

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