Retailers exploit "clunker" concept to sell you more stuff


Clunk. That's the sound of this blogger's head hitting her desk. Why? Because now it seems there are clunkers everywhere you turn, and that moniker is now being flogged to sell you everything from sofas to teakettles.

Whether you agree or not with the policy underpinnings that drove it, there's no denying that the government's Cash for Clunkers program was a success in the most basic terms: It got Americans to buy cars, and lots of them. (Of course, dealers are suffering a wicked hangover from that sales binge and facing a 28-year low in sales now that the program is finished, but that's another post.)

The nation's beleaguered retailers watched and took notes as thousands of otherwise tight-fisted Americans dumped 20 or 30 grand (or more!) on a brand-new car because the government deemed their existing vehicle junkyard-ready and gave them a rebate. Now, this article from the New York Times tells us, sellers of everything from furniture to appliances to cookware are offering discounts if customers bring in the item they're replacing. Some offer a flat dollar amount off, while others take a percentage of the original purchase price off the top. Most but not all of the retailers donate the "clunkers" to charity after customers drop them off.

Now, whatever a store would like you to replace has been dubbed a clunker. For instance, I bet you never thought of that comfy sofa you sit on to watch So You Think You Can Dance as a clunker, but according to some of these programs, it is. The same goes for your appliances. Hey, maybe your dishwasher is white and kind of scratched-up instead of that sexy stainless steel, but it still gets the lasagna crud off the pan just fine. Kind of insulting, isn't it?