The IB Reality Series: I honestly can’t make this stuff up

IB Publisher Jody Glynn Patrick blends work and life in this very clear departure from both her column for In Business magazine, and the other bloggers. Awarded national recognition for her previous work as a newspaper columnist, she brings us all back "Closer to Home" with her insights and remembrances. A nice place to be "After Hours." Check back often! Read Full Bio

Recently I sent our 15 employees out to area thrift shops one morning with $20 each to spend, promising prizes for the most unique and also the most practical purchases. We’re a somewhat competitive lot, and I had forewarned Aaron, our advertising art director, that he was a rookie facing off with an experienced thrift-shop junkie. “I know all the best places for unusual items,” I boasted. “You better do better than ‘interesting’ if you want to take home the top prize.”

“Game on,” he replied. Then he joined his colleague and buddy Pat and the pair left the office for thrift parts undisclosed.

I hoped that our “show and tell” pizza lunch, and subsequent judging of the articles’ true or hidden values, would be memorable … and yes, the adage “be careful what you wish for” applied. They returned with their hauls and, equally revealing, their stories of why they bought what they did.

Likewise, I invited Shirley, my co-worker and my assigned buddy for the challenge, to accompany me to the best haunts. For a little while I laid rather low, buying a game and a few little odds and ends at the Goodwill store on the east side. There, she bought a beautiful stein/vase (whatever the thing is) that I actually coveted and would have taken home. She thought she had bagged the “most unusual” item, and I actually let her think that for awhile, newbie that she is to the thrift-store game, as I liked the expression on her face as she imagined winning the top prize.

At the next stop, however – the east side HospiceCare Thrift Store – I turned a corner, reached for an item, and laughed aloud as I tucked it into my shopping cart. The sound of my evil glee lured Shirley to that area. “Darn it,” she muttered when she saw the ceramic Hawaiian shirt bird feeder/planter I’d just nabbed. “You surely won the whole thing.”

Shirley’s loot vs. Jody’s loot. Notice the strange hanging feeder on the right!

Yes, I did bag the first prize, as independent judges Tim Belter and Tom Wolfe, of neighboring business Wisconsin Business Development Service Co., would collectively decide after I dragged them out of their offices and over to our lair to judge the anonymous collection of goods heaped on our conference room table.

The competition for the prizes was fierce. The judges added the categories “most fun” and “item your parents would be most proud of” to “most unique” and “most practical,” since we had four prizes to award – a kit to make a bonsai potato, a polar bear snow globe, a pair of scissors that also worked as a bottle opener and potato slicer, and a martini shaker. The tension was almost palpable as staff waited for the judges’ verdicts, but in the end, not even Aaron’s ukulele (nice try, rookie) could stand up to a Hawaiian shirt bird feeder.

To make Aaron feel better, Jan threw in free lessons as she played something that sounded like “Tiny Bubbles” for the group.

As much fun as the judging was, we enjoyed even more the “tell your story” that accompanied the show and tell. Why did people buy what they did?

Tom left his audience in tears as he told why he selected the bland shirts he bought. Joe had fun explaining why he bought Bill Clinton’s book. I almost started an office pool as to which classic movie he’d come back with, so that buying decision was no surprise to anyone.

Paul is an art aficionado, and Pat won “most practical” with the kneepads he bought at Habitat’s ReStore. Gloria purchased some light summer reading material.

They all came back with stories: Sarah related how she felt nostalgia for her grandparents and so she bought a sausage grinder (?). Carol found items for her kids, and a book she wanted to read. But one of the most memorable stories had to be the explanation of why Jon bought his own copy of the Backstreet Boys tell-all book. And I’ll let him tell you that himself someday.

So there you have it. Another workday at IB. But seriously, folks, we’re actively working on getting out of our comfort zones, as we come closer to unveiling a new IB product offering later this summer (just before we tackle our first big expo, too), and so moments like these, where we relax together around a pizza and a lighthearted diversion, are rare and precious.

All’s well that ends well, and so I decided, after lots of folks practically begged me to give them both the planter and the prize of the bonsai potato kit, to sell the planter to the highest bidder (Jan) and to hold on to the kit and offer it up as the next prize for the next crazy activity.

Stay tuned to the IB Reality Series to learn what that will be ….

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