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This Shopping Network Is Down-Home

By Marti Attoun / July 17, 1998



Recognized the old gentleman's voice as soon as I heard it on the radio. He's a regular on "The Swap Shop."

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"Say, I'm looking for that lady caller with the bedroom set and the extry chest," he said. The host flipped through the ads and found the phone number. The caller was so grateful, he nearly forgot to mention that he had a horse for sale. "She has a glass eye, but it don't bother her none. She's real good with kids."

I hoped that maybe the woman with the spare chest would need a one-eyed horse and the two could just trade. Both of them sounded like such swell people.

After tuning into the folksy radio trading show for a couple of months, I feel like part of the on-air garage-sale family. These shows in nearly every rural community are the forerunners of the slick cable-TV shopping shows, but these originals are far more entertaining and trustworthy. No paid testimonials or phony business here. These are real people with surplus parakeets, long-necked gourds, and size-l6 maternity pants with a lot of good mileage yet. No pushy salesmen, either. Just the opposite: The callers volunteer the history of their merchandise - the good, the bad, and the outgrown. Some throw in free homemaking and decorating advice, too.

"I got rid of all my Willie Nelson tapes and the space heater, but I've about given up on the sectional," one caller said. "It's orange crushed velvet and it'd make a real nice starter set for newlyweds. There's only one cigarette hole in it, but it's patched to where you'd really have to nitpick to find it."

Caller No. 7 wanted to buy an aluminum boat. "I'm not too particular, but it must have a clear title," he said. "And the wife's still got brown eggs for sale, 75 cents a dozen, you pick up."

The next caller started right in without so much as a howdy. "Hey, I've got that '69 Ford running now, if that old boy who came over last Friday still wants to see it."

I'm still puzzling over the biography of the 30 theater seats. The owner had traced their provenance from a defunct movie theatre to a Methodist church, and now they were supposed to be headed to a heated fishing dock. "But since the divorce, that dock deal's off," she said. "I'm stuck with these seats, and they're getting cheaper by the minute, even though the upholstery isn't ragged one bit. I'd probably take $10 apiece for the lot. And I'm looking to buy a mean guard dog, cheap...."

About that time, the host needed to check the mail bag. I can't wait to tune in again for the rest of her infomercial. I suspect the theater seats will be free to a good home. Bet you can't get a deal like that on the Home Shopping Network.