Are you in the market for an old parking meter?

December 27, 2019

The Hustle

Hope you’re enjoying the holidays. Online retailers sure are: Their sales jumped 18.8% this year — though still not as much as last year. Today:

  • One person’s trash is another person’s treasure
  • Student surveillance is on the rise by every measure
  • Sleeping in a giant potato is a $250 pleasure

Seriously — leave it to the state with a potato museum and a college football game named after potatoes to have an Airbnb listing for the Big Idaho Potato Hotel.

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Need New Year’s resolution inspiration? Check out America’s biggest yard sale

Getting rid of junk in a yard sale can be a great way to clean out the closet… and maybe even make a few bucks in the process. 

But some yard sales make more than a few bucks. And, as the The New York Times reports, one junk-selling giant made $12m auctioning off its old stuff last year.

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New York City has a lot of junk in its trunk

But every year the city cleans out its closets in a series of massive auctions that sell everything from river barges to parking meters.

Most of the products auctioned off — like old road barriers — may seem worthless. But some items bring in a surprising amount of money.

New York’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services held 1.3k auctions last year to sell off old items such as:

  • Old mechanical voting machines ($207k worth)
  • Old shell casings from the police department ($316k worth)

And one city’s trash can be another person’s treasure

In fact, some entrepreneurial buyers have found ways to squeeze some serious value out of the Big Apple’s discarded trash.

One artist converted old parking meters into sculptures… and then sold them for $5k. Another buyer bought an antique fireboat and now plans to use it to give tours on the Hudson River.

Inspired? Here are some NYC hand-me-downs currently for sale:

  • An aluminum boat on sale for $25
  • A hunting blind on sale for $5
  • A snow blower on sale for $150
  • 4 jackhammers and 3 rotary drills on sale for $461
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The ball drops in 4 days… what’s your plan?

If your resolution is the usual — drop a couple pounds and start your 2020 on a healthy note — we’d like to offer you a helping hand.

No, it’s not a gift card to Sweetgreen (damn). It’s a free Noom evaluation.

Noom uses a tech-first blend of AI tracking and real behavioral psychology to help you lose and keep weight off. It’s not about crash diets, hours on the treadmill, or sitting in a sauna next to some sweaty old guy. It’s about real, lasting lifestyle changes that will help you feel better than ever. 

The only downside? You’ll have to think of a new resolution next year. 

Get a Noom eval →

Last semester, colleges got an A+ in student surveillance

Dozens of colleges and universities across the country use sophisticated surveillance systems to track their students’ locations, according to a recent report from The Washington Post.

So, how did alma maters turn into Big Brothers?

Nominally, schools started surveilling their students to encourage them not to skip class.

Classes at Syracuse University, for example, use systems of bluetooth sensors hidden around auditoriums to detect when a student — or, rather, a student’s cell phone — attends class, and awarding the student “attendance points” for doing so.

Some systems go even further than simply monitoring attendance by calculating individualized “risk scores” based on the amount of time students are spending in libraries.

Critics worry that constant surveillance isn’t good for learning

According to the Post, one student surveillance system that “uses school WiFi networks to monitor movements says it gathers 6,000 location data points per student every day.”

Opponents of this type of system argue students should be encouraged to learn because they want to, not forced to learn because they’re fearful of being penalized.

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This week’s weirdest ways to spend money

Looking for a way to spend that Visa gift card you got from your Aunt Susan over the holiday? 

Please, let us offer some inspiration on how to burn that plastic. Here’s a roundup of some of the weirdest ways we’ve seen people spend their cash lately:

  • A night spent in a giant potato, $250. Who needs the Ritz when you and your loved ones can rest your weary heads in a 6-ton potato in Idaho? 
  • Gucci felt hat with visor, $690. Sure, you could spend $700 on groceries for a few months… OR you could spend it on this iconic piece of beige headwear that features a urine-colored visor that will scare away stray dogs and peasants alike.  
  • Functional lifestyle water, $350. If this “great tasting craft water” fits half as much flavor in its bottles as it does buzzwords in its product description, consider us customers for life (h/t VICE for spotting this gem).
  • Flying ATV, $139k. Be honest: The last time you rode an ATV you probably thought “This is fun… but what if was FLYING?” Well, your dream has come true thanks to this “FAA-certified special light-sport aircraft fused within a rugged military-grade all-terrain vehicle that conquers sand, pavement, grass, and gravity.”
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What Else…

🎄Americans were generous gift givers this season. According to a retail survey, holiday sales grew 3.4% this past year. But the real spending boom happened on the internet — online shopping increased 18.8%.

The Rust Belt is going electric. General Motors announced earlier this month that it will hire more than 1.1k employees at a new electric vehicle (EV) battery factory in Ohio. Along with plans for increased EV production near Detroit, this new Ohio facility is part of a wave of electric investment that could restore some shine to the Rust Belt.

🚗 Kalanick took his last Uber ride (for real this time). Travis Kalanick, who was synonymous with Uber before he was ousted as its CEO, has severed all his ties with the ride-hailing giant by departing from the company’s board of directors and selling all of his shares — a stake thought to be worth $2.5B.

🚂 Big banks might need a… railout. The leasing value of railroad cars — which were, until recently, a reliable business favored by big banks — have fallen between 10% and 15% this year. Now, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and other financial services giants are stuck with the expensive problem of storing hundreds of thousands of unused railroad cars.

Shower Thoughts
  1. $0.99 seems so much more expensive on the App Store than in a real store.
  2. December 31st, 2099 will be on a Saturday. On that day, January will be the next day, week, month, year, decade, and century all at once.
  3. When you play Super Mario backwards, it’s about a man leaving his wife, and his life gets easier over time.
  4. The goal of golf is to play as little golf as you can
  5. Without that little voice in your head, you wouldn’t be able to read this
  6. via Reddit
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