$5 for Spaghetti Sauce? Shoppers Are Rushing In.
Good morning. It’s Tuesday. We’ll look at a store that sells merchandise other retailers have not unloaded, and usually at deep discounts. We’ll also review the guidance pediatricians are giving parents who are worried that the polio virus was found in wastewater in New York City.
Credit…Kholood Eid for The New York Times
José Garcia was smiling as he walked out of a warehouse-style store in Maspeth, Queens — a store he said he visits as often as three times a week.
“It’s cheap, you know,” he said, and with a 14-month-old in the household, price consciousness matters.
The store, TNT Liquidators Dynamite Discount Warehouse, buys items that other retailers have not managed to sell and unloads them, usually at substantial discounts. Liquidator stores like TNT and the wholesalers they buy from have snapped up merchandise as e-commerce sellers and retailers have thinned out warehouses that are jammed and stores that need shelf space for new goods.
“Things are pretty good in the liquidation business,” said John Azzarelli, above, an owner and manager of TNT. “People are broke. People are looking for deals. Gas prices are high, groceries are high, everything is high. In our kind of stores, they’re looking to recoup the kind of money they lost filling up the gas tank.”
Inflation has also drawn customers to salvage food stores, which sell what big-name supermarkets call “unsellables” — items that are past their sell-by dates or arrive in damaged packaging. They occupy a niche between food banks and discount chains like Dollar General, which has more than 18,000 stores.
TNT sells food as well as household staples like detergent. On the evening Garcia was shopping, Tide Ultra Oxi detergent pods were going for $22 for a container of 104. On Amazon, the price from 10 sellers ranged from $44.49 to $59.45.
“I’m not sure what’s not a bargain,” said Mimma Addeo, leaving TNT with bottles of spaghetti sauce she had bought for $5 apiece.
“But you have to know your prices,” she said. “Some things here are cheaper than BJ’s,” referring to BJ’s Wholesale Club, a discount chain with three stores in Queens.
The Fight Against Polio
The highly contagious virus was one of the most feared diseases until the 1950s, when the first vaccine was developed.
- New York Case: Officials in a New York suburb reported a case of polio in an unvaccinated adult man in July — the first U.S. case in nearly a decade.
- A Multibillion-Dollar Effort: A partnership of national governments and health organizations has a plan to rid the world of polio by 2026, which is now endemic in just two countries.
- Major Obstacles: Two of the three strains of polio have been eliminated from the Earth. But new barriers to full eradication keep cropping up.
- Childhood Vaccinations Drop: A sharp decline in childhood vaccinations around the world during the coronavirus pandemic — including those for polio — could threaten the lives of millions of children.
Paper plates selling for $20, she said, were $13 at TNT. She also said she was pleased with a Ninja air fryer that she had bought for $133 at TNT, $66 less than she said Bed Bath & Beyond was selling it for. (On Sunday, Bed Bath & Beyond’s website listed it for $239.99.)
Retailers miscalculated supply and demand early in the pandemic, leading to inventories in May that were the highest in 30 years, according to Census Bureau data. Major retailers “overbought everything from home appliances to food,” said David Amoyelle of Lot-Less Closeouts, a chain of 13 discount stores in the New York area.
“All of a sudden everything they ordered started to hit” as supply-chain delays began to ease, he added, “so there’s an abundance of products.”
That has liquidators like Azzarelli buying, even as retailers like Walmart mark down unsold inventory themselves. Target has also warned that its profits would be lower because of inventory markdowns.
At TNT, small appliances like pizza ovens, toaster ovens and air fryers are “moving,” Azzarelli said. “Last year, they were flying,” he said. “People weren’t eating in restaurants.” Now, with restaurants open again, demand is about the same as before the pandemic.
Items like patio furniture show how 2022 is different from 2021 for Azzarelli. “That’s always been a tough sell in this area — not too many yards in Maspeth and Elmhurst,” he said. “Last year, forget it, we couldn’t keep it in stock. Nobody was traveling. Everybody was looking to fix up their yard. But this year, after Fourth of July, there was a complete downturn in patio furniture. A lot of people are away. They haven’t traveled in two years, but now it’s who’s going to Europe, who’s going to Florida and who’s going to the Poconos.”
But supply-chain issues have continued for staples like toilet paper and paper towels. “We get them in dribs and drabs,” he said, so he has imposed a limit of four rolls of paper towels and six rolls of toilet tissue.
It’s another mostly sunny day near the low 80s. The evening is partly cloudy, with temps dropping to around the high 60s.
In effect until Sept. 5 (Labor Day).
The latest New York news
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Rushdie attack: A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the author Salman Rushdie had crossed “red lines” but denied a role in the attack on Rushdie on Friday.
Living in the City
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Wine shop shutdown:Trader Joe’s only wine store in New York State closed without warning, sending some shoppers into a minor tailspin.
Quitting a job and work-life balance: We asked people who quit their jobs during the “Great Resignation” how it changed how they approach work. This is what they told us.
Arts & Culture
Solange’s new venture: The pop star Solange will compose her first ballet score for the Fall Fashion Gala at the New York City Ballet.
Reminiscing on “13”: For the creators and cast of the 2008 musical “13,” a new Netflix adaptation brings back memories — theatrical and hormonal.
Polio: Children with up-to-date vaccinations should be OK, pediatricians say
Until the mid-1950s, polio outbreaks prompted panics, especially in the summer, when they were most common. Swimming pools shut down. Parents kept children cooped up indoors, away from crowded places like movie theaters where they might be exposed to the virus.
Then, in 1955, a vaccine was developed, and the disease was largely eradicated.
But last week, New York City health authorities announced that they had detected the polio virus in wastewater samples, suggesting that polio was probably circulating in the city again.
Anxious parents began calling their pediatricians. The guidance was reassuring. “My advice is follow the vaccine schedule, and everything will be OK,” Dr. David Silver, a pediatrician and the associate chief medical officer for Northwell Health, told my colleague Sharon Otterman.
The schedule Dr. Silver referred to typically involves four doses of vaccine. An initial vaccination when a child is 2 months old, followed by a second dose at 4 months, give at least 90 percent protection against paralytic polio. A third dose is typically administered at 6 months, though it can be given as late as 18 months, and brings the protection level close to 99 percent.
The fourth and final dose, intended to ensure that the protection lasts a lifetime, is typically given when a child turns 4.
Polio was found in wastewater in London in February, prompting a recommendation that children between 1 and 9 get an additional booster dose. Public health officials say the concern in New York is lower, at least for now. Only six positive samples were found in city wastewater, and only one case has been confirmed in the New York area — in an unvaccinated 20-year-old man who lives in Rockland County, north of the city. Twenty positive wastewater samples have been found there and in neighboring Orange County.
While there has only been that one confirmed case of paralytic polio so far, health officials believe they may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg.
Walking the dog
It was the early 1990s, and my husband had just published his first novel. His editor insisted we stay with him and his partner in their spacious Upper West Side apartment. It was between Zabar’s and Central Park and had a clear view of the Empire State.
As first-time guests, we tried to pitch in wherever possible, including by walking their enormous, furry white dog, Ripley.
Ripley, it turned out, was known by name throughout the neighborhood. Everyone wanted to pet her, and she relished attention of any kind.
On one of our outings, we crossed paths with an elegantly dressed woman who clicking quickly toward the subway in steep heels.
“What kind is it?” I heard her ask.
“She’s a Samoyed!” I answered proudly. Perplexed, the woman repeated her question.
“A Sa-MOY-ed,” I said, enunciating in an exaggerated fashion.
Waving me off, she dashed away in her heels.
When I turned toward my husband, he was doubled-over in laughter.
“She was asking, ‘What time is it?’” he said when he regained his composure.
— Jeffrey P. Smith
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at email@example.com.