Good morning. It’s Tuesday. We’re looking at a store that sells merchandise that other retailers haven’t unloaded, and usually at great discounts. We’ll also look at the guidelines pediatricians are giving to parents concerned that the polio virus has been found in wastewater in New York City.
José Garcia smiled as he walked out of a department store-style store in Maspeth, Queens—a store he says he visits three times a week.
“It’s cheap, you know,” he said, and with a 14-month-old kid in the household, price awareness matters.
The store, TNT Liquidators Dynamite Discount Warehouse, buys items that other retailers haven’t been able to sell and unloads them, usually at significant discounts. Liquidation stores like TNT and the wholesalers they buy from have been buying in goods as e-commerce sellers and retailers have thinned out warehouses that are jammed and stores that need shelf space for new goods.
“Things are going pretty well in the liquidation sector,” said John Azzarelli, owner and manager of TNT, above. “People are bankrupt. People are looking for offers. Gas prices are high, groceries are high, everything is high. In our kind of stores they are looking for the kind of money they lost filling the gas tank.”
Inflation has also prompted customers to bail out food stores, which sell what major supermarkets call “unsaleable” products — items that have passed their sell-by date or arrive in damaged packaging. They occupy a niche between food banks and discount chains such as Dollar General, which has more than 18,000 stores.
TNT sells not only food, but also household items such as detergent. On the night Garcia was out shopping, Tide Ultra Oxi detergent pods went for $22 for a 104 container. On Amazon, 10 sellers’ prices ranged from $44.49 to $59.45.
“I’m not sure what’s not a bargain,” Mimma Addeo said, leaving TNT with bottles of spaghetti sauce she’d bought for $5 each.
“But you must know your prices,” she said. “Some things are cheaper here than BJ’s,” referring to BJ’s Wholesale Club, a three-store discount chain 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.
Paper plates that sold for $20, she said, were $13 at TNT. She also said she was happy with a Ninja air fryer she bought from TNT for $133, $66 less than what she said Bed Bath & Beyond sold it for. (On Sunday, the Bed Bath & Beyond website listed it for $239.99.)
Retailers miscalculated supply and demand early in the pandemic, leading to May inventories being the highest in 30 years, according to Census Bureau data. Major retailers “bought everything from home appliances to food,” said David Amoyelle of Lot-Less Closeouts, a chain of 13 discount stores in the New York area.
“Suddenly everything they ordered started to add up” as supply chain delays started to ease, he added, “so there is an abundance of products.”
That has liquidators like Azzarelli buying, even as retailers like Walmart themselves mark down unsold inventory. Target has also warned that profits would be lower due to stock write-downs.
At TNT, small appliances like pizza ovens, toaster ovens and air fryers ‘move,’ Azzarelli said. “Last year they flew,” he said. “People didn’t eat in restaurants.” Now that restaurants are open again, demand is about the same as it was before the pandemic.
Items like patio furniture show how 2022 is different for Azzarelli from 2021. “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. No one was traveling. Everyone wanted to fix up their garden. But this year, after July 4, there was a complete decline in patio furniture. Many people are gone. They haven’t traveled in two years, but now it’s who goes to Europe, who goes to Florida and who goes to the Poconos.”
But supply chain problems remain for staples like toilet paper and paper towels. “We get them in small quantities,” he said, so he’s imposed a limit of four rolls of kitchen paper and six rolls of toilet paper.
It’s another mostly sunny day near the low 80’s. The evening is partly cloudy, with temperatures dropping to around the high 60’s.
Valid until September 5 (Labor Day).
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Polio: Kids with up-to-date vaccinations should be fine, pediatricians say
Until the mid-1950s, polio outbreaks caused panic, especially in the summer when they were most common. Swimming pools closed. Parents kept children confined indoors, away from crowded places such as movie theaters where they may 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 they had detected the polio virus in wastewater samples, suggesting polio was likely circulating in the city again.
Concerned parents started calling their pediatricians. The guidance was reassuring. “My advice is to follow the vaccination schedule and everything will be fine,” Dr. David Silver, a pediatrician and the associate chief medical officer of Northwell Health, to my colleague Sharon Otterman.
The schedule to which Dr. Silver refers, usually includes four doses of vaccine. A first vaccination when a child is 2 months old, followed by a second dose at 4 months, provides at least 90 percent protection against paralytic polio. A third dose is usually given after 6 months, although it cannot be given until 18 months and the level of protection is close to 99 percent.
The fourth and final dose, intended to ensure that the protection lasts a lifetime, is usually given when a child turns 4 years old.
In February, polio was found in wastewater in London, leading to the recommendation that children between 1 and 9 receive an additional booster dose. Public health officials say concerns are lower in New York, at least for now. Only six positive samples were found in the city’s wastewater, and only one case has been confirmed in the New York area — in an unvaccinated 20-year-old man living in Rockland County, north of the city. Twenty positive wastewater samples were found there and in neighboring Orange County.
While there has been only one confirmed case of paralyzed polio so far, health officials think they may be just 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 that 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 new guests, we tried to contribute where possible, including by walking their huge, furry white dog Ripley.
Ripley, it turned out, was known by name all over the neighborhood. Everyone wanted to pet her and she loved any kind of attention.
On one of our outings, we crossed paths with an elegantly dressed woman in high heels who quickly clicked to the subway.