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KAI RYSSDAL: The Great California Garage Sale got started today in Sacramento. You've probably heard of it. The state government out here's so short on cash it's selling off practically everything that's not nailed down. From surplus prison uniforms to office furniture and old Blackberry's. They're using eBay and Craigslist, too. That's the way a lot of people do it now. But in some cities, turning your old junk into someone else's new junk is done differently. Through the magic of radio. Marketplace's Jennifer Collins reports.
Jennifer Collins: If you have something to sell in Blair County, Penn., you're going to want to call Doug Herendeen.
Doug Herendeen: Good morning. You're on Dial and Deal.
Every Friday, Herendeen takes 45 minutes from the usual news and talk at WRTA to host what's basically an on-air yard sale.
Herendeen: We have Linda in East Freedom.
Linda: Good morning. I have horse manure for gardens. It's already seasoned.
Herendeen: I'm just imagining someone with salt and pepper when you say it's seasoned, but never mind go on.
Linda: Oh heavens!
For about $45, Linda'll deliver a pile of that stuff to your door. She's one of dozens who call in. Most of the actual buying goes on off air. But Herendeen says the selling is enough to attract listeners and:
Herendeen: We haven't had any lack of advertising on it.
With revenue down around 20 percent, more commercial radio stations are dialin' and dealin'. The shows go by names like the Trading Post, Tradio or in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Mercado al aire. It's a Spanish version.
Whatever they're called, Dennis Wharton of the National Association of Broadcasters says they're a lot livelier than the average classified ad.
Dennis Wharton: We don't want to hurt our newspaper friends. But if there's an opportunity for radio stations to grow their revenue, they're going to explore those opportunities.
Wharton says these types of shows have been around almost as long as radio itself. In Carthage, Texas "The Swap Shop" has been on the air for around 30 years. Mark Bounds hosted the show for the past six.
Caller: Mark, thank you for getting rid of my cat for me.
Mark Bounds: That's what I'm here for.
Caller: I know it. You are so magic.
Magician or just messenger, Mark has hosted people pushing everything from dinner dishes to, well, I'll let him tell you.
Bounds: So we've got some cowboys that would go down to the water and wrestle a three-foot alligator and they'll try to sell an alligator on The Swap Shop and the game warden will come up there and say, "Mark..."
Not too many listeners are in the market for an alligator, anyway. They have other things on their lists.
Bounds: Our situation in the country as far as the economy goes right now hasn't slowed down The Swap Shop at all. Maybe, maybe we have more people phoning in now who are out of work, looking for work.
Work like babysitting or mowing the lawn. Bounds -- who's taking a break from hosting to go back to college -- says the show's part Coffee Klatch, part Craigslist. And because people can hawk their stuff for free, the prices stay reasonable enough to attract buyers like Jerry Hanszen.
Jerry Hanszen: We purchased our large screen television off of Swap Shop. Our hot tub in our house came off of Swap Shop. I use it myself.
And that's significant because Hanszen actually owns the station in Carthage. He says, if he ever took the show off the air:
Hanszen: Well, I'd have to move out of town, that'd be the first thing.
And that's not likely to happen anytime soon.
I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace. Oh! And I've got this great set of microphones for sale. They're really cheap. If you're in the market, just let us know.