Unusual pandemic purchases: Oversized llama art, sticker beads and birds
Llama drawing by Tomas Lamacz via iStock
Tomas Lamacz via iStock
COVID-19Pandemic Purchases

Unusual pandemic purchases: Oversized llama art, sticker beads and birds

Why would you want to color a picture of a large blank camelid? Because llamas are cool and “anything oversized is so exciting.”

Main image by Tomas Lamacz via iStock

Yikara Levari is pretty sure her family’s fascination with sun conures began during a telemedicine visit in 2020. It was early on in the pandemic when her husband, an internist, was conducting a virtual checkup and noticed a beautifully colored bird in the background of his patient’s screen. As soon as the appointment ended, the physician told his family about the parrot with the yellow plumage.

What happened next, Levari recalled, was that the family became fixated on the screaming South American bird, otherwise known as a sun parakeet.

With multiple children at home due to quarantining, and the internet serving as a wellspring of avian knowledge, the family spent countless hours researching sun conures and related species.

“We became obsessed with birds,” Levari said.

Several hundred clicks later, they decided it was time to land a pet of their own. In an attempt to locate the playful member of the Aratinga genus, Levari called several stores and breeders. She even tried visiting a sun conure farm. She soon discovered, though, that the bird is not only noisy, but endangered.

Still intent on acquiring a pet, the Levaris ended up adopting two parakeets. Months after welcoming home Chiquita and Papita, however, the family’s avian interests flew south.

“Nobody else pays attention to them but me,” Levari told the Chronicle last week.

She doesn’t regret purchasing the birds, but there are plenty of people who fell down the early pandemic rabbit hole and ended up buying things they now wish they hadn’t.

According to the BBC, one in 10 Britons expressed remorse over a pandemic-timed purchase. The Guardian, relying on similar data, noted that British households spent £6.6 billion (or approximately $8.8 billion) on things they no longer use.

Sun conure. Photo by PrinPrince via iStock

More than a year ago, Dovid Taub found himself scouring grocery store aisles for hand sanitizer. At that point in the pandemic, he said, nobody was leaving their homes but everybody needed hand sanitizer, and all that anyone could find were the mini travel-sized ones.

On a trip to the Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle, Taub discovered a 1-liter bottle, resembling a large flask, with a label reading “Hand Sanitizer.” After purchasing it and returning home, Taub tried it out.

“It had this weird smell and was a little bit sticky,” he said. “It definitely felt like it’s burning everything away.”

The Taub family quickly realized that, as opposed to relying solely on what Taub eventually dubbed “Everclear” (grain alcohol), they could attain an optimal level of hygiene by just washing their hands with soap and water.

Still, Taub said he doesn’t feel bad about buying such a large amount of odd-smelling gel, and gets a good chuckle when people come to his house, snoop inside his cupboard and find what they think is a bottle of alcohol. What he does regret is “buying into the panic,” he said. “Just because there was something I couldn’t get, I felt like I had to.”

Squirrel Hill resident Morris Kornblit understands that feeling. He and his wife Anita were set to go on a car trip when they discovered major problems with their vehicle. After taking their Subaru in for a routine oil change and inspection, Kornblit was told that the cradle had rotted out and that the car’s engine could fall out at any moment. Kornblit said he was not only surprised by the finding but disappointed as his car only had 66,000 miles on it.

He recalled seeing advertisements that Subarus could be driven through rivers and over rocks and purchased the car, he said, because he thought it would last several hundred thousand miles, even if he never took it off-road.

After experiencing the rigamarole of looking for a new car during the pandemic — a process in which he discovered there were basically none available — Kornblit said he ended up buying another Subaru. Although he doesn’t regret purchasing the car, he is sorry he bought an extended warranty. The cost of the warranty was more than $3,000, or 10% of the car’s value, and requires Kornblit to make co-pays every time he wants to use the warranty for repairs.

What he learned was it’s always important to read the paperwork prior to a sale, he said.

The Davis family enjoys a craft activity during the early days of the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Elena Davis

Squirrel Hill resident Elena Davis said she didn’t head into quarantine making any big purchases — just a bunch of small ones.

With four children at home Davis decided she needed to increase her family’s supply of craft projects. One kit she bought came with a lot of little beads that could be stuck in place to create a portrait.

It was a cool idea, and one of her children even completed a picture, but the problem was anytime someone passed by and bumped into the table, the tray containing about “800 million little sticker beads” would likely tip, and at that point, Davis said, “you’re just picking up beads.”

But at least that purchase was somewhat used. Davis said as soon her kids started going to virtual school, everyone needed to spread out around the house. Each person had a spot, but when her 9-year-old daughter needed a place to work, Davis thought she’d found the perfect solution: a portable lap desk.

Marketed as both a seat and a surface, the lap desk could go anywhere. Davis thought it was a great option and quickly ordered it from Amazon. Once it arrived, however, Davis’ daughter tried it out and informed her mother how incredibly uncomfortable it was to sit on the floor wedged within an all-in-one desk.

Davis doesn’t know why she didn’t return the item. The silver lining of keeping it, though, is that if any young children come to her house and want to play school, there is an uncomfortable seat that’s ready for use, she said.

In the first few weeks after the first confirmed case of COVID in the U.S., people were making all types of purchases. According to a CNBC story from March 2020, in addition to medical supplies and pantry items, “people have begun shelling out money for entertainment.”

Davis said she wasn’t immune from making early pandemic entertainment purchases. She remembered seeing an ad on social media for an oversized colorable map. Having already purchased numerous crafts in the first few days of the pandemic, she thought it might be fun for her family to color an extended tablecloth-sized item together. But as opposed to buying a map of the U.S. and learning more about the nation’s geography, Davis bought an oversized picture of a llama.

Why would someone want to color a large blank camelid? Because llamas are cool and “anything oversized is so exciting,” Davis said.

Once the project arrived, though, Davis quickly learned the challenge of working with enormous art.

“It took so long to do anything,” she said. “It took so long to color. It was just annoying.”

So, with no one pining to color the pack animal, the giant item was eventually shelved. Nearly 20 months have passed since Davis made her first regretful pandemic purchase. She said she’s learned a few lessons about easily spillable beads, a desk that’s not conducive for studying and a llama no one wants to color. Those lessons, she continued, could be helpful for future purchasers.

“Maybe think about things that are useful post-pandemic,” Davis said. Once this period is over, “we probably won’t need to sit at a floor desk.” PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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