STEP FIVE: Green Light: A Bit of Good Luck

 $63.23 turned into $111.23

December, 2011

As a school teacher and presenter, I'm always looking for better ways to connect with young audiences. Recently, while in a local HabiStore (Habitat For Humanity re-sale shop), I came across a four-light table top stop light made for playing games in classrooms and presentations. It is called, "Who's First Game Show Buzzer".

Step Five: Bought for $10, + $40 in parts, sold for $100 
Project Profit: $111.23

 It has red, orange, green, and blue lights and is about 18" tall. It was only priced at $10 but it didn't have any of the necessary buzzers or cords. The manufacturer, Trainer's Warehouse, was listed on the side along with a phone number. I called them from the store and asked if they sold cords and buzzers for their systems. They did not.

"So just how much are your new light systems sold for?" I asked, hoping to find out if it might be cheaper and easier to just buy a new unit.

"$279.00, plus shipping" the receptionist cooly responded.

Suddenly, my $10 tower with no cords was sounding like a worthwhile project.

I bought the tower and spent about two days figuring out what type of power cord it needed (one similar to a stereo plug). The contestant buttons were powered by a cord that needed to plug into a telephone jack in the back of the unit. After plugging the light box in with a standard stereo power cord, and plugging a standard phone line into the unit and into a phone line jack in my home, the entire thing lit up and a very loud buzz emitted, indicating that this thing was still alive. No one in town could help tell me what kind of phone cord I needed until I got to Elliott Electric. The great staff there looked at the innards of my light box and told me that I actually needed a 6-conductor phone line, somewhat rare in the phone cord world. The only place I found that was at Radio Shack, along with four momentary switches (which are really just tiny buttons that when you push down on them, they spring back up when you let go). At Wal-Mart, I found a set of four plastic sippy cups that perfectly matched the four colors of the lights on the box. The folks at Elliott sold me 10 feet of wire and a six-junction telephone box. I was ready to go home and solder some connections. Within an hour, I had soldered the wires to the switches, drilled holes in the bottoms of the sippy cups (to be inverted and become housing for the buzzers), screwed the other end of the wire into the junction box and connected that to the light box. The item works like a charm, but I had spent about $40 in parts, plus the $10 for the light. Could I get my money out of this device? Similar items are selling on Ebay now for over $200 and nobody is selling pre-owned units. Would mine be able to compete with a selection of all-new units and direct from a factory, not from a guy who tinkered it together on his kitchen table using sippy cups? I decided not to chance it online and instead offer it to a local organization that does classroom games. They were happy to purchase it from me for $100. I can't claim a $90 profit, but if you take out my total expenses ($50), I'm left with a $50 profit.

Step Five: Bought for $10, + $40 parts, sold for $100. 
Project Profit: $113

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