The 10 Worst Things I Ever Bought

Last year I looked back with fond memories at the ten best things I ever bought.

At the time, I had intended to immediately publish a follow-up article up on the ten worst things I ever bought, but as you can see I got a bit side-tracked.

Anyway, after a lot of thought, I’m happy to say I finally finished.

Interestingly, this list was a lot more difficult to compile; unlike my ten best list, I really had to dig deep and think hard about the purchases that gave me the worst cases of buyer’s remorse.

So without further ado, here’s my list — in no particular order, of course. How does it compare to yours?

1. My first house

Purchase Date: 1990
Purchase Price: $114,000
Why it’s in my bottom ten: Okay, I said these items were in no particular order — but this one takes the cake. I bought my first house at the top of the market. As a result, I spent the next seven years owing more than it was worth — which meant I couldn’t sell it unless I wanted to shell out about $20,000 to the make my lender whole. So I chose to ride out the downturn, which is a reasonable strategy for most people. Unfortunately for me, this house was in a less-than-desirable neighborhood, just 100 yards from a very busy — and extremely loud — rail line that carried freight and commuter trains 24/7. I know.

2. Our ottoman

Purchase Date: 2000
Purchase Price: $400
Why it’s in my bottom ten: When we finally replaced our hand-me-down sectional with a brand new leather sofa and love seat set, the Honeybee insisted on getting the optional wheeled-ottoman too. “It’ll never get used,” I said. She insisted otherwise. Of course, she was right; but only because the kids used to pretend it was a car and “drive” it around the house. Now that the kids are older, the ottoman just sits in the corner, collecting dust.

3. A double stack guitar amplifier

Purchase Date: 1993
Purchase Price: $995
Why it’s in my bottom ten: When I was in my twenties, I had big dreams: I was going to be a rock and roll star! Of course, that meant playing the part — so I grew my hair out and bought a double stack guitar amplifier. Talk about overkill. I could have played Dodger Stadium with that thing if I wanted to. The trouble is, most of the time we were playing small bars and other venues that required more compact equipment with half the power — or less. Here’s a picture of it, with the cabinets actually sitting side-by-side in the right-hand side of the photograph:

The Relics. Upland, California (c. 1995). That's yours truly on the right. (Yes, with hair.)

4. A vacation in the Bahamas

Purchase Date: 1990
Purchase Price: $1000 (approximate)
Why it’s in my bottom ten: An ex-girlfriend decided to surprise me with a ridiculously-priced travel package “deal” to the Bahamas. For $199 we got a romantic “cruise” to our destination in Freeport, and seven days and six nights of lodging at a local “resort.” Of course, the airfare, food, and other expenses weren’t included but we didn’t care because we got the deal of a lifetime! Or so we thought. The “cruise” was on a rickety old glorified fishing boat and the “resort” was a run-down old apartment in the worst part of Freeport — miles from the beach. And it rained incessantly. Without a doubt, it was my worst vacation ever.

5. My Sony 400 CD player

Purchase Date: 2001
Purchase Price: $295
Why it’s in my bottom ten: Remember these things? The first time I laid eyes on Sony’s CDP-CX400, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Yes, the machines were humongous and bulky — after all, they tipped the scales at 9 pounds. True, they also had a clumsy programming interface. But this baby allowed me to store, play and shuffle 400 (!) music discs, which meant I could finally dump my space-wasting CD racks in the trash. Even so, my love affair with the CDP-CX400 ended less than a year after I bought it. That’s because Apple unleashed a brand new invention called the iPod, which essentially rendered the CDP-CX400 obsolete.

6. My backyard irrigation system

Purchase Date: 1998
Purchase Price: $1500 (approximate)
Why it’s in my bottom ten: When evaluating multiple contractor bids for anything, the lowest price is not necessarily the best deal – especially if the lowest price is significantly less than the other offers. To this day I’m occasionally reminded exactly why I was able to get such a “great” deal on my irrigation system, the answer revealed every time a sprinkler pipe bursts thanks to the shoddy material the contractor used to cut corners.

7. Movie rental: “The Good German”

Purchase Date: 2009
Purchase Price: $1 (rental price)
Why it’s in my bottom ten: Laugh all you want. This movie was so bad that if I had snuck into the theater to see it I’d still demand my money back. Anyway, if you’re a glutton for punishment, you can check out my official movie review here.

8. My Los Angeles Kings Alexei Zhitnik hockey jersey

Purchase Date: 1994
Purchase Price: $120
Why it’s in my bottom ten: Back in 1994, it was time to buy myself a new Los Angeles Kings hockey jersey. Of course, being the contrarian doofus that I am, I decided it would be cooler to have promising young defenseman Alexei Zhitnik’s name and number (2) sewed onto the back of it. After all, everybody had a Kings jersey with the great Wayne Gretzky’s name and number (99) on it. Dumb move. Less than a year later, the Kings traded Zhitnik to the Buffalo Sabres for a Zamboni machine and a couple of old hockey pucks. I still wear the jersey on occasion — but I’ll always regret not putting Gretzky’s name on the back when I had the chance.

9. My whirlpool tub

Purchase Date: 1997
Purchase Price: $600
Why it’s in my bottom ten: When we bought our current home, the builder asked us if we wanted to “upgrade” our master bath with a whirlpool tub. Being young and naive, I jumped at the chance. Big mistake. Within a few months of moving into our new home, it was painfully obvious that the disadvantages of whirlpool tubs far outweigh their advantages. So much so that we never use ours anymore. Trust me: whirlpool tubs are for suckers.

10. A very disappointing dinner in Maui

Purchase Date: 2011
Purchase Price: $150.00 (tip included)
Why it’s in my bottom ten: The Honeybee and I were vacationing in Wailea, Hawaii and happened upon a fine dining place that was showcasing photos of the owner posing with rocker Steven Tyler in the restaurant’s dining room. Cool! Naturally, we figured if Steven Tyler was willing to pose for pictures with the owner, the food there must be fabulous, right? Wrong. To make a long story short, the food was terrible — not to mention over-priced. You can bet that’s the last time I ever go to any restaurant with photos of Steven Tyler at the front door.

Photo Credit (truck): p. Gordon


  1. 1


    Steven Tyler… always leading people astray. *sigh.

    Oh, and don’t even get me started on the overpriced ottomans.. For some reason women think they’re such a good idea, but no one ever actually uses them. If you want to put your feet up, get a recliner.

  2. 5

    SA says

    I agree with the Tub.
    I would like to add my recliner with that. In three years I used that two times.

    • 6

      Len Penzo says

      I don’t own a recliner, so I am agnostic on those. My father-in-law, Tony, is missing his recliner right now. In fact, he recently mentioned he was in the market for a new one. (I said “new one,” SA.) 😉

      As Peter suggested, for those clamoring for an ottoman, recliners seem like a wiser alternative.

  3. 7


    It sounds like your purchases made quite an impression on you! I don’t think I can remember much of anything I purchase unless they are big ticket items, like my house or my car. Although, there was this one bedside table I bought for about $60 and I swear it was put together with glue and scrap pieces of wood. It was so rickety and terrible, I couldn’t use it after a week of owning it.

    • 11

      Len Penzo says

      You’re right, Lance. I bought my current home at the bottom of the last housing run-up for $200k. It’s value climbed as high as $750k and it’s now supposedly worth about $450k — so I probably don’t ever have to worry about being upside down on this one. As I see it, I paid my dues with that first house.

  4. 12


    As an Angels season ticket holder for eight years, I would never buy a jersey with a player’s name on it. They change the players in professional sports faster than they change their underwear. Team and player loyalty is one thing I really miss from the old days.

    • 13

      Len Penzo says

      You’re right about player-team loyalty, Bret. Ever since the Zhitnik debacle, in addition to your solution, I also sometimes go with beloved retired players who are (preferably) hall-of-famers or soon-to-be hall-of-famers. My latest Kings jersey, for example, carries Luc Robitaille’s name and number on the back. My next Dodger jersey will probably have manager Tommy Lasorda’s number on it.

    • 15

      Len Penzo says

      There’s a couple of items there I approximated, Julie — but point taken! When it comes to my finances, I tend to have a mind like a steel trap.

      As for the “The Good German” … you’ve been warned! :-)

  5. 16


    Worst thing I ever bought: Paid a premium for a York Triathlon gas AC/heat pump to replace the old HVAC system. It was supposed to be super efficient and save “up to” 50% on heating and cooling bills. It actually had a natural gas powered engine to operate the compressor. Sounded like a lawnmower engine when it cranked up.

    Buying a leading edge (i.e., bleeding edge) HVAC system taught me the meaning of “pioneer” – the guy with all the arrows in his back.

    When it worked, it was actually efficient, but it needed a LOT of service calls. The frequent breakdowns were covered by warranty, but regular maintenance easily cost double a normal HVAC system, more than wiping out any energy savings. The system was eventually replaced as part of a class action law suit.

    • 17

      Len Penzo says

      I know. That’s why I try to not buy anything “cutting edge” unless it has been on the market for a few years, DC. I get it though, I’m sure it seemed like a really good idea at the time.

      Then again, I should talk … I’m pretty sure that Sony 400 CD player was out only a year or so when I bought it. (Like I tell my kids, “Do as I say, not as I do.”) he he

  6. 18


    When we bought our family room set, I actually insisted on the ottoman. It does get used for its intended purpose and it also serves as an extra ‘chair’ when we have company. But, the kids do use it to play on, though they haven’t figured out to push it around. They just put toys on and around it.

    • 19

      Len Penzo says

      But, the kids do use it to play on, though they haven’t figured out to push it around.

      Oh trust me … they will! (Whether it has wheels or not.)

    • 21

      Len Penzo says

      Ours holds the family room blankets. It kind of reminds me of our old treadmill, which ended up being a clothes hangar after we eventually got tired of using it.

      Now that I think of it, our whirlpool tub is also an occasional repository for other stuff on “death row” waiting to be placed out on the curb for bulk trash pick up.

    • 25

      Len Penzo says

      ha ha hee hee … good one, Paul.

      Sadly, I no longer have that cool jacket because I, um, outgrew it.

      I bought it at a “hip” mall-based clothing retailer called Chess King (anyone remember those stores?) that went out of business about 15 years ago.

      As for the hair cut … no comment. 😉

  7. 26


    I am still laughing that “The Good German” made it onto your list. And I completely agree that recliners totally trump ottomans.

    Thanks about mentioning Whirlpool tubs – we are paying nearly $6000 for master bath upgrades in the new house but a Whirlpool tub isn’t one of them, yay! Why do we need a shower big enough for 3-4 people, I will never know…I sometimes let hubby win.

    • 31

      Len Penzo says

      Yes. The new owners assumed my existing loan. I don’t think many mortgages today are assumable, however. It is a terrific luxury to have though — especially when the market is depressed.

  8. 32

    Norman says

    When I was in my 20s and newly married, mid-1980s, we paid $600 for a BETAMAX hi-fi player. I loved how it sounded with my stereo speakers. Within a year, betamax was out and VHS was in. After 30 years, I still remember that bad decision because I learned from it.

    • 33

      Len Penzo says

      Ah yes … Betamax. A classic example of why better technology doesn’t always make for a better business model.

      Just as a point of reference, the $600 you paid in the mid 80s is the equivalent of almost $1300 in today’s dollars. I know. I certainly feel your pain.

  9. 36

    Rick B says

    There are two types of people who can honorably wear a jersey with another man’s name on it:

    1. Little kids
    2. The woman he is sleeping with

  10. 39


    The worst thing I ever bought was a muppet puppet. I thought I wanted to be a puppeteer. Don’t laugh….I was about 10 years old. Luckily I was able to sell it on Craigslist. I only wish I had bought it there too. Now when I want to try a new hobby-I start with Craigslist first!

  11. 40


    It’s funny how things that seem good at the time can quickly turn to unwanted items. We look back and wonder what the attraction was, but somehow it was there at the time. I often wonder how much I would have saved if I hadn’t bought certain items that I wish I hadn’t.

  12. 41


    Com on Lenzo, if the DVD and hot tub are your worst purchases, your life is pretty darn good!

    I would sit in my whirlpool tub every afternoon after tennis. I sit in my jet tub for literally an hour three times a year. Low maintenance!


  13. 42

    Victor White says

    Buying a cellphone and after a few months later a new model was out with better specs and low price…:(

  14. 45

    Dutch says

    I have to agree with your number 1. MY house was quite awful too – one of the worst decisions I made in life.


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