AeroGarden Harvest with Gourmet Seed Pod Kit
Source: Amazon

Useless Things We Bought During the Pandemic

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AeroGarden Black Harvest Indoor Hydroponic Garden B07WCCB1BC
Amazon

Bad Choices for a Rotten Year

During this dumpster fire of a year, it's not a surprise that retail therapy didn't provide the relief many of us sought. Here are some buys that didn't turn out to be what our Cheapism staff needed amid the pandemic.

Related: 80 Things You Don't Need to Buy

'Kids Against Maturity' Card Game
Amazon

Kids Against Maturity

Initially, my kids loved this game. Some of the answers were so thoroughly ridiculous, how could they not? The positive reviews also made it seem like a no-brainer addition to our game shelf. But by the second time around, we realized most of the questions didn't fit with most of the answer cards, resulting in weird and not-funny answers. Not surprisingly, the kids got bored, fast. This game hasn't been officially retired, but it's definitely moved to the back of the stack. — Liane Starr, editor

Related: 100 Christmas Gifts for $25 or Less

McGovern Two Doors Server
Wayfair

McGovern Two Doors Server

Wayfair has a policy that damaged goods don't have to be sent back, which risks a lot of stuff winding up in the trash. The dining room server I ordered over the summer arrived with one corner bashed in, though not badly enough for me to send back or get rid of. Worse, after following assembly instructions to the final step, I discovered it was either impossible to do or at least beyond me, even though I've assembled plenty of Ikea products. I had to hire a handyperson to finish the job. It was the first and last piece of furniture I plan to buy from Wayfair. — Marc Levy, senior editor

Related: These Ikea Products Are the Hardest to Assemble, Experts Say

Solar Fairy Lights
Amazon

Solar Fairy Lights

These lights were all the rage when the pandemic first hit and we were all obsessed with making our backyards a small slice of paradise. They have since lost their luster. To begin with, the lights are incredibly tiny, so they don't provide much actual light. But maybe that wasn't the point of these in the first place? They blink and entertain the kiddos for about 10 minutes after they've been installed. So, perhaps, what more can you ask for, at the bargain price of $14? — Mia Taylor, staff writer

Related: 16 Items That Kept Us Going During the Pandemic

Buy Dried Beans
FotografiaBasica/istockphoto

Large Quantities of Dried Beans

Back in March when people were panic buying toilet paper and yeast, I, like others, thought it would be a good idea to bulk up my nonperishable food sources. This resulted in large bags of dried beans sitting in my pantry for months. What to do with these beans plagued me every day as I did not want to waste food or have purchased something in vain. I eventually ended up making a huge batch of unpalatable slow cooker bean soup that no one in my house ate. Next time (and hopefully there isn't a next time), I'll save buying dried beans in bulk as a true last resort. — Anna Christakos, production manager

Related: 20 Items You Should Avoid Buying in Bulk

3-in-1 Soil Meter with Moisture Light
Amazon

3-in-1 Soil Meter With Moisture Light

Another product purchased amid the seismic lifestyle shift caused by the coronavirus pandemic, when everyone and anyone was going to grow their own fruits and vegetables and survive without ever taking another trip to the grocery store. (Yeah, that didn't happen.) To be honest, there's nothing wrong with this product per se. It's just that it gets zero use. Because the grocery store is still the most convenient place to source vegetables that are actually edible. — Mia

Related: 32 Ways You're Ruining Your Home and Don't Even Know It

Inflatable Raft
Amazon

Inflatable Raft

In my effort to look for any socially distanced way to have summer fun, I bought an inflatable raft, thinking my family would take it out on road trips to local lakes and bop around in our very own little boat. Well, it didn't really work out that way. While portable, the raft took half an hour to pump on site, leaving everyone irritated, and then when it was time to deflate it, you had to jam a mud-covered piece of vinyl back in your trunk. No one had enough patience for it to be more than one-time use. — Jennifer Magid, editorial coordinator

Related: 21 Adventures for Thrill-Seeking Senior Travelers

 Little Tikes Trampoline
Amazon

Little Tikes 3' Trampoline

For three years, I kept Ugly Kid Things out of my home, refusing to inhabit a world of hard plastic and primary colors. But a few weeks into New York City's stay-at-home orders this spring (and after running up and down the stairwell of our 11-story building had become my preschooler's daily form of exercise), my knees and I caved. A Little Tikes trampoline that is liberally billed as "mini" arrived the next day — in bright blue instead of charcoal gray, a harbinger of my discontent. Allegedly built for kids as old as six, it buckled under my daughter's pent-up pandemic energy within the week. The "balance bar" that's there for safety? Little Tikes must have meant to say "pole vault." And although I'd been told it was foldable, and there's a slightly pricier version with a collapsible handlebar, there was no stowing this thing under a bed when not in use. Worst of all, it was too wobbly and unstable to pass along to another child, so something we used for a week is now sitting in a landfill until the end of time. — Melissa Cantor, senior editor 

Related: 25 Things That Can Wait Until the Coronavirus Lockdown Is Over

Sprinkle and Splash Pad
Amazon

Sprinkle and Splash Pad

Again, when the backyard is pretty much all you have for entertainment amid a global health crisis, adding lots of toys seems imperative. The Sprinkle and Splash pad certainly provided some summer fun ... before the nozzle where you connect the hose blew off entirely leaving a gaping hole (perhaps too much water pressure?) and the entire splash pad deflated and became unusable. Perhaps it was poorly designed. But if you can't turn the water on enough to inflate the splash pad without fear of it blowing up, how useful is this water toy anyway? — Mia

Related: 23 Sprinklers and Other Water Toys to Turn Your Backyard Into a Water Park

AeroGarden Harvest Indoor Hydroponic Garden
Amazon

Aerogarden Harvest Elite

In our pandemic boredom, we decided growing fresh herbs on our countertop was a swell idea. And for a while, it was: We ended up with more basil, cilantro, and mint than we could ever hope to use. But once the honeymoon was over, I started to resent the space this thing took up in my kitchen, the harsh growing lights, and the constant low-level gurgle of the water. And then it started harboring fungus gnats that took me a month to get rid of. Suffice it to say that the Aerogarden is now in the closet, and I'm back to happily using dried herbs. — Saundra Latham, senior staff writer

Related: How to Grow Plants and Vegetables From Kitchen Scraps

Camping Tent
Amazon

Camping Tent

I really tried to make the pandemic into a chance to turn my family into outdoorsy nature lovers. But alas, it was not meant to be for these suburban folk. The kids were still too young to appreciate the idea of sleeping in the "spooky" backyard, much less out in the woods, and if my spouse had made it this long without camping, coronavirus wasn't going to get him to start now. Oh well, next summer I'll try camping alone with my dog. — Jennifer

Related: 17 Safety Tips for Camping During the Pandemic

Nespresso Aeroccino3 Milk Frother
Amazon

Nespresso Aeroccino3 Milk Frother

Earlier in the pandemic, we went with some friends in our bubble to their cabin, and my friend brought along one of these. I quickly became enamored of our multiple "fancy" coffees each morning while we leisurely sat around planning that day's excursions and, when I got home, ordered one for myself. I used it for about a week or two, and since then it has mostly collected dust next to the coffee pot. Turns out, what seemed lovely and special on a trip away with friends was just another thing taking up space and asking to be cleaned when home working full-time and helping kids with online school. I'm not saying you shouldn't buy a milk frother, but if you're not going to use it very often, they come much cheaper than this. — Kris Scott, writer/editor

Related: Perk 'Em Up With These Great Gifts for Coffee Lovers

Ravensburger Disney Museum 9,000-Piece Puzzle
Amazon

Ravensburger Disney Museum 9,000-Piece Puzzle

I mean, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Everyone was buying puzzles back in March and April, so when we saw this bad boy at our local puzzle shop, we pulled the trigger. And I probably don't need to tell you this, but 9,000 pieces ... well, that's a lot. My family soon abandoned me in my quest, and I slowly realized that my puzzle table was nowhere near big enough for this beast, forcing me to work on the floor (and get the mother of all backaches in the process). After completing the first half, I declared that I would take a break. Spoiler alert: I'm still on that break. — Saundra

Related: 27 Things You Didn't Know About Jigsaw Puzzles

John Fluevog Shoes
John Fluevog

John Fluevog Shoes

To be clear, I don't regret buying these wacky, wonderful shoes by Canadian designer John Fluevog. They're fun. They're colorful. I also have no occasion to wear them or any other moderately high heels (or anything else that isn't a house slipper). I just have to hope they don't seem ridiculously outdated when I can leave the house again. — Liane

Related: Funny Gifts to Commemorate the Dumpster Fire That Was 2020

 Gloomhaven Game
Amazon

Gloomhaven Game

To be fair, this game has its fans — it gets 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon from more than 3,000 buyers. And, somehow, my husband convinced me this super-complicated, super-pricey, "Euro-inspired tactical combat" board game (that weighs more than 20 pounds!) might be fun and just the thing to keep us from going insane as we all sat at home and avoided catching the virus. That was April. Here we are, nearly nine months later, and guess how many times it's been cracked open: Nada. Zilch. Zip. Maybe by December 2021 I'll have an update on how fun it actually is? —Kris 

Related: 19 Fun Family Games to Keep You Entertained at Home