Answer Man: How can I fold my T-shirts like Sheldon on 'The Big Bang Theory?

News-DemocratJune 10, 2013 

Q. On "The Big Bang Theory" is the thing that Sheldon uses to fold his T-shirts available? Now that I have retired, I wear T-shirts all the time, and I can't always smooth out the wrinkles.

-- S.L., of Belleville

A. Think you have problems? Pity poor Debbee Barker when she tried to nag her young daughters into doing the family wash more than a decade ago.

"They would do the laundry, and they'd put it in the laundry basket," the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., woman once told Donny Deutsch on "The Big Idea." "But it would never get folded."

Unwilling to let her kids look like fashion prunes, the clothes-minded mother decided to teach them a lesson. She went to the garage, cut up a cardboard box and, with lots of duct tape, made a crude device that folded clothes quickly and simply.

"The problem with folding is that everybody folds something to a different size," she said. "So if I got them a way to fold the exact same size every time by making them a little guide ..."

At the time she had no idea that millions of other folks needed the same item, only they didn't know it. But when one of her daughters said one day she had learned about patents in school, a light clicked on. With encouragement from her husband, she soon patented and trademarked the FlipFold.

She remembers her family assembling the first prototypes in that same garage, although cardboard gave way to plastic. They made 200, and Barker rented a table for $500 from a friend at a T-shirt convention in Las Vegas. She sold out in three hours, she said.

Since 2001, the FlipFold has been a staple of the Home Shopping Network with sales in the millions of dollars. Made in a variety of colors, it folds clothes fast and precisely with three simple flips. It has holes to eliminate static and five small feet to make the job easier. So, it was a no-brainer that nerdy Sheldon would be seen using one on the Sept. 22, 2008, episode of "Big Bang" -- and numerous times since.

You can find the original FlipFold at www.hsn.com, where you can buy either two full-size boards or an original and a junior board for smaller items for about $35, including shipping. Or you can find them at The Warehouse Store at 1769 S. Brentwood Blvd. in St. Louis, just south of the Galleria. (It's the only store that carries them, Barker says.) Reviews are overwhelmingly positive with 260 of 337 reviewers giving it five stars although a few reported quality issues.

Of course, as with anything that catches fire, you'll find numerous, less expensive versions at amazon.com. Search for "FlipFold," and you'll get everything from the MiracleFold for $24.99 to the Fast Speed Adjustable Folder for $12.25.

Others might want to check out the cosmetics organizer and the Flip 'N Dazzle Jewelry Organizer, designed to assist beaders, at flipfold.com.

Q. When Kaley Cuoco says "no bidding" on those Priceline commercials, what does that mean?

-- T.M., of O'Fallon

A. She means precisely what she says. For people needing a quick answer or those who hate to haggle, priceline.com now prominently offers an "Express Deal" feature next to Cuoco's smiling face.

Just click on "Search Express Deals" and answer four simple questions, and you'll be given a lengthy list of choices for hotels in various ratings categories. Apparently you never know what hotel until you lock in the deal, but it says you can save up to 45 percent over published rates without bidding.

Of course, if you want to go where other travelers have gone before, you can go the William Shatner route and try to name your own price.

Q. On June 21, the St. Louis Cardinals will give away a beer stein that commemorates the team's first World Series win in 1926. I can't go to the game. Will they be selling that stein anywhere?

-- J.B., of Belleville

A. Sorry, you may strike out unless you attend the game. The idea of such items is to entice you to attend the game, so the Cardinals never sell them, Brian Bartow, the team's media relations director told me.

However, if you check on June 22, you'll likely see a few popping up on eBay (and other auction sites) as fans try to make money on the treasure. Another 1926 ceramic tankard already is available there for $35.

Today's trivia

What did David Dunbar Buick do before starting the Buick Motor Co. at age 49?

Answer to Sunday's trivia: Four months ago, Mississippi became the last Southern state to ratify the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. In 1995, the state passed a resolution to ratify the amendment, but a copy was never sent to the Office of the Federal Register to make it official. After seeing "Lincoln," Dr. Ranjan Batra, of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, discovered this oversight, prompting the state to submit the paperwork to the register on Jan. 30. On Feb. 7, the state was notified that it had finally ratified the 13th Amendment -- some 148 years after it was first passed.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com

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