"The Bottle Deposit, Part 1" - Season 7 Episode 21 of Seinfeld First Airs
"The Bottle Deposit" is a two-part episode, and the 131st and 132nd episode and 21st and 22nd episode of the seventh season of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld.
It aired on May 2, 1996.
The episode was written by Gregg Kavet & Andy Robin and was directed by Andy Ackerman.
Since he will be out of town, Mr. Peterman wants Elaine to bid for him on a set of golf clubs owned by John F. Kennedy at an auction. He tells her he is willing to go as high as $10,000 for the clubs. Jerry thinks he hears a strange clunking noise in his car and asks Kramer and Newman, who had previously borrowed the car, about it, but they don't know anything. Newman learns that bottles and cans can be refunded for 10 cents in Michigan (as opposed to 5 cents in many other states), but Kramer tells him it's impossible to gain a profit from depositing the bottles in Michigan due to the total gas, tollbooth and truck rental fees that would compile during the trip, noting he had tried it before but "couldn't crunch the numbers." Newman becomes obsessed with finding a way to make such a scheme work.
Meanwhile, George is scolded by Mr. Wilhelm for not paying attention when he gives him orders. George promises it won't happen again, but shortly after, Mr. Wilhelm begins talking of a big project for him to do just as he enters the bathroom. After waiting outside for a short while, George decides to go in, too. But when he enters, he finds that Wilhelm, who had thought George had followed him inside the entire time, had unknowingly been telling about the details of the big project out loud to nobody. Not wanting him to think he wasn't paying attention again, George pretends he heard everything. He later asks Jerry what to do and Jerry tells him to ask Wilhelm a follow-up question.
Jerry then takes Elaine to the auction, where they bump into Sue Ellen Mischke, the bra-less "Oh Henry!" candy bar heiress, who taunts them about "getting a glimpse of high society." During the bidding, they start a bidding war over JFK's clubs, and Elaine ends up paying $20,000, twice what she was authorized by Peterman to spend. Jerry again hears a loud clunking noise while dropping Elaine off. Elaine decides to leave the clubs in Jerry's car and pick them up later. As he starts to leave, smoke begins billowing out from under the hood and Jerry finds out that Kramer and Newman had left some groceries in his car engine.
He visits Tony (Brad Garrett), a mechanic who is obsessed with car care. George tries to use Jerry's suggestion at work the next day, and Wilhelm unknowingly drops a hint: to get started, he first has to go to payroll. There, the clerk gives George a hard time because he's not being specific enough about "the project." The clerk calls Wilhelm to verify George's claims, but doesn't drop George any further hints.
Meanwhile, Newman, who has spent days trying to calculate a profit to the deposit scheme, realizes that there will be a surge of mail the week before Mother's Day (the "mother of all mail days") to be sorted in Saginaw, Michigan. He tells Kramer that he signed up for a mail truck that would carry spillover mail from the other four main trucks, leaving plenty of space left over in theirs for bottles and cans to refund in Michigan. Kramer realizes that by avoiding truck rental fees, Newman has found a loophole and they set off collecting cans and bottles around the city.
Wilhelm visits George to see how he is doing with the project. George informs him that he went down to payroll and Wilhelm asks if he is going downtown then. When asked if "going downtown is really necessary for the project", Wilhelm tells George that he has to go downtown, and mentions the Petula Clark song 'Downtown.' Thinking it's another clue, George and Jerry try to decipher it, but to no avail. George considers coming clean and admitting to Wilhelm that he has no idea what the project is. Jerry goes home and finds a message from Tony saying he needs to talk to him at the Auto Shop. Elaine calls shortly after and wants to pick up Peterman's golf clubs. Jerry tells her he left them in the car at the mechanic's, so they decide to meet up there.
Tony wants to make a lot of changes to the car, but Jerry doesn't want to spend so much money. He asks Tony if he could just have it back so he can take his business elsewhere. Tony is disappointed, but tells him he'll bring the car out front for him. Elaine arrives and meets Jerry to pick up the clubs just in time to see Tony driving away with Jerry's car.