I’ve never been much of a shopper; I lack the patience for it. When I want something, I find a location, go and buy whatever it is and come home. I’m immune to the joys of browsing aisles and displays.
Years ago, after returning home from Vietnam, I avoided any crowd scenes, like busy department stores and stadiums, any large gathering. I felt unsafe, I felt overwhelmed and holiday shopping was a real chore for me. That sense of unease has largely disappeared over the past 40 years yet the act of ‘shopping’ (which seems to describe walking about, looking for an impulse purchase) does nothing for me.
‘Shopping’, at least to me, has always meant making a comparative analysis of price, quality, location and relative ease of purchase. That I do enjoy. So my joining the masses earlier today, the Friday after Thanksgiving was an uncommon choice. And just what was it that I felt so compelled to purchase?
I seem to spend a lot of time sitting, these days, largely in my own home but also in movie theaters and in my car. I also seem to spend a lot of time these days wearing pants that are often described as ‘pajama’s. Pants generally fray at the knees or cuffs; when one discovers that the heaviest area of wear is in the butt of your trousers, that suggests you might need to do less sitting and more standing. I recently discovered that my favorite ‘lounging trousers’ resembled a hospital gown, entirely open in the rear…not the sort of image a good neighbor should present when he visits his mailbox.
So I had a specific need (new pajama bottoms) and a specific inducement (a newspaper coupon, offering $10 off any $20 purchase on this day) and took the bait. The store is called Kohl’s (opened recently) and their holiday circular offered these pj’s for $7.99.) Hmmmm. Buy two pairs, buy something else (cheap!) that pushes the total over $20 and Tucker has a bargain.
Now in my parlance, a ‘bargain’ is defined as a purchase that was already intended that can be made for a significant discount. Both elements must be present at the point of purchase, otherwise, it ain’t a bargain…which means, you got played. I don’t like getting played. Finding attractive somethings at 50% off is not a bargain unless you were already shopping for those somethings. Authentic targets of opportunity are rare and one must be able to differentiate between a bargain and simply the chance to acquire more stuff. Stuff seems to be like crack cocaine to women. The mantra of a former fiance…”You never outgrow your need for STUFF” (Alternately – “I’m tired of my stuff. Pookie, I need new stuff.”)
I found my bargain pajamas in quick order, quickly chose a mock-turtleneck jersey (winter is coming) and moved to check out. I learned that all the cashiers were at registers in the front, so I found my way to the store entrance, observed a line and asked the man standing there, whether this was the front or the back. He seemed momentarily speechless, then began to gather his response and I sensed he was mustering indignation – when an elderly Asian woman tried to deftly slip past him. As he engaged her with his indignation, I realized his position was next in line to check out. I began walking past shoppers in line, I turned the corner and walked past more shoppers,then reached the end of that line and turned once more and only then began appreciating the true magnitude of this LINE. When I finally arrived at its end, by now giggling at the absurdity of an entire city block of shoppers waiting, I notice I was only a few yards away from where I’d started. The LINE circled the interior of the entire store.
My inimitable timing had placed me there at the height of the madness, which inspired this inner monologue. “Do we really want to do this, Tucker, wait in this line, just to buy some effing pajamas?” Ah, what the hell, how long could it take? (Are you serious?) I’d made my choice, I was gonna stick it out and I passed the time watching others handle their own dismay. At one point, a matronly housewife passed by, speaking aloud to no one in particular, validating her own self-regard, “I’m not going to stand in any line just to save $10!” That was precisely the truth I’d been engaging (probably along with a few hundred of my fellow shoppers.)
I mean, if asked, “Tucker, would you stand in line for maybe an hour for $10?” I’m pretty sure my response would be, “Oh, Hell, No!” Yet here I stood. So, what was up with that? Hard to say but the line was moving (however slowly), I’d already spent the time and gas driving here and the scenery was in constant change…and I’m easily entertained by watching other people behave.
There was a blue-collar couple several yards behind me, clearly a team. He maintained their place in line while she grazed, wandering the aisles and returning with choices that he either affirmed or rejected. He spent some time on his phone, talking with a friend who was apparently similarly engaged but at Fry’s, a regional electronics warehouse, whose own lines probably dwarfed those of Kohl’s. At one point, he asked his friend, “Your phone doesn’t access the web?” And he seemed to say it in understated wonder, like, “You don’t have indoor plumbing?”
Hell, my phone can barely access me;) I’m sure my phone can do all manner of intricate things…but I can’t…and have yet to reach the point where I yearn to. I’m working on telepathy.
27 Nov 09