The Art of Shopping

The following column was written in 2008 as MJ (Married Janet)

When I was a kid, I prided myself on being able to bargain for anything. I traded baseball cards with the neighborhood boys, exchanged ugly marbles for prettier ones and swapped old toys for new. I reveled in the challenge of finding and acquiring the best deal.

Some things never change. Here I am, over 40 years later, and I still love finding a  bargain. In fact, I will often refuse to buy something I want because it’s not on sale. I ask you, what greater thrill is there than getting a $50 sweater for $14.99? (Unless it’s trading two rookies for a Willie Mays….)

When I look through my closet, I’m certain that most of the clothes I own were purchased on sale. The few things hanging in there bought at full price are those my husband Jim got me. He’s a man. He doesn’t believe in sales.

Whenever I clothes shop with Jim (once every five years), his modus operandi is the following: quickly enter the store, grab the first item that might fit, refuse to try it on, pay full price, and then dash from the place before most shoppers have even parked their cars.

Browsing is a foreign word to Jim. I guess you could say he is not a true shopper. True shoppers spend hours looking for bargains, driving miles to save ten dollars.

When I shop for Jim, he has two requests: no sale items and no polyester. He only wears 100% wrinkle-when-you-look-at-it cotton. It can’t even contain 1% of the dreaded polyester. He detects it without looking at the tag. I know this because I once tried fooling him by removing the tag of his new 99% cotton shirt. He took one look, shook his head and said, “polyester.” I gave it to The Goodwill.

Because he isn’t ruled by the little red tag, Jim is under the misguided notion that quality never comes cheap. When he insisted on buying himself the most expensive luggage in the store, I settled for a perfectly functional set at a terrific bargain. I traveled to Europe and Africa with said bags, returning with nary a scratch on them. He went on an overnight business trip to Denver and came back with a rather nasty rip along the seam of his “designer” bag.

I rest my case.

When Jim is forced to shop for me at birthdays and Christmas, I’m sure it’s pure torture for him. Now don’t get me wrong. I derive only a smidgen of pleasure from his misery. This makes me feel guilty, so I end up keeping the $149 blouse instead of exchanging it for a pair of pants, a sweater and shoes.

We all have our spending quirks. I have a friend who is quite wealthy but frequently shops at garage sales. Now, those people love a bargain. One friend always complains she doesn’t have enough money, yet she rarely goes without the latest i-Pod, i-Pad, or i-don’t-know-what.

Sometimes it’s a matter of priorities and some priorities don’t come cheap. When our veterinarian said the surgery for our dog Bailey would be over $3000, I didn’t hesitate before scheduling the appointment. But yet, when our house desperately needed painting, I cringed when given a similar quote.

All I know is this – when I pay $50 for a purse that was originally $110, I leave the store feeling like I got Willy Mays and they got the rookies. Of course, Jim says it was all a ruse to make us customers think we’re getting a deal, when $50 was actually the price all along.

Obviously, he just doesn’t get it.

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