Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bargain Hunting

Since the recent economic downturn, bargain hunting has gone from a pastime to an Olympic-level sport. I stand in awe of friends and family whose diligence in acquiring coupons allows them to obtain $200 worth of merchandise for $20. It is perhaps this epidemic of American frugality that has spawned an outbreak of discount stores with each one claiming the title of “best bargains in town.”

Not long ago my wife and I had occasion to enter one of these bargain hunter’s paradise to look for classroom supplies and perhaps an inexpensive bookshelf. Like similar outlets, this particular store dealt in returned, refurbished, or discontinued items from upstream retailers such as Wal-Mart or Target with a few wholesale items thrown in for good measure. Unlike similar retailers, they implemented an unnecessarily confusing pricing system that had to be explained using a chart.

Each item had a price sticker and a date on it. If 30 days had passed since the date on the sticker, you would receive a 10% discount on the marked price at the case register; for every ten days past that, you received an additional 10% off until your discount topped out at 70%. After two separate trips to the store entrance to reference the chart, I felt confident that we were ready to bargain hunt.

After walking up and down several aisles, my wife selected a series of interlocking floor mats that would fit nicely into her classroom d├ęcor. Utilizing the training I had received upon entering, I scoured the packaging for the two pieces of information I needed but was never able to locate a date. Confused, I took the item to customer service and requested help from the associate. The conversation was as follows:

Me: “I could not locate a date on this to calculate the discount.”
Her: “It doesn’t have one.”
Me. “Then how am I supposed to calculate the discount.”
Her: “Some items are not eligible for the discount and therefore are not marked with a date. However, not all items that do not have a date are ineligible so you should ask us even if there is not a date because they could still be eligible.”
Me: “So this eligible?”
Her: “No, but thanks for asking.”

Unsure of what had just happened, I placed the item back and we continued to browse. We did find some graph paper and walked to the register to complete our purchase. Directly ahead of us were two women who appeared to be shopping together and as we approached I heard the clerk explaining the store’s unnecessarily complicated pricing system for what had to have been the 100th time that day.

Right as he was finishing his spiel, one of the women’s phones began playing a Lil’ Wayne tune as she leisurely went about the task of unclipping it from her cleavage. Managing to answer just as Weezy dropped another f-bomb, she left her friend to continue the bargaining. Her companion was agonizing over whether she really wanted one of the items in her basket and asked the clerk if she could remove it from the packaging.

He reluctantly agreed and from the box she produced a boy’s athletic supporter and proceeded to hold it up to the light as if she was inspected a counterfeit $20 bill. Still undecided, she asked the clerk if he thought the device would fit a 12 year old boy since the packaging clearly designated it for 11 and under. Understandably reluctant to discuss the crotch of a twelve-year old boy with a complete stranger, he shrugged and mumbled something to the effect of “should be fine..”

Still holding the apparatus in her hand, she announced that while the boy was older than the indicated age he was rather “small” and should be “covered” by the device. She continued to silently study the device like a dinosaur fossil for the next few minutes until she reached a conclusion. To the relief of everyone within earshot, she returned the item to the packaging and completed her transaction without further commentary.

Do not misunderstand me; I am a big fan of financial prudence but if there is one area I would be willing to avoid returned, refurbished, or damaged items it would be the protection of my reproductive organs. You cannot expect junior to take a fast ball to the plumbs with confidence knowing that his jockstrap has a “slight manufacturing defect.”

Of course the other possibility is that the item was simply returned by the previous owner and in that case I wonder how they answered the question, “Why are you retuning the item today?”

  • This is the worst eye-patch ever….
  • Why would anyone put so many holes in a soup ladle….
  • The water balloons kept falling out….
  • My friend said he needs a much smaller size…..
  • The XL is too small. I am going to need the “Clydesdale” model
  • Our school librarian has no sense of humor……
  • I already had one that came in my box of Lucky Charms…..
  • It didn’t look right under my prom tux…..

1 comment:

  1. Coupons - it takes the patience of Job !

    ReplyDelete