“I Have More Than One”

I am naturally a hoarder. No, not like that guy who stacked 50 microwaves floor to ceiling in his basement. And definitely not like that woman who has every People magazine since the 30s collecting dust in her attic. But you know the people who stockpiled canned goods in the ’50s to put into their bomb shelters? I’m like them.

It started innocently enough at Target one day. I was searching for laundry detergent and I saw this sign that said…


I can’t tell you how badly that sign made me want a $5 dollar gift card. It was like the card was hovering there in the air in place of the sign with the picture of the card, waving me home, a screaming third base coach who knew how fast I was and wanted me to score. So, even though I only needed one container of laundry detergent, I came home toting six of them, my wallet poorer for the enterprise.

But I proudly held up three $5 dollar gift cards and fanned them out for my wife to see when she got home that night. I was ecstatic… until she gave me the blank look, the one that says, “Why the damn hell did you buy so much laundry detergent?” Apparently she hadn’t grasped the enormity of what I had just accomplished.

“But babe, look at these gift cards!” I told her, waving them around, tossing them in the air like I was letting it rain at a strip club. Okay, maybe that was the wrong thing to do because once they were no longer in my hand the look deepened.

“You could have spent that money in a better way,” she said, and I was crestfallen. I scrambled to pick up the gift cards and tuck them out of sight. I thought to myself, “Maybe I should have just gotten two.”

But in time I think I convinced her that the gift card can hold a lofty place in the annals of spendthriftery if given the chance. Because that was just the beginning of my philosophy that, “If it’s something we will eventually utilize, why not get it now at a discount?”

TargetClearanceThis philosophy began to take on a mind of its own when our youngest child was in pull-ups and the size she wore suddenly went on 75% off clearance. The day it happened I watched the workers slap red sticker after red sticker on package upon package. When I asked them why it was suddenly Christmas they told me about the 50+ more packages in the back that they would be ticketing later.

OMG. I was in heaven. To get those usually expensive pull-ups at such a discounted rate was something I had only dreamt of until that point. I immediately texted my wife (she of little faith) and told her the mind-numbing news, so drunk was I on the amount of savings that it was difficult for her to make out my actual meaning through the mounds of autocorrect fodder I sent her in those first moments.

But, glory be, she sent me back the missive I had initially expected after the laundry detergent coup:

“Get every single one you can shove in a cart!”

She didn’t have to tell me twice. I was already moving before I even read the last few words, so intent was I on making sure the secret remained mine at least until I had loaded my cart, as I had been instructed to do. Package after package of pull-ups made its way into my cart, dominoes tumbling one after another until it was indeed full. Sure, the price tag was pretty hefty as the cashier rang me out, but looking at the amount of savings was enough to make me giddy once more.

Time and again I’ve taken advantage of these kinds of deals, buying multiples of items I know we will eventually use, and storing them up hoarder style somewhere in the house. I often look them over before the pile inevitably goes down, smiling to myself that I was able to make out so well. The list goes on, from deodorant, to lotion, to baby wipes, to dish detergent, to everything in between — even bread.

Price Chopper had this deal on bread where if you buy one loaf you get two free, but they only let each customer get three of these deals per week. My wife and I came up with a plan. First we bought a standalone freezer (it would be worth it for other frozen deals in future). Then I went to the store and purchased the three loaves, juggling nine out the door and into my car. The following day my wife headed off to the same store, bringing home an additional nine loaves.

We froze all but one loaf of that bread, ecstatic that the other seventeen were safely tucked away, nearly filling the standalone freezer. Three weeks later, when the same deal once again made itself known, back we went, one by one, to Price Chopper to replenish our freezer stash. I finally made a believer out of my life partner, and it was a good feeling.

The freezer has just about paid for itself in free bread by this point. Maybe I have a problem.



Hating Earl

Walmart_Name_Tag_Stock_by_FightforastupidcauseJeannette hated shopping. The old man just inside the door at WalMart always smiled at her in that creepy way that reminded her of Fraggle Rock, and she tried to avoid him as much as was humanly possible. The problem was that she was never quite sure at which door he would be stationed, and she always chose the wrong one. Once, at Christmas time, they even had him ringing the Salvation Army bell and collecting donations. His name tag read “Earl.”

She had thought about reporting Earl to his superiors, to someone slightly higher up the WalMart food chain, but soon rejected the idea because she was a wuss. Willie, her ex, always called her a pushover, the kind of girl who would put up with a lot before finally admitting that it wasn’t going to work. She guessed it worked just as well in WalMart liaisons as it did in personal relationships. It still pissed her off, though, that Willie was right, at least in this one thing.

There were many things that made her tick, the girl who hated shopping and was a pushover. She was a sucker for any kind of plush animal. Once she caught Willie cheating on her with Lean Lynette down the hall and swore she would cut off his balls, but the next day he brought her the 8 foot tall stuffed bear from Macy’s that she knew was $89 bucks, and she forgave him on the spot. His balls were still intact. In addition to her plush animal thing, she also grew close to people way too quickly. It always backfired on her.

But Jeannette needed underpants. No, not thongs, because they always wandered up her crack and she hated that feeling, but plain old honest to goodness panties, reinforced, for her sense of security. Oh, and they always had to be white, because who knew if she would be going to bed alone. Okay, who was she kidding? She always went to bed alone since Willie ditched her ass. Her old underpants were falling apart, so she girded herself up and took a drive to WalMart, hoping she would spin the wheel right and end up at the door unguarded by Earl.

Earl was one of those old guys who had a perpetual five o’clock shadow going on. In fact, it had been going on so long she had taken to calling it an eleven o’clock shadow, and she smiled to herself whenever she thought of it. He was obviously a beer drinker too, because while his chest and legs seemed proportionate for a guy his height, his belly made him look like he was eight months pregnant. She thought that any day he might go into labor and grant her some peace when walking into her favorite store.

He made her think of that ancient Dixie Chicks song, “Goodbye Earl,” where the narrator kills off her husband in a rage, and gets away with it. Sometimes Jeannette thought of killing off Earl and leaving him in a shallow grave, but only sometimes. He was a thorn in her side, but only when she went shopping. If he became a stalker, though… she thought to herself how lucky he was to have escaped that distinction. Perhaps if she wore something a little more revealing next time she went shopping she might change that, and then feel justified in taking him out, Chicks-style.

First, however, she had to get that underwear. She figured she could motor through the sliding doors, and Earl or no Earl, she would make a beeline for the hanging Hanes rack in the exact center of the store. She had to stop herself from thinking about how some women actually tried on the underpants in the store, how they went into the dressing room with a few pair, came back out, and hung them back up. Ewwwww. It was hard to get the image out of her head once it was situated there, so she tried to think of her favorite actor instead. Yeah, Zac Efron always did the trick.

She was unlucky as Earl was dead center between the ENTER and EXIT doors when she entered, intent upon her underpants. He intercepted her as usual before she was even able to dodge his meaty hands. He smelled of beer and piss, and she wondered who did the vetting before anyone was hired at that particular WalMart, at any particular WalMart. When she finally reported him she would also report the hiring manager, whoever that happened to be. There was absolutely no way Earl should still have a job, not with his meaty hands and his beer and piss smell. Seriously.

He pawed her as usual, getting his hand around her waist, and she involuntarily gagged, sliding out of his grip and wishing him dead at high volume inside of her head at the same time. Hating Earl had become her favorite past time, she realized in that moment. It had replaced Desperate Housewives as her drug of choice, yes, even the Desperate Housewives that came on Lifetime on repeat every weekday in the afternoons, the marathon kind. It was close, but hating Earl was better because he was real, because she could ultimately do something about him, and the network cancelling Housewives was out of her hand.

Making a detour after leaving Earl in the dust, Jeannette headed into the sporting goods section and found her a Swiss army knife. She had never used one before, but the diagram on the packaging looked easy enough. A smile sprang to her face, a Cheshire cat, shit-eating grin that took her over from ear to ear as she fondled that knife in her delicate hands. It was time to do something about that old man at the entrance to her favorite store or she would never again enjoy a good shopping experience. She had to do it for all the times she hadn’t done it. That sounded good in her mind, good enough anyway.

She pocketed the knife and headed for the intimates section. It was time to try on some underwear in the WalMart dressing room. And it was going to feel so good against her skin.


Brown Thursday

As the rush came around the corner, past the TVs and into Toys and Electronics, I saw the look in their eyes, the one that said, “I have not been having a good day. You will give me what I came for.” I just wanted to tell them that it wasn’t worth it, that they should have stayed home in a turkey-induced coma instead of fighting the traffic, and being herded in like sheep outside the store for several hours, just to get a cartful of beats by dre headphones (maybe they saw that A.J. Green commercial) or all 9 seasons of Supernatural. I wanted to let them know that I understand their decision, though, that I know what it’s like to want everything for our family members, for our children, and yes, also for ourselves, but doing the Brown Thursday dance just isn’t worth the hassle.

They all start to look the same, too, as the night goes on, those zombies with carts, going through the motions as if they know they’re supposed to but they aren’t quite sure why. They’re the same ones who live and die for deals, who give up their time for discounts, even if they neither want nor need whatever is being discounted. They’re the same ones who fought over Cabbage Patch dolls, who camped out for the Wii, and who bring huge binders full of coupons to the store every single time they shop. They want the stuff because it’s there, and because it’s cheap, and because everybody else is doing it.

I looked into their eyes on another Brown Thursday and I saw my own staring back at me.


Mall Benches

imageI’ve never really been a fan of the mall, even though each one has probably about five stores that I adore. Because for every Best Buy there are five ladies clothing stores, and for each five minutes spent in Kay B Toys there are two hours spent holding a purse while even more clothing gets tried on. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. Just telling it like it is.

From the time I was a kid I got used to mall trips. When Sears was in the mall it was all about portraits. Now my family didn’t get portraits every single year, and sometimes they were taken in the back of Pathmark or Acme, but occasionally we would doll ourselves up for the Sears drill. That involved more money than was probably prudent but it produced better results than the back of Pathmark, at least my mother said so.

And I would see the boyfriends, husbands, and fathers sitting on benches outside of the food court, the men who always looked bored and lost, like they had just stumbled in and couldn’t find their way out again. They twiddled their thumbs or stretched their arms over the balcony behind them that led to lower floors that carried even more women’s clothing stores. These men would only stir to relieve their ladies of bags on their way to the next store.

I vowed never to be one of those bored, lost guys sitting on mall benches, waiting for the next bag to be dumped in their laps. Yet here I am, at the biggest mall in Syracuse, trailing behind my wife and children, waiting for that next bag. And it’s okay. I guess time does indeed change things because it’s 30 years later and I know young boys are passing me in the halls of the mall and are wondering how I can still be smiling while holding these bags.


It’s because I avoid those benches. Plain and simple. Those guys I remember from way back when, all they did was sit and stew about how they didn’t want to be in the mall, about how they’d rather be somewhere else. Well, they shouldn’t have come then. Don’t think that you’re doing your lady a favor by “being there” for her because you’re not. You’re being there for the bench. She could bring a rolling case to keep her bags in. She wanted to spend time with you as you support her in her retail therapy, not look for you on the nearest bench.

So I go into the stores, and I offer my honest opinion on her selections, and I blog about the experience while we wait in the Apple store for the “geniuses” to fix my daughter’s iPad. I enjoy my family time because that’s what it is, not my private time with a bench I may never see again. And I smile because this is what I signed on for 11 years ago when I married the woman of my dreams.

And yes, she lets me go to Best Buy every once in awhile too. I’m good.


Keeping It Brand, Part 12

Toys, toys, and more TOYS.

T’is the season once again, when hordes of people descend upon retail establishments, searching for the latest and greatest in electronics, entertainment, toys, and games. These kindly folks are given lists by their diligent children, or grandchildren, or nieces, or nephews, or godkids, lists of items for Santa to bring them. These items range from beats by dre headphones, to BMX bikes, to Lego Chima, to Monster High dolls, to basically anything else you can find on the shelves with a price tag on it. And each year, the “must-haves” are different. This year’s “must-haves” were:


  • Playstation 4
  • Zoomer robot dog
  • Doc McStuffin’s Checkup Center
  • Razor scooters
  • Logo Party board game
  • Lego Friends sets
  • Our Generation dolls and accesories
  • Rubber band bracelets
  • Crayola Crayon Maker
  • Flutter-bye dolls

I know they were the “must-haves” because of the plethora of phone calls to the store from 8 o’clock on every morning since November 12th, asking for the availability of said items. That’s of course in addition to the people wanting bungee chairs, rocker chairs, microwaves, Kitchen-Aid attachments (and mixers), vacuum cleaners, Keurig machines, and beer making kits. It honestly blows my mind the sheer numbers generated by a retail store just in that month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Numbers of guests in the building on any given day, at any given hour. Numbers of guests through the checkout lines. Numbers of average items in each cart. Numbers of dollars spent on those items. Numbers of team members assigned to the electronics, entertainment, and toys areas of the store on any given day, at any given hour.

So THAT’S what Zoomer looks like!

And this year I was responsible for two major areas of the store for the holidays: perishables, and TOYS. Now, if you’ve been following this series, you’ll know that my primary job at Target is the perishables assistant, meaning I am responsible for making sure all of our fresh food is indeed fresh, that it’s full on the floor, and that an order goes in systematically so we can maintain the other two. I think many people forget in the maelstrom over in electronics, entertainment, and toys, that food is a huge seller this time of year as well and helps to maintain the other areas of the store. Anyway, though, I was asked this year to expand my talents and take over the daunting task of also maintaining Toys. Continue reading “Keeping It Brand, Part 12”

Shopping With the Ladies

Fellas, I feel your pain.

I’ve been there more times than a little, standing in the back of a women’s clothing store while the significant ladies in my life try on outfit after outfit. Searching, sometimes futilely, sometimes not, for a chair to sit in while I wait (and sometimes nod off to sleep — careful that I don’t drool). Then I try something wise, thinking it will work out well. The car trick. I figured if I drop her off, and tell her I’ll wait in the car, that she’ll feel bad that I’m waiting out in the car, therefore coming back sooner. Uh, wrong. Three hours later I’m still sitting out there, again having nodded off. I check my watch to see what time it is — apparently something she can’t be bothered to do — and I hike myself out of the car to go hunt her down.

There’s nothing like shopping with a woman.

When men shop, we tend to go for whatever is most convenient. If I need undershirts, whichever kind are on the first rack I see, they go in the cart, provided they are in my size. If I’m jonesing for a fedora, I find the hat section quickly and grab the first one that will fit on my head. That’s done. And it’s also in the cart. The only time I check prices is if I’m in a clearance section; then I like to see how much I “saved” by purchasing it on clearance. If it’s not an essential item, it’s probably not clothes for men. When men shop and they pick up something that “wasn’t on the list,” it’s usually going to be some type of junk food, soda, or something electronic, most times all three. We tend to gravitate toward those areas of the store automatically. No one knows why or how it happens. And if the beer we like is also in the store, we grab a six-pack of that too. Better yet, toss in a 12-pack. Better safe than sorry. And when we leave a store, we’re feeling pretty good because we got out of there in twenty minutes, check out and all.

But we should honestly get medals when shopping with women.

Women are entirely different creatures from men. They have to find the exact right item, at the exact right price, in the exact right color, size, and clothing designer. And fellas, don’t ever try to pick out clothes for the lady in your life. She will laugh at you, and it will just make the shopping trip longer. Believe me. I’ve tried. However, if the lady asks for your opinion on a particular choice, always go with the last one. Here’s a tip: usually the last item a lady mentions is the one she really wants, which is why she saved it for last. So it will save you time if you always choose whichever one is the last one, regardless of whether or not you feel it suits her. You will be in the store an average of 40 minutes longer with each outfit that goes back on the rack. I’ve done the math. You can’t beat it, so help as much as you can. The mistake most guys make is what I mentioned earlier, the “sit down.” If she’s out of your sight, you’re going to be in the store longer. Guaranteed. Don’t make that mistake, guys.

And beware the mall.

You might think the mall would be great. You could split up. She checks out the clothing store, and you can go to Sam Goody (or whatever music stores are still around, if any). But remember what I said about letting her out of your sight. Don’t do it. Don’t be tempted. Maybe you can make a deal. You will go with her to get her clothes, then she has to accompany you to Sam Goody. Win-win. Usually, though, she will say no, that you don’t have enough time. Which is ironic, but please don’t point this out to her. You will be in the mall so much longer if you do. Just go with the flow, don’t let her out of your sight, don’t mention the time, and take her out to eat after the shopping is done. It will do wonders for your mood, especially if that place you go to eat has good dessert choices.


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