I’d call that a bargain, The best I ever had.
— The Who
True story: My wife came in one day and told me an item she’d “had her eye on” at one of the local retail outlets had been reduced to half-price.
(In fairness, this individual item mentioned in paragraph one is serving as an amalgam for any number of items — it could have been a new dress, a One Direction concert T-shirt, a pair of black heels, cookware, the latest James Lee Burke novel, the Jeff Beck retrospective box set or a quarter-panel for the old pickup on the Fletcher ranch that I accidentally dented last week … but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)
I asked, expectantly, “Are you going to show it to me?”
“Oh, no,” she said. “I didn’t get it. It’s not quite where it needs to be yet. I’ll keep watching it. When it gets down to the right price, then I’ll get it.”
Sure enough, a good three or four months later, long after I’d even remembered the exchange, she came walking in with the item, a gleam in her eye. Then we played the guessing game (which, frankly, I believe she loves to play because it emphasizes one of her — many — superior skills in comparison to my own).
She: “Guess how much I paid for it.”
Me: “Ummm … fifty bucks?”
She (laughing): “Nope, way too high.”
Me: “Forty dollars?”
She: “Still too high.”
Turns out she paid 15 dollars for the item. And she had the sales ticket to prove it.
Now, part two of the guessing game.
She: “Guess how much it was originally.”
Me (wanting to steal some of her thunder by guessing ridiculously high): “Two hundred fifty?”
She: “Nope … more.”
Me (now duly impressed): “Two hundred seventy-five?”
She: “Still too low.”
Turns out the item had an original price of $325, and, yes, she had the original price tag to prove that as well. I’m always amazed when my wife — and our daughter, who at 11 is already an accomplished bargain-hunter in her own right, although she has enough of her father’s impatience to hate the waiting part — comes in with one of these mega bargains. See, it never would have occurred to me that you could actually buy something that listed for $325 for $15 if you have enough patience to wait the retailer out.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the primary differences between men and women. For them, shopping is a sport, a game of cat and mouse in which those with the most patience — and a reliable network of fellow shop-a-holics who have a bargain hotline through which they keep each other apprised of all big sales — can save a boatload of money. Never mind that many of the items they buy (mink-lined work gloves dyed pink for that just right working girl fashion statement, reduced from $20,000 to 48 cents anyone?) have limited, if any, value.
This, on the other hand, is me, and from what I’ve gathered, a good 60 to 74 percent of the heterosexual male population (not that I’m criticizing the non-heterosexual male population … but many of them tend to think differently about things like shopping): I’m going to the store to get … anything — a dozen eggs, a new pair of jeans, the latest Vampire Weekend CD, Easter egg dye, banana popsickles. And that’s what I get. I don’t spend a bunch of time looking at all the other neat displays or looking around for bargains.
I get what I went to get and hustle out of the store as quickly as possible.
And, of course, that means I end up paying retail prices without ever considering that with a little patience and maybe some comparison shopping, I might have saved enough to afford two Little Red Doghouse dogs rather than one for lunch the next week. (As that renowned prophet and philospher Cosmo Kramer always said, “Retail is for suckers.”)
Don’t think for a second that retailers don’t know the difference — in profit margins — they’ll make when they target men shoppers (you know, with ad campaigns that feature former quarterbacks or hot girls in bikinis) as opposed to their much craftier wives and girlfriends. In fact, they might as well start putting “men’s” and “women’s” labels on their products.
Even knowing these tricks of the retail trade, knowing full well that I’m being taken for a ride, you’ll never overhear me making this call: “Hey, David, you’ve got to get to Target right now. They’ve got those six-packs of Fruit of the Looms on sale for 60 percent off.”
I think I’d just as soon pay retail.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.