The Outrageous Cost of Discount Stores

CartAll we needed was a bulb for the yard-light that bathes our driveway in blue twilight and serves as a navigational beacon for all air traffic between the Appalachians and Rockies.

At fifty bucks a pop, you could say the bulb was a bit over-priced but it’s a bargain compared to the cost of the trip to get one.

For instance, last Friday we swung by Fleet Farm, our local discount mega-store, with the singular intention of picking up one item, a light bulb.  An object no larger than the human hand. So what did my wife do upon entering the store? She grabbed a cart.

“Why do you need a cart?” I asked

“To carry my purse,” she said.

I looked at her purse. I looked at the cart. I looked on helplessly as she vanished into the canyons of consumer goods carrying the mystery of why such a small purse requires such a large cart.

When I caught up, I asked yet another imponderable question, “What are you looking for?”

“Nothing,” she said, “just looking.”

Just looking.

I know those words well. It’s what my children said when caught eyeing the cookie jar. It’s what the cat told the parakeet. It’s what my wife says about shopping.

Halfway down the aisle, she halted before a large bin.

“Oooo,” she exclaimed, “collapsible curtain rods!”

Again, “why?”

“Because our old ones are junk,” she said.

I examined the rods. What I saw was something made cheaply, shipped economically and sold in bulk. What I did not see was something capable of holding cloth over a window. Regardless, the rods went into the cart – in bulk.

We wandered further down the aisle before stopping again to layer bag after bag of Halloween candy over the bed of curtain rods covering the bottom of the cart. The task brought to mind a prior trip to Fleet Farm.

“Honey, isn’t our pantry full of candy?”

She ignored me but I persisted. Finally she wrinkled her nose and reported, “Yes, but it’s very old.”

We wandered some more.

Shortly thereafter, a six-pack of mouth-wash crested the candy mountain. I questioned that too but she cut me off, explaining to me and everyone else at Fleet Farm, exactly it was who needed mouthwash – by the six-pack.

As our journey down the aisle neared its end, she stopped and backtracked to snatch up an arm-load of Christmas wrap.

“You can never get enough,” she said.

You can never get enough.

So much said and so much fortune lost in five short words….

Upon exiting the aisle, the cart immediately nosed into Aisle 2: Children’s Apparel.

“You got to be kidding,” I groaned.

“The grand-kids need underwear,” she said, then added reassuringly, “Nothing here is expensive. Oh, would you get another cart?”

Again, “Why?”

“Because you’ll need one,” she said, pointing slyly at the sign hovering between children’s apparel and Electrical… Discount Books.

Oooo, discount books…

“I’ll meet you at the check-out line.”

***

At the register, I monitored the total as the scanner kept time with the piped in music.

“Beep – $6.15.”

“Beep – $8.22.”

“Beep – $10.34.”

A magazine caught my eye – Top Ten Bikini Shots of 2009… When I turned back to the monitor the screen read $46.98.

$49.32.

When I unloaded the candy – the scanner made another move.

$116.32.

$118.89.

By the time it was over, the register read $365.88.

My wife beamed, “Think of all the money we just saved!”

***

Out in the parking lot, as we piloted our raft of carts up a river of slush, I suddenly stopped and slapped my head.

“Drat,” I said, “I forgot the bulb for the yard-light.”

“Well, let’s go back and get it.”

I agreed.

“But this time,” I suggested, “let’s leave your purse in the car.”

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