sticker shock.

I received a $50 gift card to Kohls from Josh's mother, who wrote in a postscript that she hoped we had a Kohls down in Raleightown. She further noted that they seemed to be metastasizing where they lived. It was a weird word to use, and of course made me think of Kohls as some kind of cancer. Surely she doesn't think of Kohls that way, or why would she buy a gift card from there?

Anyway, a couple of weeks later, Kohls sent me an advertisement that featured a $10 off your entire purchase card. A little 'rithmetic reveals that I had quickly acquired $60 worth of plastic money redeemable at Kohls. I'm not entirely sure that I've ever bought anything at Kohls before in my life. I don't have anything against the store, but I so rarely buy anything from a regular retail store that the experience of even going inside one has become a little foreign to me.

Is it preachy when I say things like that? I know I go on and on about buying things used, but it's because I'm enthusiastic. Secondhand is not for everyone, but I strongly suspect that more people would take to it if only they knew. So I'm sort of an evangelist.

This story is not about how superior I am compared to you because I shop at Goodwill. It's about what will happen to you if you ever become superior like me.

I went into Kohls without my gift card to scope out how I might want to spend my money. I can't say why I didn't just bring the gift cards with me. Maybe I thought that after years of repressing my inner spendthrift, I would break free in a slobbering and expensive panic if I found myself with a mini shopping spree. First stop: lingerie!

To continue this story, I'm afraid we must talk about panties.

I am in need of some new panties. Just like any other article of clothing, panties wear out and you have to replace them. You can buy panties at Goodwill or yard sales. I've never done it. I have bought a bathing suit at a yard sale, and I once fished a bra out of a dumpster. But when it comes to panties, I'd rather just buy new. I don't think there is anything wrong with the panties you might find at a Goodwill; in fact, they are often new. I think that my squeamishness has more to do with the idea of digging through a box of panties in someone's yard or at a Goodwill. I'd much rather just pick the 6-pack off the shelf and be done with it. I'm just repressed that way.

So! As far as my undergarments were concerned, these gift cards came along just in time. While I was planning on checking out the Christmas decorations and maybe the kitchen section, my real goal was the lingerie department. Once I got there, I came down a severe case of sticker shock. No need to worry about my inner spendthrift.

Did you know that the manufacturer's suggested retail price of a 3-pack of Hanes panties is $18? Are you freaking kidding me? Six dollars for a pair of nice-girl, plain-colored, 100% cotton panties, nothing exotic or sexy at all. I must be out of touch, because $6 is about what I was looking to spend on a 3-pack.

But Hark! Kohls was honoring our nation's veterans by having a sale. I get the impression that they are always have a sale of some kind. Select brands of lingerie were buy one and get the second half off, so that our veterans might stock up while the price was low. So six pairs of Hanes cotton panties is $27. That's $4.50 a pair and still completely outrageous. Let me tell you, the Christmas and kitchen sections were not any better.

And that's what happens when you go to a regular store after buying most of your stuff used for a few years. Your sense of value becomes totally skewed and broken, such that the shiny new stores can't lure you in. Everything in there seems like such a colossal rip-off. Even when you have free money in your hand, you can't bear to spend it at the rates they're charging. This is not specific to Kohls, which I would think is kind of a discount department store, what with the store-wide sale for Arbor Day. However, the fact that everything seems to be on sale (20% off! 30% off! BOGO!) all the time just pisses you off further. If everything is on sale, then they are clearly acknowledging that it was all overpriced in the first place.

It just makes me so mad.

I know that there are ways to shop frugally at traditional retail stores. There were things in the clearance section that were actually reasonable. And there are other stores that seem to be mostly made of the clearance sections of stores like Kohls (e.g. Marshalls, T.J. Maxx). But if Kohls is making enough money to metastasize, then there must be plenty of people who are paying $4.50 to $6 apiece for plain-colored cotton panties. Do they enjoy doing that? Or do they just not know that there are other options, if not at a thrift store then at least at T.J. Maxx? I wouldn't go so far as to just call those people suckers, though I suspect that the CEOs of many retail stores just might.

That's why I go on and on about buying secondhand. I'm not trying to say that I am a smarter shopper or better with money overall. I've just found this way to buy most everything that I need and a crap-ton of neat stuff that I don't need for next to nothing and no one seems to know about it. I want to make sure that you know about it, too. Because you are my friend, and also, if more people stopped paying $6 for panties, then I bet no one would try to charge that much.

*Disclaimer: Aside from coming off as a thrift-store snob here, I probably also sound very ungrateful regarding my gift card. Of course, I don't mean to be that way at all, it's just that I try to be really very open and honest in my writing. Often that trumps being sensitive. Really, I'm pretty insensitive anyway, and while I hope that I will improve in that regard, it's probably wise for anyone who spends any amount of time with me to know that I don't mean any offense. I'm really a lovely person once you get past my personality. Anyway, this disclaimer has gone on long enough, so I'll end it by saying that I very much appreciate the gift and the implied acceptance of me into the family. I also accept it as a challenge to get the absolute most out of my local Kohls that a body can for $50.


Carla said...

I'm not a big fan of Kohl's for the reasons you cite. We get those $10 off coupons occasionally. Their regular prices are totally crazy but sometimes they will have a good sale (we got some bath towels there for $3 each a few weeks ago -- though I admit they were on clearance). I also got a fairly nice leather purse there (on sale) to replace the one that was stolen out of our van a couple of months ago. But generally, I only go when I have one of those coupons to spend. I can usually use it to get a practically free outfit for Daniel.

Sandra said...

It's not even just Kohl's. My recent experience is limited, but it seems like there are a bunch of stores (Penney's, Belk, probably others) that fall into this same category, i.e. places where I will never buy underwear.