Drop ‘til You Shop
● By Style
by Tom MaileyWe’re all born with natural gifts: Stephen Hawking and brains; Tim Lincecum and a 90-mph fastball; my wife and shopping.
Now, she’s not a gauche, insufferable she-who-dies-with-the-most-Versace-wins kind of shopper. You won’t see her donning designer gear—she is not cut from the Kardashian mold. The only time you’d find her on Rodeo Drive is if she’s very, very lost; or, if there’s a hell of a sale.
Her shopping is based on bargains, not bling, and the woman can sniff out a bargain like a dog can sniff out bacon. Coupons, Groupons, two for one, markdowns, rewards points, clearance racks and going-out-of-business sales; one time at Nordstrom, I’m pretty sure I heard her ask a clerk if they offered Triple-A discounts. She has DPS (Deal Positioning Satellite), and the dashboard it’s mounted on is in her brain.
She brags about money she saves the way fishermen brag about their catch. To further the sportsman’s analogy, when she’s in a store, she’s like an expert tracker, fully and completely in her element. Quiet, soft-footed and stealthy, her senses are constantly on high alert. I sometimes lose her because she blends in so well. From the corner of her eye she can spot an orange tag from half-a-dozen clothing racks away. She can be in Aeropostale and hear a clearance table being rummaged through at Gap.
Like anyone who’s genetically predisposed toward some type of skill, she’s been blessed with a nice head start. But that means nothing if you don’t refine it. Talent alone will only get you so far; you also have to do the work. And, by God, she does. In fact, she doesn’t really shop, she trains. Good weather or bad, discount stores or high-end retail, prime parking or hinterlands; she’s like Jerry Rice running hills and Larry Bird shooting 500 jumpers before every game. And you know what? It pays off. Literally.
This was never more evident than when she recently burst through the door with one of the largest grins I’ve ever seen. “Look!” she exclaimed, waving a Penney’s receipt, her eyes dancing with glee. She’d been shopping for our 17-year-old son, Joe, who needed decent clothes for the job interviews we hope to God he gets this summer. At the top of the receipt it said, “men’s sport coat,” and the list price was a hive-inducing $180. But before I could break out, she pointed to the next line: It was on sale, she explained, and on a clearance rack, and she had a coupon, and she earned a $10 rewards discount of some sort. Actual total cost of the coat? $1.98. Further down was a second sports coat. Corduroy. You know, in case our kid gets an interview to become a college English professor. Starting price? $120. It too was on a clearance rack, and she had another coupon, and she got another rewards discount. Total cost? Also $1.98. Total actual cost for both jackets, including tax? $4.96. Total discount? $296.04. She’d come. She’d seen. She’d saved like a mother.
At that moment, I was no longer looking at a mere shopper. She was now an artist, a pro, fully realized, completely and totally at the top of her game. I would’ve taken the receipt from her, to frame it and hang on a wall, but I couldn’t. It was already back in her purse. See, if she called the number listed at the bottom within seven days, she’d get 10 percent off her next purchase.
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