Shopping (revisited)

Any talent for shopping I may have thought to have squandered has now been restored.  And I am in earnest when I use “talent” and “shopping” in the same breath. Considering the obstacles and drudgery I have endured for the past two days while shopping at Harris Teeter, Fresh Market and Belk, the conviction of my instincts and the prosecution of my expertise has rewarded me with ample reason to commend myself.  I have been removed from the shopping scene for some time but I have at least momentarily returned with manifest enthusiasm. Quite frankly my shopping needs are not what they once were and it is probably only my recent separation from it which has heightened my come back. Revisiting the exploit has reaffirmed that shopping is not an undertaking for either the ill-informed or the faint of heart. It requires strength and stamina. It exacts the use of logic and the implementation of historical training.  It is a knowledge-based enterprise.  Shopping is serious business!  Shopping is a commercial transaction like any other and yet so often we ignore the most fundamental precepts involving money and things.  Contrary to its regular portrayal as a witless endeavour it actually requires some thought and precision.

The first lesson one must learn is that most clerks are unreliable.  This is not meant as a personal slight; it is merely a realistic observation.  One mustn’t expect the standard of diligence which one desires for oneself from workers who are most likely underpaid, poorly educated and who have little interest in making a career of what they are doing.  They are functionaries at best. And they should hardly be expected to share your enthusiasm. It is a mistake to enquire of most clerks anything other than the most basic information.  Do not rely upon a clerk for counsel which is “critical” to your shopping expedition. If you wish to know whether a certain item is in stock it is little more than a crap shoot to presume the clerk knows the answer.  Given the vast inventory of goods in most large department stores and grocery stores the clerks can’t realistically know what is stocked.  This means that you must persist in your investigation of what is available.  Assiduity is regrettably part and parcel of effective shopping. For example, if you’re unable to find the sweater of your choice (or some exotic vinegar), it is possible that the item may be in another department, though usually nearby.  Not all sizes or varieties of the same product are in the same place.  Look around.  Take your time; shopping can at times be an exhausting exercise.  Never be too quick to abandon the search for the specific item you’re looking for.  Once again consultation with a clerk may be both unhelpful and on occasion actively misleading. If your instinct tells you that the store likely stocks a product, don’t capitulate if you can’t find it immediately.

As for clothing, assuming you find the size you’re looking for, don’t assume it will fit.  Try it on.  This is especially true if you’re shopping in any kind of discount store or any store which appears to have everything on sale.  Very often the so-called “discount” or “sale” items are nothing more than “seconds” and the labelling attached is undependable.  Furthermore even if you find the size you want, and even if you try it on and it fits, again do not assume that another colour of the same item will fit the same way.  Try it on as well. Variation in colour can mean variation in size too.

Once one has set upon a mission to buy something, a potentially dangerous inertia sets in.  One can become mindlessly driven to find what one has set out to look for.  This is bad policy. Such persistence contributes unwittingly to erosion of the original goal.  It may well promote the acquisition of something completely different from what you wanted.  It is preferable to recall that the object of shopping is to be completely satisfied.  You have to hold out for precisely what you desire.  And be assured that the perfect item exists.  It doesn’t matter if you’re shopping for a pair of socks or a luxury automobile or a house – make no compromise!  Stick to your guns until you find what you initially had in mind. If you think bargains, trade-offs and concessions are part of the experience, be prepared to be disappointed. Don’t confuse price with product.  First find the product, then deal with the price.

One must of course start at the beginning.  If you haven’t the belief that the store in which you’re shopping stands a chance of stocking what you’re looking for, then go no further.  If you compromise from the start, then you’ll compromise in the end.  If on the other hand you assemble all the required ingredients (and avoid the obvious traps) then shopping can be an uplifting experience. This is true no matter how trite or expensive the item(s) you buy.  It’s the prerequisites which make all the difference. There are some incredible manufacturers and they have devoted enormous effort to predicting your material needs.  If through diligence and application you ensure a correspondence of your needs and the products then you can count on sizeable benefit.  There is no indignity in savouring the pleasure of a new car or a yellow sweater or a diamond ring.  These things are meant to please us, that is their purpose.  Any sort of apology for indulgence in this gratification is completely unfounded.  I am even persuaded to credit a successful shopping experience as a work of art.  Whether the indulgence is tiny or huge matters not, the quality of a proper shopping expedition always remains the same.