I am a world-class, gold medal shopper. If there were competitions and Olympic medals for this ”sport,” I would be best in my class, a veritable Michael Phelps or Steph Curry. It starts like this. The innocent envelope arrives from Macy’s. My heart palpitates. I open it cautiously, and there they are… four black and red coupons; two for 20% off and two for $20 off a purchase over $50. My hand shakes, my stomach tenses and then I hear it, the siren song: Come to the One Day Sale; or the Friends and Family Blowout. Like a persistent mosquito buzzing near my ear, it won’t leave me alone.
Then I rationalize…I just want to see what’s out there. I won’t buy anything. I don’t need anything. What it is about the act of shopping that draws me? Part of it is therapeutic, the absolute wipe out of anything on my mind. As I handle the merchandise, stroke it, and work through the racks I can forget for a half hour about what’s stressing me out. This compulsion to shop goes deeper. When I was a child growing up in San Francisco, money was tight in our family, but we always managed to get a school outfit and new shoes at our treasured back to school shopping trip with my mom. We would get on the Five Fulton bus, my sister and I “dressed up” wearing white cotton gloves and dresses, to go “downtown” to the Emporium and the venerable shoe store, Sommer and Kaufman. They were both on Market St. The family rule was that the new school shoes had to stay in their box until the first day of school. I have never forgotten the thrill of that annual shopping expedition.
In the store, I figure the discounts faster than any calculator. Ah… a stunning Michael Kors dress, black and white, originally $260 marked down to $150, and I can take off another 20%. It’s too good to pass up. And I don’t have anything like it in my closet, or…do I? I hand over my card, sale done, shopping bag in hand. Then I get that familiar feeling. I analyze it. It’s an almost sensual pleasure that warms my insides, that feels as good as nibbling on a 60% bittersweet chocolate bar. I’m sure my endorphins have received a booster shot. But I’ve come to realize, that I don’t even have to buy, just the act of shopping is somehow satisfying.
I’m stalwart and march towards the door to the parking lot, but on the way I pass the shoe department. Big mistake…. I take just a teensy peek at the sale shoes in the racks. Oh no, they have a pair of brown suede heels, just the perfect height, in my size 11 on sale! I feel sweat beads forming on my brow. OK, I can be strong. I’ll just try them on and guaranteed they’re going to hurt, squish my toes, rub at the heel, or not be right for my high arch. And before the clerk goes to get them, I hear myself utter the dreaded words,” Could you bring me these red flats too?”
I try on the suede heels, in a rich brown like coffee grounds, which fit like they are made for me. I cavort in front of the low mirror. They look good, even better than good…they look perfect. It would be a crime not to get them. Then I try on the red flats, low heeled, joyous—they make me want to get up and dance salsa.
Now with the internet, I can shop from the comfort of my bed in my pajamas armed with my laptop. I purchase wedding gifts from on-line registries which is far easier than going to stores and hunting for gifts. It is not surprising I am designated a Zappo’s VIP customer which means shoes arrive at my front door within two days. Amazon makes it incredibly easy to order anything under the sun. When I found out my grandson was fascinated with subways, in a blink or should I say with a few clicks, I located a book about subways and had it sent. However, despite the sometimes astonishing convenience of the internet, I still can’t give up the thrill of going to stores or let go of the chase of finding what I like. Lucky for the floundering retail industry there are still a few gold medal shoppers around like me!