2018-01-31 / Voice at the Shore

Not every sale you see is a bargain


DR. LEO LIEBERMAN DR. LEO LIEBERMAN Growing up, there was one word that we all loved to hear— and that was the word “bargain.” That beautiful word competed for our affection with its cousin, our all-time favorite four-letter word: “Sale.”

Mama always scrutinized the ads in the newspaper to find where we could get the best buy (and no, this is not a commercial for the store by that name). Maybe the best deal was at the local department store— or, better still, at the little Ma and Pa store around the corner. Not that we were planning to rush out and buy all the bargains right away. No, it was just good to know that we could buy oranges at a special price, or that ladies’ dresses were marked down to half price…just in case. And in a pinch, if one of us needed some article of clothing, like a jacket or a pair of pants, we knew we could always run over to Hymie’s on the Lower East Side, where you could always find what you needed at a good price.

But that was years ago. Now the ads are everywhere. Television, computers and the daily mail bring us unending announcements of the latest and greatest deals. I must admit: I am a bit perplexed. Why does every bargain out there have a price ending in $.99? Prices no longer end in double zeroes; nothing gets rounded to the nearest dollar. That hat is on sale for $5.99! It’s not even $6.00! The jacket is $17.99; heaven forbid it could cost a full $18.00! Sure, I’m saving a penny because they don’t round up to the nearest dollar, but the ads make it seem like I’m saving a whole dollar! How did this happen? (A penny for your thoughts on this.)

And then there are the TV commercials touting the “One-Day-Only Sale.” Listening to those commercials, you would think you need to rush out to the store today (right now!), or else the bargains will be gone! But then it’s Friday and I’m still seeing that same “ One- Day- Only Sale” commercial I saw on Monday—not last Monday, but from the Monday before. Ha! That same “One-Day-Only Sale” has been going on for almost two weeks!

This commercial come-on also has a cousin—which is the infomercial that tells me if I order within the next fourteen minutes, I will receive a second item at NO COST whatsoever. (That commercial was on television just yesterday.) All I have to do is pay for shipping and handling. But what they don’t mention— until you call up to place your order during those next 14 minutes—is that shipping and handling will cost just a little bit more than the cost of the second item, and without this second item shipping and handling would have been free. (If you think that’s because I called after the 14 minutes were up, perhaps you also still believe in the tooth fairy…).

I still remember the grocery man telling Mama that two oranges would cost 65 cents, but that if she bought a third orange, it would only cost another quarter. Mama’s response? He should forget the first two oranges; she would just buy the third.

I could continue but I think the point is well made. Now I need to go through my mail. I just received that mid-week mailer with all the coupons, as well as flyers from different stores announcing that they’re marking everything down for their special upcoming Friday Bargain Day. The salespeople will undoubtedly be busy marking everything up on Thursday in order to offer those “bargain” prices on Friday!

Still, I do need a new sweater…so I’ll need the coupons and sale announcements with me the next time I go shopping…just in case. Oh, and I better not forget to bring my credit cards—not just one, but one for each store, because I get ten percent off by using the store credit card! I’ll also stop at the local convenience store on my way to the mall because, who knows? They might be having a special one-day sale. 

Dr. Leo Lieberman is a local author who was formerly an associate professor of Holocaust and Jewish Studies at Stockton. He is also a former columnist for the Jewish Times.

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