Retail Anesthesia

The Anesthetic effect of shopping

My wife shook me awake. "What, what's wrong?" I asked, more asleep than awake. "I'm ready to go," she announced.

"Go? Go where?" I groaned, even as I said it realizing with dull horror that it was time for her annual after Xmas shopping foray across the bay—at an hour when I'm usually asleep. I groggily remembered just yesterday saying, "No, I absolutely refuse to go," or was I dreaming?

She claims that any time I say, "No, I absolutely refuse," it means she should wait 24 hours, and then I'll do it. She also claims that when I say, "No, I can't do it," it means that I'm right on the verge of doing it. She claims a lot of things.

I mumbled something about her going by herself and heard her sigh, "I can't believe you won't do this for me, its just one day a year!" Then she made a face like the big-eyed kids in paintings on velvet and there was nothing I could do except get dressed and into the car, hoping I'd wake up along the way.

The TV weatherman said it would be clear, so the rain and wind were getting harder, buffeting the car back and forth as we drove over the crumbling five-mile-long Richmond bridge. We got to Berkeley's Fourth Street which, for reasons unknown to me, has some magnetic draw for her.

For me, that magnet is polarized in the opposite direction. It's pushing me away, starting with fact that finding a parking space is like trying to find Anna Nicole Smith's IQ. I decided to wait at the end of an aisle until someone left or died, whichever came first. Patience wasn't the hard part—ignoring the psychic pressure of the drivers piling up behind me was.

Finally, two very slow women, and a baby that looked rented, shuffled down the aisle and started the laborious process of getting into their minivan. It was taking so long I could feel my fingernails grow.

Just as they started to back up they stopped to make sure there were no living creatures within a 300 foot radius of the car. I backed up so the nose of my car resided outside their radius, in what I assumed was like the international waters of the parking lot.

When they finally left, I felt like trimming my nails, but first slipped into the parking space—just in time. A few more moments and the drivers behind me would have jumped out of their cars brandishing torches. I made sure those cars drove by before I got out, in case they had semi-automatic tomato launchers.

Now it was time for business—the business of single-handedly propping-up our ailing economy. Earlier, my wife had stated, "I don't want to buy anything, I just like looking," to which she might have added, "and of you believe that I have the Richmond bridge to sell you."

In the very first store she found three irresistible items at 44% off (even though they said 50%). I agreed we needed a small stuffed elephant toy, but I couldn't call the stuffed lion and giraffe necessities. We left with all three.

Then there was a small black plush dog that doubled as a purse (and wasn't even on sale!). There was no justification for this until inspiration hit her. She smiled and said, "It's for my stuffed-dog-purse collection." And yes, she does have a stuffed-dog-purse collection (began on a trip to Paris, of all places). Even if she hadn't, there'd be no point pointing that out, as she'd simply reply—"a collection has to start somewhere."

Next, she found it necessary to buy holly placemats she said she'd make into a pillow right after she finished the sewing she hadn't finished in 1997, and a bag of large bird eggs which, as you surely know, are one of the staples of home decor.

While she was buying a scarf almost exactly like one she already had, I found a beautiful little $4 ornament—a porcelain bird that's also a bell. She scowled at it and sniffed, "what are you going to DO with that?" as if, in a pinch, the $6 stuffed ladybug ornament she was buying could perform brain surgery.

I was now carrying three bags full. I steered her into a store of ultra-modern design I wanted to see. She hates this stuff but I insisted she go with me because last year she wandered off and it took me 45 minutes and three trips up and down the street to find where she'd been hiding in a toy store among the stuffed animals—kind of like that scene in E.T.

"My feet hurt," she said, thinking this would get us out of the modern store. I replied, "Then you won't be able to go to the stores on the other side of the street." I could literally feel the vacuum in the air when she couldn't think of a reply and just kept walking.

Now it was almost dusk and I was starving and tired. She wasn't hungry and could have walked to Nebraska as long as the route was lined with earrings. It was all part of what I call the "anesthetic effect of shopping." As long as she's shopping she feels no hunger or pain. If only that shopping trance worked on me. And just think—there are less than 361 days until the next day after Xmas sale.

Daniel Will-Harris

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I actually do like shopping, I just prefer to shop online. When I'm looking for something, I start with these sites first:

  1. http://www.eBay.com The best place to find accurate "what the market will bear" prices. Do a search, then click on "Completed Auctions" (on the left) to see what things have been selling for. This works for items old and new. Tip: If you're going to buy from eBay, ALWAYS check a Sellers' feedback (click the little number after their user name). If they have a lot of negative feedback, think twice about buying from them.
  2. http://www.Amazon.com Their customer reviews alone are worth a visit. You can see how people like (or dislike) an ever-expanding array of items from affiliate stores, and even individuals through Zshops and auctions. I always find that they have good prices, and among the best service of any online retailer.
  3. http://www.Google.com —I use the normal search but now I use their beta http://www.Froogle.com which makes it easier to compare items and prices. If I have an item number, I'll use it, because it can find specific results. I also use http://catalogs.google.com to see scanned mail order catalogs.
  4. http://shopping.yahoo.com—only covers YahooStores but there are SO many of them, ranging from big retailers to individuals, that it's a good place to see a range of items and compare prices.
  5. http://www.pricegrabber.com lets you comparison shop, and get ratings on the merchants as well.
  6. For tech items, I go to www.shopper.com, part of c|net. It compares prices, and also offers reviews from their editors, and from the public.
  7. If a store I don't know has a good price and I'm interested I always check http://www.bizrate.com to see feedback from customers who's purchased from the store.

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Online shopping anesthesia is the kind that works for me.




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