Hello readers! I hope you’ve all got fun but restful Memorial Day plans for this weekend.
In light of what’s sure to be a busy shopping weekend, my mind is on bargains today. We all appreciate a bargain. Bogos, two-for-one, buy-one-get-half, etc. A sale by any name is worthwhile. Or is it? Reliable consumer research, like that of the reputable finance blog Walletpop, tells us that people often overspend during retail promotions by buying things they don’t need simply because they’re getting a per-unit discount. But in a world where many of us live with a scarcity mentality, it’s difficult to accept that truth. The voice of scarcity warns us that we may not have enough money in the future to afford it, so we must buy it now while it’s on sale. Or horror of horrors, it may get discontinued in the future, so we need to buy it now. Read the following sentence out loud, please. “It’s on sale, I have to get it now. If I don’t get it now, I’ll never be able to get it, or something like it, again.” Sounds like a ridiculous statement when you say it out loud to yourself, doesn’t it? It sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous. It’s also false and irrational.
For me, nowhere does this irrationality reach its boiling point more glaringly than at Old Navy on Flip Flop day. Last week, it was a gorgeous sunny Saturday. I hopped into my car, for a pleasant visit to Old Navy. I went intending to get a couple of t-shirts for a short getaway trip. The parking lot at the shopping center was insanely full, but I didn’t mind. Until I got out of my car and realized that everyone was walking right past the Barnes & Noble, right past ULTA and Babies R Us, straight into Old Navy. I opened the door and was greeted with pandemonium. It was sort of like a refugee camp–masses of people grabbing random things, yelling out stuff like “I’m over here Rachel! I got the last two, thank God!” and “MOMMY! Where are you?” and “WHY are you here?? I TOLD you to save my spot in line!” In the meantime the aid workers–er, Old Navy employees–were helping any shell-shocked stragglers find the things they needed to survive, like various inexpensive items that were further discounted by 10-20%. The line snaked all over the store and I realized the error of my ways: I had unwittingly come on dollar-flip-flop day.
Folks, many of us use flip flops, and if you’re from warm-all-year South Florida like I am, you probably use flip flops more than the average North American. I get that. What I don’t get is how or why people lose their common sense and reasoning, and actually stand in LONG, SLOW, winding lines to buy these cheap rubber things. Seriously, people? The regular price is roughly $2 more, and there’s a 5-pair limit anyway. Why would people willingly participate in that unruly mess to save 5 or 10 bucks? Isn’t your time worth more than that? It reminded me of reports that I read about the Kentucky Fried Chicken promotion for the free meal: people waiting in line for a couple of hours for free fast food at what is already…drumroll please…one of the cheapest restaurant chains in the USA. Seriously? You’d rather wait two hours for two pieces of free chicken than shell out a few dollars somewhere else and do something pleasurable or productive with that time? Hmm, okay then…
Needless to say, I stayed at Old Navy just long enough to snap pictures of the madness and promptly walked out. In my opinion, waiting in line can be worth it for a significant discount on a big-ticket item, like a 20% markdown on a television. But if it’s a dress marked down to $29.99 when the original price is $34.99, then it’s not worth it. Neither that price point, nor that dip in price merit my wasting time in a long line when I could be at the pool with my relatives. My advice after previous years of holiday weekend shopping? Do a little research first before heading out. Just because something is featured on the cover of a store’s newsletter doesn’t mean it’s marked down–very often, the products you’re buying during holiday sale weekends aren’t even discounted at all! Bargains shouldn’t just be about saving a buck; they should be worth your time too. Time is not renewable resource, but a cheap product is! Remember that when you’re standing in long lines during Memorial Day Weekend sales, Independence Day sales and Black Friday sales and remind yourself that your time is more valuable than a pair of flip-flops.
What stuff are you and aren’t you willing to stand in line for?
If you’ve got a mobile device of some sort that can run the Words with Friends application, then there’s a chance that you’re as hooked on this game as I am. WWF is essentially Scrabble by another name. But since it plays out in the Wild West (my own name for the internet and/or wireless network that connects us all globally), you’re playing matches against many people whom you don’t know. Sure, you can also play against your friends or acquaintances–one of you has to search for the other’s WWF screen name and then initiate a match. But you can also look at the app’s Facebook page where users often post their screen names. Or you can do like I do and let the app search for a random player who happens to be online at the same time as I am (I found my favorite opponent this way; I play with him/her almost exclusively).
Let’s face it–it’s not easy in this day and age to find an ideal opponent in a game that makes decent use of one’s mind. By ideal, I mean someone who’s as intelligent as you–or more so, hence encouraging you to get better–and someone who’s no-maintenance. We lead busy, complicated lives and live in homes with “open floorplans” where all our crap is laid out for all to see. Today, inviting someone over is no longer receiving them in your pretty little parlor room for a round of chess or bridge; it often means putting laundry away and mopping the floors and emptying the sink and preparing a meal: stuff you might not feel like doing right this moment.
Enter WWF. You make your move on the board at your convenience; your opponent makes a different move at his/her convenience. You check in whenever you’d like and play according to your own schedule. Matches can go on for days. How lovely and low-key. Whenever I know I’ll be traveling and won’t be able to check in or play for a few days, I tell my one opponent over the chat function. We never carry on long conversations, but we always wish each other safe travels and congratulate each other on off-the-chart point combinations.
I’m a decent player. I don’t cheat–apparently there are apps where you can plug in your letters and the app will tell you the best point combination, don’t see the point in playing this way. I am, however, the occasional “plugger.” On the WWF Facebook page, it reads the following: “according to the Texas Rangers baseball team, a plugger is a player who, without penalty, throws down made-up words at the board until one of them sticks.’ I’ve done this, and I argue that it’s NOT cheating since it’s coming from my own brain. If this word I’ve never heard of gets accepted on the board, I promptly look it up in the dictionary and add it to my vocabulary.
You’ll find a bit of everything and every kind of sportsmanship in the WWF corner of the Wild West: obsessive players, not-too-bright players, ultra-smarties, and sore losers who will resign the game if they see you’re doing much better than they are, or who accuse you of cheating if you put a word on the board that they’ve never heard of. Of course, a game or sport–even a seemingly innocuous one like Words with Friends– is just another arena in life where we display our best or worst qualities.
More musings from my travels to the Great White North, which thankfully was not so white, but rather many shades of spring. This post has a bunch of snapshots, taken in my favorite Ontario village; read on…
One of my favorite things to do when I visit my relatives in Canada is to spend at least one day in St. Jacobs Country, a community in the Kitchener-Waterloo region of Ontario. This picturesque little village was originally settled by Mennonites who made their way over from Pennsylvania during the late 18th century. The area still has a fair number of Old Order Mennonites who maintain the quiet, traditional way of life of plain dress and agricultural livelihood. Many of them keep farms.
There are fun shops with things for the home, crafts, quilts and local maple syrups. There are quaint little eateries with good German sausages. There are older establishments still making things the old way, like the Hamel Brooms shop which still makes gorgeous corn brooms. There’s my personal favorite gourmet shop, the Farm Pantry, which sells yummy food items.
There is also an amazing market disctrict where local farmers and vendors sell their wares to the public every Thursday and Saturday: an amazing display of grown-in-the-area fruits and vegetables, food stands, fresh meats, freshly bottled maple syrups, baked goods and a little flea market area of cheap stuff. There’s usually a manure smell, since farmers also bring livestock to the market. I’ve come to pseudo-appreciate this smell for two reasons: first, it’s synonymous with Spring in a place that endures several cold months out of the year, and second, as someone who lives in a metropolitan area, this smell reminds me that some people are still doing things the good old-fashioned way. That’s what St. Jacobs is all about. And by the way…you can’t beat produce fresh from the farmers market–check out my bowl of giant strawberries that I got from there
Hi readers! Sorry I was away so long–I took a fun trip to Canada to visit family. Now I’m back, and am glad to share some musings on my travel…
Something I find incredibly charming about the Kitchener-Waterloo region of Ontario (where my husband and his folks are from) is its abundance of old-fashioned markets. There are farmers markets including that of St. Jacobs, one of the best known in Canada. Because K-W has welcomed so many foreign settlers over the years, there are several specialized markets and butcher shops that cater to the immigrant populations in the area: German stores, Portuguese stores, Polish stores and many others. There is a strong reliance on butchers among these meat-loving peoples.
Before landing at Toronto’s Pearson airport earlier this week, my dear father-in-law made sure to head to the butcher first to stock the fridge full of veal bologna, head cheese, salami, pork chops, sausages and hams (for the record, I absolutely refuse to eat head cheese). Cured meats, cured meats and more cured meats, with some uncured meats stuck in between. One night, I enjoyed a delicious gluttonous dinner at the in-laws’: porkchops, Oktoberfest sausages, heads of garlic and green onions,asparagus, and avocado and cucumer salad. One afternoon, I had a German-style smoked sausage for lunch in the Mennonite village. Later that evening, I had some delicious pork chops and homemade sausage at a good friend’s house for dinner. Two days later, my dear brother-in-law lovingly prepared a big pork roast for lunch to feed all of us. The day before flying back, my father-in-law insisted on preparing pork shish kabobs and Oktoberfest sausages for us.
When I first started dating my husband, his regular consumption of such foods puzzled and worried me. I felt that his traditional Romanian diet needed a great overhaul, for health’s sake. After all, he wasn’t going to get nutritional guidance from his family. Case in point: his 89-year-old grandfather came over for dinner during the gluttonous feast and had two full plates of meat. He refused to take one single vegetable. This is a man who had triple-bypass surgery a few years back.
Over the last nearly 6 years that my husband and I have been together, I’ve slowly given up the diet-overhaul ghost. Eventually, that salty smoked flavor gets the best of you. Each time I visit Canada, I eat a little more pork. I never really used to eat sausage, but now I know them all. Seriously–I now know the difference between Italian sausages and Hungarian sausages, German sausages and Polish sausages. I’ve learned to tell the difference between smoked, boiled, fried and grilled sausages. I know all the different slabs of pork. So I’ve become a seasonal Romanian eater–gladly, albeit moderately, partaking in this unhealthy deliciousness during my twice-yearly visits to Canada.
Now I’m back home after enjoying my sporadic foray into Central and Eastern European fare. I’ll be eating extra-healthy food and working out hard for the next 6 months to earn my next food vacation. Happy eating!