A friend recently admitted to me that she didn’t like to be seen buying deep-discounted things, and would never ask for a mark-down, even on a damaged item. She was afraid people would think her cheap. Her self-image, and her projected public image, were of a woman who didn’t need to pinch pennies.
Being Plain, people would wonder if I had lost my mind if I passed up a possible bargain. No one looks at me sorting through the dented and dated bin at the back of the market and says to herself, “Well, I never expected that! Maybe they aren’t making much money…” Anyone who has seen my snaggle-toothed truck or my husband’s spliced bootlaces knows that we aren’t making much money, and maybe we don’t care to, either.
Nicholas jokes whenever I serve lentils that we mustn’t let the neighbours know, “Or they will think we are poor.” My answer is always, “They might as well think it, because it is true.”
The prayer kapp, apron and sensible footwear really must say, “Here’s someone who isn’t wasting money on clothes – or much else.” I quite peacefully rummage the bargain bin, pick up the half-price items, and ask the manager for a discount on an item I want that is shopworn. If I loaded my grocery buggy with caviar, t-bone steaks and premium ice cream, the neighbours would think I truly had lost my mind – or won the lottery! (Which I never play; Anglicans in this diocese are prohibited from gambling. I wouldn’t anyway, since a dollar spent on a lottery ticket ensures one has almost no chance – just about a zero chance – of winning. Whereas not buying a lottery ticket guarantees I still have the dollar, which I will spend on Reese’s peanut butter cups, which guarantees I have a delicious snack.)
This is what I bought today on discount: macaroni, cornmeal, canned tomatoes, canned beans, yogurt starter, two heads of cabbage, dark rye bread, a pound of mushrooms, apples and tangerines. Toupie hams were half-price, a lot of meat for $6. The pharmacy gave me a $10 gift card for groceries when I picked up my husband’s prescription, as well as a coupon for 50 cents off another purchase. Even toilet paper was on sale, 30 rolls for $12. I didn’t pay full price for anything today, not even the scrumptious, irresistable Reese’s cups.
What is worrisome is that the large supermarkets seem to always have food marked down, especially fresh produce and bread. Some items never sell for full price, it seems. It used to be that we only found the bargains on Monday morning, when beef, fish, and specialty fresh items that didn’t sell on the weekend would be discounted. Now, I can go to the supermarket anytime and find even apples, lettuce and tangerines marked to half-price. Meat is regularly re-priced at 30% off. New specialty gourmet items – Starbucks instant coffee, which was about $8 for the packet of little coffee tubes- are already on the half-off table, and no one is buying. If the public can’t afford apples and lettuce, they surely can’t afford Starbucks indulgent single serving instant coffee. This supermarket now has a half-aisle shelf of marked-down cosmetics, soaps and shampoos. More items are having to be marked down just to get them to a price people can afford.