Archive for the 'Shopping' Category

Jeopardy question: What is “I think I’m the oldest person here?”

Answer: Andrew’s comment while picking up a few things – including bridge mix! – for me at Harter House.


Heightened Security

We were planning for a camping trip and I needed some cheap flashlights. You know, the $2.00 kind at Walmart. There’s a big display of flashlights of all conceivable prices hanging on the back wall of the sporting goods department, so on a recent trip, I headed back there before making my usual bathroom stop behind toys and then hitting the grocery aisles.

But there were no flashlights on the back wall. Not one. In fact, some completely other display of stuff was hanging where flashlights should have been.

Well, Walmart has been moving things around lately. I figured they must now be hanging somewhere else. I moved systematically up the life jacket aisle, not expecting to find flashlights there, but trying to remember which aisle had camping supplies… and, yes! There were the camping supplies:  canteens, mess kits, waterproof matches containers, egg boxes, and many other odds and ends that I’m pretty sure no one ever uses – but no flashlights. What the heck?!? Where could they be? Could Walmart possibly have sold out of flashlights? It is camping season, but really? Or did they just stop carrying them (like Twinings Irish Breakfast Tea decaf, or my favorite brand of gel in the useful flexible tube, or Kraft Thousand Island with Bacon salad dressing)?

I then wandered around for a little while, looking for an employee in the general vicinity of sporting goods, and finally found one. I told her I was looking for flashlights and had obviously missed them.

“I’ll get you one.” And she headed back down the same camping aisle I had already perused. Halfway down on the right, she stopped in front of a large glass case. It was the kind you might find guns displayed in, or maybe video games, with sliding glass doors and a silver key lock at waist (well, for me, chest) height. And it was FULL of flashlights of all conceivable prices, including the $2.00 (but now $2.47) ones I sought. My friendly Associate whipped out her access key, unlocked the door and said, “One?”

“No, three, and all different colors, please.”

She pulled a red, a green, and a blue flashlight out of their stand-up display box – Walmart is no longer hanging many products, but simply leaving them in their boxes on the shelves; see pens, pencils, and markers, for example – and handed them to me. I thanked her and asked, “Why on earth are the flashlights all locked up?!?”

“It’s company policy. People kept stealing them. I just do what they tell me to do. You’ll have to pay for those here (at the sporting good register).”

So I did, but I must say that I was truly shocked and slightly embarrassed. Flashlights? Even super cheap ones? Stocked and sold with a level of security comparable to that of prescription drugs?!? I googled a bit and couldn’t find any information on this policy, but since time is money, I’m not sure that that qualifies as “Save Money. Live Better.”

What’s heavy and purple and costs $225.85?

48 striped beach towels!

We decided that we should provide some beach towels at our vacation rental homes, so that the guests can use those for the pool or hot tub, instead of our plush bath towels. We wanted to have about 10 for each house, so after much online searching, we located these at and ordered 48 (24 two-packs). They arrived today and the UPS man agreed that that was one pretty weighty box! I spent the afternoon washing, drying, folding, stacking and packing purple beach towels, and I will say that they make the prettiest lint you’ve ever seen.

Concerning customer service

Here is a word to the wise.

If your errands ‘o day will involve shopping at Staples, do not make my mistake of wearing blue jeans and a red polo shirt. During our ten minutes in the store, I was approached not once but twice by people trying to find specific items.

The first lady wanted to know where we had put the 17-cent spiral notebooks. I, of course, had no idea where they were, but I wandered about for a few moments and found a large stack of boxes with three 17-cent spiral notebooks on top. She was distressed that we only had three, but I opened the top box, saw colorful notebooks within, and assured her that there were many more where those three came from.

The second lady wondered where she could find “that hand-held white-out.” She was obviously seeking the Staples brand OOPS! correction tape that I use all the time, and which I thought I usually found on the same aisle as the pens and pencils. I walked her over there and looked carefully, but sadly found no OOPS! I suggested that she ask someone who worked there (insert sarcastic smiley face), and then resumed my own shopping. I subsequently overheard her asking an employee about the hand-held white-out, and since I later saw her check out and leave the store looking satisfied, I’m pretty sure she found her OOPS!

Actually, this kind of thing happens all the time. I don’t know why I am so frequently stopped in stores and questioned by people who think I work there, but I am pretty sure that yesterday it was my red polo shirt that gave me away.

Would you like a discount card?

We all know about those discount cards that many stores have nowadays. You use your card when you make a purchase, and you get some (usually miniscule) amount off. There are cards for shoe stores and grocery stores and restaurants and clothing stores and gas stations. I generally politely decline those discount card offers.

I take five prescriptions on a daily basis. I have been taking three of them long-term, and it’s possible that I will continue to take some subset of the five for the foreseeable future. Therefore, I have asked my doc to write them for 90 days, and since he’s so accommodating, he does. With refills. This means fewer emails to the doctor’s office and fewer trips to the pharmacy, both of which make my life easier.

It was time for refills. I will not mention that I have been trying for ages to get ALL my prescriptions to refill at the same time. This, of course, is impossible, which means I end up making more trips to the pharmacy, and that doesn’t make my life significantly easier. But now that we have no prescription coverage with our medical sharing plan, we pay cash for all scripts, so I don’t have to deal with insurance, and I can refill them whenever I jolly well please! So last week, I began to do just that, but then paused. It occurred to me that it might be smart to compare prices on all five meds at the two pharmacies I frequent.

I will not bore you with the details of the number calls made, messages left, or times spent on hold, but I will say that on some of the meds CVS was lower and on some Family Pharmacy was lower, so I ended up asking each pharmacy to transfer from the other the ones for which it charged the better price, and they were each happy to do that. Nice folks, those pharmacy techs.

But get this. The cash price on my 360 bumetanide tablets (a diuretic we refer to as “bum” and of which I take four per day) at Family Pharmacy was . . . are you sitting down? . . . I guess you are because you’re reading this on a screen of some kind. . . a whopping $538.87!!! That’s a house payment!!! I gasped and stammered out a thank you to the lady for that information. Then I called CVS and was relieved to learn that their price was somewhat better. I told the technician I wanted the cash price on 2 mg bumetanide tablets, quantity 360.

“Well, that one’s pretty expensive.”

“How expensive?”

I was remembering that the price at all the other pharmacies in the area is usually in the $400 range, but that CVS has been filling it for the past couple years for about $60.00. I have never told CVS their competitors’ prices, and I would sincerely appreciate you not telling them either.

“Ummm. . . it’s $409.99.”

“You have GOT to be kidding! You’ve been filling it for years for something like $60.00!”

“Well, that’s $409.99is the cash price, but, oh, I see, they’ve been running it through on your discount card.”

Note that I have a fistful of discount cards rubber banded together in a cubby on my desk, but there is no CVS discount card in that collection. I think it must’ve been some deal where they had asked me at some point in the past if I wanted to sign up for their discount card, and I had asked why I’d want to, and they’d said it would save me some on some prescriptions, and I’d said, “Sure,” and they’d put my name in their computer, and that was it. I obviously have not thought anything about a CVS discount card since that day.

“And with your discount card, it will be, uh, $27.24.”


Totally shocked and much more than slightly embarrassed, I replied, trying not to giggle with joy, “That is a WONDERFUL number. Please refill that prescription.”

I’d decided on the spot that even though I still have a month’s supply of bum here, I’d better go ahead and refill it at that price before CVS changes its mind!

I picked it up this evening, and they really did charge me a mere $27.24 for my 90-day supply. That is absolutely amazing!

Moral of the story: Always say yes to the discount card.

“Ten-Four, good buddy”

When I was a teenager, my brother was into CB radio stuff. He’d talk with truckers as they passed through our area, and “Ten-Four” was CB slang for “I hear you.”

I have officially adopted the Ten-Four method of grocery shopping, and so far, so good. It’s taken about of month of figuring, planning, and shopping with two carts, BUT this past week I was able to document that the Ten-Four method had reduced my grocery time by 35%!!! This is significant and I will now explain.

For years, Andrew and I did the grocery shopping together. [Note: “Together” means that I decided what to get, put it in the cart, and paid for it. Andrew pushed the cart through the store, put all the stuff all up onto the belt, put all the bags back into the cart, pushed the cart out to the Durango, loaded all the groceries into the Durango, carried all the groceries into the house, and (with very little help from me) put the groceries away.] But then he started attending school, and since mid-August, I’ve been doing the whole enchilada myself. Slowly. Very, very slowly.

It takes me a heckuva lot longer to do it alone, most of a morning, actually. And when I’m done, I’m beat!

Here’s the scoop. From the time I leave the house until the time I have it all put away is consistently two and-a-half hours, or 150 minutes. After spending several weeks working the kinks of out of the system, on the last Wednesday of March, I worked as fast as I could and managed to do it in . . . 138 minutes, a discouraging 92% of the time it used to take. Sigh and major UGH!

But then last week, I did the whole job in 97 minutes, which was only 65% of the time it used to take! I’m making progress.

We have plenty of pantry, fridge, and freezer space, so my basic plan is to walk through the house and look at each item and ask myself, “Do we have enough of this (Rotel or Frosted Mini-Wheats or mayonnaise or orange juice or shredded cheddar, etc.) to last ten days?” If yes, I don’t buy any. If no, I buy enough to last four weeks. Hence the Ten-Four method.

This means that instead of buying one or two of forty different things, I may buy five or six of only fifteen different things. The result is that:

~ I don’t necessarily have to go up and down every aisle every week, saving quite a bit of time while shopping.

~ The bagging and loading into the trunk is somewhat less complicated, which may save a tiny bit of time.

~ The putting away is greatly simplified in that I have to make fewer trips to the various food storage areas and do less product rotation, saving a LOT of time.

Granted, it is somewhat embarrassing to arrive at the checkout with six gallons of milk, eight packages of cheese, four bags of potato chips, four bags of tortilla chips, and ten cans of juice concentrate (because this is the week to stock up on milk, cheese, crunchies, and juice – but NOT on lunch meat, bread, condiments, or apples), but that’s OK because I am working hard on caring less about what other people think of me, as long as I am living well. After all, they don’t have to go home and put it all away, and if I can be done at 10:15 AM, instead of at 11:00 AM, I have just bought myself a full 45 minutes to do something that’s either more important, more enjoyable, or more fulfilling than dealing with groceries.

Time is so precious, and I want to use it well. Ten-Four, good buddy!

Shorter shah-PEENG?

As has been my habit for the past twenty-plus years, I do our grocery shopping every week. I do 92.5% of it at Wal-Mart, where, as I have whined repeatedly in the past, there seems to be a strong tendency toward discontinuing items – especially ones like toothpaste, deodorant, hairspray, and mascara – that I buy regularly but infrequently. Take mascara, for example. I’d buy one, and a few months later when it was getting low, I’d go to Wal-Mart to get a replacement, only to find that they no longer carried the brand and type I wanted. Then, because I was running out of it, I’d have to quickly either try to locate it at a different store or quickly find a different brand. Once I realized that this type of challenge was not just a one-time event but was occurring with some regularity, I started buying such products three at a time. That way, I at least have some margin when they cease carrying a particular item.

Last August, Andrew began attending school, and many aspect of our lives changed, including grocery shopping. For several years prior, he had always accompanied me on my weekly Wal-Mart run, “driving” the cart for me and nearly single-handedly. . .

  • loading it all onto the belt (in my preferred order, and while chatting cheerfully with the checker)
  • loading all the bags back into the cart
  • pushing the cart out to the car and loading all the groceries into the trunk
  • carrying the bags into the house, and
  • (with increasingly less help and supervision from me) putting all the stuff away

WHAT a blessing he was to me on Wednesdays!!!

But now all the above falls to me alone, with the result that the total time involved in a standard Wal-Mart run, from leaving our house to having it all put away, is two and-a-half hours. Wow! That’s a lot of time, and I have been giving serious thought to how I might recapture some of those valuable minutes for other more important projects and activities.

It occurred to me that there are some things that I seem to buy every week of my life. Produce, of course, but also lunch meat, cheese, eggs, bread, “crunchies” (our family term for things like pretzels, crackers, and chips), etc. As I meditated on my shopping habits, I realized that we do have an awful lot of storage capacity. We have a great pantry, plus a canned goods shelf and a crunchies shelf in the playroom. We also have an upright freezer and an extra fridge in the cellar. So. . . I have recently been experimenting with not buying everything every week.

For example, we use about two and-a-half gallons of milk a week, which means I’m lugging two or three jugs into the cart, onto the belt, back into the cart, into the car, into the house, and into the fridge every single week. But if I bought six gallons of milk (which lately has been dated nearly three weeks out – yay!), yes, I’d still have to do all that requisite hauling this week, but next week I could skip milk, and instead stock up on, say, three kinds of cheese and two kinds of bread. And the third week, I’d do milk again with two kinds of lunch meat, and three boxes of eggs, followed in the fourth week by, for example, loads of canned goods.

My theory is that then I wouldn’t necessarily have to do every aisle of the whole store every week, and while I would have a heckuva lot of a few things each week, it shouldn’t take as long to put the load away, because there’d be fewer different items.

My plan is to review our stash each week and ask myself, “Do I have enough of this to get all the way through one to two  weeks?” If yes, I don’t buy any of it. If no, I buy at least three to four week’s worth of it.

I’ve been endeavoring to do this system for most of a month. Give me a few more weeks and ask me how it’s working.