So it begins. It’s the time of year when parents start to think about Back To School. I know it’s still the middle of summer but in the South, school starts the last week of August. That gives us just a little over a month to hunt deals for school supplies, inventory and replace clothing, and sleep an extra 30 minutes in the morning.
This past week, I had to go to a national big box store that shall remain nameless but is hard to ignore since they have outlets everywhere. On my way into the store, I grabbed a sale paper for no particular reason. I had come to the store for three very specific items: a laundry hamper for my son (his last one died a miserable death), some plastic storage boxes (trying to prod the kid toward some organization) and a can of spray paint (don’t ask). So, I really had no need of the sale paper but once I opened it, I saw that the store was having as sale on school supplies!!! Whoo Hooo!!!
I pulled out my smartphone and found the school district’s supply list for my son’s grade. I quickly pushed the cart toward where the school supplies were. Being the savvy merchandisers the big boxes are, they had probably already gotten hold of the supply lists and made sure to include the essentials in the sale. After circling a couple of aisles I had found almost everything on the list. One of the supplies I needed was glue sticks, four to be exact. Any parent of an elementary school child knows that you can never have enough glue sticks in the classroom or at home. We go through glue sticks like we go through clean towels at my house. So when I saw that they were on sale for 10¢ a piece, I almost lost my mind!
I hunted through the school supply aisle but couldn’t find the on sale glue sticks. I finally found a box on one of the aisles where they had been but the box was empty. After several circuits around the aisles to make sure that I hadn’t overlooked them, I almost gave up.
Just then, a woman walked past in the famous (or infamous) blue vest. She looked angry and frustrated. I thought she might just reach out and bite somebody but I don’t scare easily.
“Excuse me, ma’am? Do you know if there are any more of the glue sticks that were on sale?” I waved the sale paper and gave her my ‘please help me’ smile.
“All that stuff’s on the center aisle, ma’am. Over that way,” she vaguely gestured and kept walking toward whatever destination she had set her sights on.
“Thank you,” I called cheerfully to her back.
Now, you know these big box stores can be miles wide but I was on a mission. Last school year, I had purchased countless glue sticks that cost much more than 10¢. Determined to take advantage of this Bonus Buy!, I walked the half mile to the center aisle where I found a virtual fantasy land of sale items. And there in the midst of it all was a huge set of yellow display boxes filled to overflowing with school supplies!
After a few seconds of focused investigation, there it was! The sign screamed GLUE STICKS 10¢ EACH! I rushed over to the box but found that it contained glue sticks in packs of two rather than the singles on the sale paper.
Hmmm…. Ok, they ran out of the singles and rather than give rain checks decided to sell the doubles at the sale price! At this point, my fragile brain needed to rationalize the situation. So I grabbed 5 of the double packs and headed to the checkout with my items.
Of course, the checkout lines were long and filled with frustrated shoppers, whining kids, and folks who just wanted to get home with their beer and snacks. I waited patiently until it was my turn to check out. Everything went smoothly until the checkout machine malfunctioned. I heard and felt people in line behind me groan, making me feel like I was holding up the line. It took just a moment for the cashier to recover but I was distracted by trying to get finished and out of that line.
As I walked away from the cashier, I glanced over my receipt to gloat a little over my savings. Imagine my surprise when I realized that I had been charged fifty cents rather than ten cents for the double packs of glue sticks. I immediately went to customer service where the line was even longer than at the checkout. I waited, again, until it was my turn and spoke to the rep at the counter. This particular rep turned out to be the customer service manager, taking a spin at the desk to try to shorten the line. Lucky for me, she had the authority to refund the difference in price after I told her the double packs were in the display advertising ten cents each.
The manager gave me a stern look and a brief curt lesson on Bonus Buys! and how when they run out, they are gone! Then she sent me on my way with a refund of about $1.77.
During the long walk across the acres of parking lot blazing with southern heat, I felt pretty good. I had finished school supply shopping, gotten some great deals and scored on the glue sticks. Of course, I had to wait in two long lines and spent a great deal more time in the store than I had planned. Still, it was a good day.
That is, until I realized that I hadn’t purchased the hamper, the storage boxes or the spray paint!