Adventures in Retail

It was my wedding anniversary last weekend. To celebrate, my wife’s parents generously took in our two kids over the weekend, allowing us 24 hours of uninterrupted ‘us time.’ I made dinner reservations at 6PM on Saturday at a new restaurant we were interested in checking out. The meal was excellent, and we were out the door by about 8. We got back to our car, paid to get out of the parking ramp and drove through downtown Minneapolis in search of something to do.

The following is a loose paraphrase of our conversation…

Me: “Well, it’s 8:00. The kids are with grandma & grandpa. We have the night to ourselves. What would you like to do?”

Wife: “I’m not tired and I don’t want to just go home and veg out in front of the TV. This should be a special night.”

Me: “OK… what would you like to do?”

Wife: “I don’t know. Any ideas?”

Me: “Hmm… we could go see a movie, or go get some coffee, or hit a bookstore…”

Wife: “Hmmm… none of those things sound good. We just ate, and I want to do something together with you. Seeing a movie doesn’t really count.”

Me: “Umm… OK. We could go home and play a game. Cribbage?”

Wife: <stunned silence…followed by> “Cribbage???!!! We have a night to ourselves and YOU want to go home and play cribbage?”

Me: <backpedalling> “Hey! It was just a suggestion! And you like cribbage!!! Umm… we could go somewhere for a walk.”

Wife: “It’s cold and dark outside.”

Me: “OK… how about we go to a mall? It’s warm & bright in there.”

Wife: ” OK… so you want to spend our anniversary going for a romantic walk in a #$!#@# MALL?”

Me: “No, but I’m running out of ideas here. You’ve shot down every idea I’ve suggested!”

<A minute or two of silence passes while we drive vaguely Eastward towards home>

Wife: “Our daughter needs a hat & mittens for this winter. Head to Kohl’s.”

Me: “Righty-o! Happy Anniversary, dear.”

Wife: “Shut up”

Having a free night to ourselves, we learned that we are not those romantic folks you see in those diamond ring commercials on the tube. In fact, my wife has suggested that I don’t have a romantic bone in my body. Last weekend’s adventure more or less proved that point, I guess.

So we hit the local Kohl’s in our neck of the woods looking for a hat and mittens for our 18-month old that would at least kinda/sorta/maybe match her new winter jacket. Something in a pink or lavender would do the trick. After wasting some time searching, we found a small rack maybe three feet across with a jumble of infant/toddler outerwear. Not a basic solid pink, lavender or purple hat or mittens to be found. There was a small selection of items, but most of them looked like the manufacturer decided to use up some of the most butt-ugly polyfleece material they could find on the cheap. It was now 9:00PM.

We next hit Wally World. Same noise. Plenty of cheap electronic crap on the shelves, but a small selection of winter wear for the small ones. My favorite piece ‘o’ electrojunk was the pseudo sewing machine (As Seen on TV!!!) that allows you to ruin a perfectly good shirt by hot-gluing little rhinestone-like bits of gel on it in haphazard patterns. Or the battery-powered pillow that tells stories to kids who are supposed to be taking naps. We managed to pick up some other stuff we needed, but no hats. We were also looking for a new vinyl/plastic place mat for our solder child, the king of messy eating. No joy. How does a boxmart not carry place mats for little kids? It was 9:40PM… we were running out of time, and my lovely wife was on a mission from God to pick up a hat for her daughter. Time was running out.

Our last stop was the Bullseye Boutique. There, we finally found a few hats & mittens that fit the bill. We also found a Christmas place mat that our son could use. No regular place mats, but a few Christmas ones. There were plenty of copies of some DVD trivia game all about the TV show ‘Friends,’ though. We checked out at 9:58PM. The store closed at 10:00. We spent our anniversary night closing down Target.

I was amazed at how much crap there was for sale in all these stores, yet a few simply basics (a kid’s place mat, toddler hat & mittens) were in short supply. It’s early November, so I’m not thinking the supply of cold weather accessories is totally picked over yet. We’ve got another 5 months of cold & snow potentially waiting for us. I chatted with my mother the next day telling her my tale of woe, and she confirmed the same thing. It was her opinion that retailers might be cutting back on the amount of good being carried over fears about the soft retailing market. It’s no secret that consumers are probably going to spend less on the holidays this year, so maybe the big stores are hedging their bets. Hard to say. All I know is that finding a pink hat for a toddler shouldn’t have been that damn difficult. Anyone else have similar experiences?


5 Responses to Adventures in Retail

  1. Matt says:

    Dude, the kids were gone and you couldn’t think of anything to do? Come on now! That’s prime time to head home for some quality time!

    Congrats on the anniversary.


  2. Jim says:

    Those diamond ring commercials have really set a high bar for romanticism.

  3. Bart says:

    @Matt: Yes, I’m really that pathetic.

    @Jim: Indeed. Those special, personal milestones are now marketing opportunities just like everything else these days.

  4. d.a. says:

    Marketing has really done a number on our heads, eh? It takes awhile for some of us to get through our skulls that “romance” is not a Hallmark or ClubMed commercial. Romance, to me, is when my husband makes my favorite chocolate chip cookies. Score!

  5. Rebecca says:

    I, for one, think that it is sweet (and perfectly healthy, provided you *do* take some time just for yourselves, which it sounds like you did at dinner) to spend your anniversary looking for something special for one of your children.

    As for the retail problems, I’ve noticed it as well. Over the past year the offerings have gotten slimmer, and more things are disappearing from the shelves. (Some stores apparently have redesigned their layout to make up for it.) I was at Wal-mart yesterday and it was hard to ignore. Plenty of women’s “fashions” in evidence, lots of electronic goodies, but other things (including many grocery items) were slim. The thing that nearly made me grown aloud in the store though was at one of those display stands right before the checkout counters. It was -I kid you not -a one use disposable thermos full of hot chocolate that was also self-heating. Just remove the packaging, turn it out, drink, and toss. I think that thermos could neatly stand in for most of the problems with our society.

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