I went to war, and I came out victorious.
Let’s rewind a bit, and you will understand. Grab some tea, it’s story time.
This started as a Wednesday like any other. Except not, because it was a Snow Day, so there was no early morning alarm. I leisurely arose around 7:30am, tended to breakfast, to chores, to social media. Met my husband for an Indian buffet at lunch. We parted ways shortly before 1pm, he to return to the office, unsuspecting of the events his wife would face in a mere fifteen minutes. I jokingly responded to his query about how the rest of the day would unfold: ‘Oh, you know, walking around Starbucks’. Starbucks is in our mall. We all knew that was Agent-speak for ‘covert shopping operation underway.’
As I pulled into the parking lot at Fashion Square, I had a different motive in mind than what would transpire. I did indeed mean to stroll to Starbucks, follow up my chicken curry with a hibiscus tea, and mosey down to Sephora. My goal: a sample of the Kat Von D Lock-It concealer; I wasn’t sure which shade I needed. The winter season under-eye struggle is real.
As the coffee kiosk came into view, it was clear that everyone wanted some of Seattle’s finest. Briefly debating whether or not to Mobile Order in the stealthiest of line jumps, I decided instead to walk past Charlotte Russe. I haven’t actually purchased anything from the store in the past decade, but I’m on the hunt for the perfect slip dress. I’m also on a Smart Buy, so I felt like it might be a safe investment were I to find one there. What is a Smart Buy, you ask? It’s essentially a No Buy, but my husband knows that a No Buy leads to me breaking down and purchasing something extravagant, like $300 worth of planner stickers at Michael’s, or a $600 rabbit fur vest (it’s the bomb). With a Smart Buy, I’m allowed mini-purchases with minimal judgment, and we’re both happier for it.
As I disappointedly strolled through the high school club mecca that Charlotte Russe has become, I heard murmurs of excitement in the atrium and went to investigate. Oh, looks like NY&Co is having a sale. Well, I’ll just do a jaunt around the store like I usually do, risk free. Enter —- WAR ZONE.
As soon as I stepped through the door scanners, I saw the sign. Everything was $2. Not $2 and up, or divided by discounted sections. Everything. Was. $2. Upon this realization – confirmed by overhearing a young girl ask a grandmotherly figure if the hundreds of signs declaring this could indeed be accurate – my shopping soldier gear immediately kicked in, and I scanned the perimeter.
Most of the women seemed to be struggling over racks of costume jewelry, camis, and scarves. I, however, was raised on public broadcasting and American game shows, so I immediately initiated a battle plan. Quick, what are the highest-priced items in NY&Co based on RTV? In supermarket showdowns, it’s meat. In fashion retail, it’s outerwear, blazers, and pants. The outerwear was nowhere in sight, but I quickly spotted some blazers being ignored. Grab. Grab. Off to the side, high up on the ceiling hooks, were trousers and runway-cut pants. Jump. Jump. Secure. Then into the trenches – the dress racks. Several women were cooing over maxi dresses. Amidst the chaos, I spotted an $89 jumper that I had eyed in a window but would never pay retail for (there’s a reason everything is marked down – the store is going out of business, remember?) Now’s the chance. Bam! And then….
…Like a soldier who spots the #1 enemy operative on the battlefield, I spied a corner of Eva Mendes for NY&Co items. Would I wear bright orange & lime green sheath dresses in my everyday life? Debatable. But they were $2. These $90 dresses were virtually risk-free. They were a Smart Buy. Yet, there was an obstacle in the way. The victory was not mine yet. A mother with a 13-month old toddler was slowly going through the rack. Having watched Kerry Washington in The Americans, however, I knew what to do: ‘Oh, he’s so cute! He’s around a year old isn’t he? My youngest daughter turned 1 in December’ Nudge closer…nudge closer. ‘Hi there, little cutie.’ Toddler runs further away, just like I wanted him to. ‘Aww, he’s so sweet’ Mother makes small talk while sauntering after the toddler, now on the run. Hoo-rah!
I beamed as I secured the final victory. I turned to go to check-out when….what?!? The line stretched out the door. Securing the items was only part one of this battle plan. Next came survival. I joined a line of about twenty other women, and much was to transpire over the next two hours.
If you’ve ever held 30 items of clothing (many of them jeans) bundled haphazardly in your arms for two hours, you know how it goes. Everything is okay to begin with. Then the burns starts in your shoulders. You reposition, but perhaps that was a mistake. Then you do the squat. You look like a turtle, but everyone understands. Man, I should have went with the Starbucks. But no! Because with Starbucks I would only have one hand, and this was a two-handed, arms-all-in mission. Carry on, shopper!
Then women in front of you start looking at their watches. They’re late for work. Their bosses are phoning. They have 3pm meetings. They might be fired. Is an armful of $2 scarves worth it? For some, yes. For a few, no. They break ranks. The line creeps forward. The woman behind you starts motivationally speaking: ‘You’ve came this far, don’t give up. It will be worth it. You won’t regret this.’ She has one cardigan. Surely you can hang on for shopper kind everywhere. Your loot is worth more.
Then, magically, the women in line band together and realize that time would be optimized if we took the items off of the hangers. The cashier is having to do this on her own, and it’s tripling the time it takes for each customer to ring up their stash. Teamwork begins in the trenches.
Around this time, the ‘friend who was hanging out at a different mall location’ saunters in, towards the front of the line, to chat up her soldier-friend. Someone notices that she has items in her hand. Someone interprets this to be an illegal line jump. Someone loudly starts an altercation, pointing out that we have all waited two hours for our prizes, and no one is going to unfairly jump in line and make that 2.5 hours. The other women look down at their feet, silently removing themselves from the fight, but all the while cheering the confrontation. It’s okay, war changes people.
More people leave for work, after making it to the coveted ‘Top 5’ spots in line. The rest of the line looks on with pity as they make their loop of shame, although silently rejoicing at the quarter-hour it might have shaved from their wait-time.
I finally reached the counter. While standing there, the stifling hot air of the trenches is lifted. You feel free – for freedom is near. The cashier begins to ring up the piles of clothing. She wears a fatigued look on her face, but her eyes express thankfulness at the lack of hangers with which to contend. If only she didn’t have to remove each security tag. The register crawls slowly along. Finally, the last item. $79. $81.90 with tax. The neighboring registers ooze with a similar conversation. ‘How much did you spend?’ ‘$48.’ ‘You got all that for $48?? That’s probably a cool thousand in merchandise.’ I make a mental check to calculate RTV as part of my Smart Buy conversation with the husband.
The exit walk is not one of shame, but of glory. As those in line make eye-contact, you can feel the looks of pride that they share. You made it through the line. In doing so, your walk also signifies forward movement of their own. You are their hope – you waited in the trenches; they can do it!
When I returned home, exhausted, with heaping bags tearing under the weight of war booty, I did calculate the RTV. I snagged $2416 worth of clothing for $81. I went to war, and I came out victorious.