View from the fray

All-American shop fest

So here I am in the line at Kmart. Five minutes after the doors opened at 5 a.m. My cart is filled with Martha Stewart comforters ($12.99, or so I thought) and a George Foreman Party Time grill ($37.88). It is International Buy Nothing Day, and I am a traitor to the cause. A turncoat. I should be shot. Someone should take away my credit cards.

Someone should take away my credit cards.

I wasn’t going to do it this year. I wasn’t going to be one of the first 10 people in line at Best Buy so I could get a Toshiba notebook computer with a 1.5GHz processor and a 20-gig hard drive for $649 or one of the first 15 in line so I could get a two-megapixel Kodak digital camera for $99. I wasn’t even that into the $6.99 Sublime CDs or PlayStation 2 games for $9.99.

My significant Republican considered saving $120 on a hard drive for about five minutes. Then, being the anti-materialist that he is, he realized, “I don’t really need a hard drive.”

Yeah, I said to myself, I don’t need much of anything. But I do have to get Christmas presents for my in-laws, parents, friends, co-workers and a bevy of teens, nieces and nephews.

That’s the hard part of observing International Buy Nothing Day on the day after Thanksgiving. If you’re spending a few hundred dollars anyway, you really can save some dough by shopping in those wee morning hours when things are marked down to ridiculously low prices. That’s the theory, anyway. My expectations are high when I step out of my car just in time for the doors to open at Kmart. Comforters for $12.99! A free $10 gift certificate if you spend more than $50! Cheap Legos!

I head for the cheap Legos first. It isn’t that great of a deal, really. Buy one, get one half off. But things quickly get worse. Even though I am one of the first 100 people in the store at 5 a.m., Kmart is already out of Legos. Turns out the sale had started on Thursday. Yup, when I was sipping a nice post-turkey merlot with my friend Jean, other serious shopping moms were hitting the discount-laden aisles. The toys shelves are already sporting bare patches. I am too late. I grab a couple of cheap comforters, some buy-one-get-one-free yellow bath towels and the discounted grill and head for one of the long, long lines. While waiting in line, I spot a Nirvana CD for $8. The last one on the shelf. I feel lucky.

Then I check out. The comforters I’ve pulled off the shelves are not of the $12.99 variety, the clerk tells me. The towels are no longer on sale either. And Nirvana rings up at $14.99.

“It’s supposed to be $8,” I whine. Man, I feel sorry for clerks who have to ring up shoppers at 5 a.m. on the busiest shopping day of the year.

“That was a one-day sale,” she tells me. “It was over yesterday.”

Bad karma? Nah. At least I received that $10 gift certificate, right?

I later read the fine print. “Good toward your next purchase of $50 at Kmart.”

Next year, I’m sleeping in.