I arrive equipped with a stack of coupons, two forms of ID for a possible store credit card application, and a thirst for savings. Then I comb through the racks and don’t stop until I see red.
Red tags. Sales.
Sale stickers on a price tag are like the before and after photos of a Biggest Loser contestant. It’s all about contrast. A 180 pound woman never looks so skinny as when she’s placed side by side with her 280 pound former self. You need the sight of inflation for effect.
Which is why, if the sale sticker is covering the original price, I peel it off. How am I supposed to decide if I like a shirt unless I know its full retail value? Neon plaid isn’t really my thing, but if I’m saving over $50, I can make it my thing.
To cap off the entire endeavor, at the register, I slap down one of the 25% Off Entire Purchase coupons that arrive in the mail more often than Catholic charity donation solicitations.
But with JCPenney’s everyday low prices (which is 40% off 2011 full retail prices), I’m missing the satisfaction that comes with feeling as if I’ve legally ripped-off a corporation. There is no radiating $18.99 sticker stuck haphazardly beside the perforated-edged $30. There is just the sullen, unembellished $18.99. Sure, my wallet doesn’t notice the difference, but the frugal part of my heart does.
Is the new policy fair? Yes. But the thrill is gone.
The most blatant difference in the shopping experience presented itself after I checked out at the register and walked down the aisle toward the parking lot. I pulled out the white ribbony receipt, my pulse quickening.
In the good old days, my eyes skimmed over all the items with their original prices and, just below it, their individual subtracted amounts, until finally landing on the grand total. Below that, JCPenney used to list your grand total savings. It was there that I found the ultimate confirmation that my purchases were sound investments. If I was thrifty enough, I saved more than I spent. On those days, I slept well, mentally spooning my bank account, completely ignoring the fact that, no matter how much I saved, I never paid the $1.50 it cost to make the item a Korean factory. Come to think of it, I also never lost sleep over the idea that these garments were manufactured by Korean factory workers making only $2 an hour. I guess I’m a horrible person, but that’s another story.
Now, without sale tags or coupons, the receipt only offers the grand total and, although I’ve spent the same amount as I would have before, the disappointment in my core suggests that I’ve accomplished nothing. I just stood there and let JCPenney charge me their “fair and square” prices, without putting up a fight.