Resolved: Shop ‘Til I Drop

Surrounded by men’s slacks, a Mizzou sweatshirt and a black and white poncho, I debated whether to buy short black Naturalizer boots with a side zipper and a wooden heel, almost two inches high. Would my feet hurt? Enough traction? Too high of a heel? 

I looked up as two shoppers approached. “Hi, girls!” My daughters Liz and Suzie knew where to find me at the Dillard’s New Year’s Day sale.

My older daughter Suzie couldn’t pass up these comfy Naturalizer shoes.

With so many items deeply discounted, it’s hard to make snap decisions. I find it easier to grab as I go and find a semi-quiet area to make decisions. That’s what we used to do when I was a child shopping for after-Christmas bargains at Peddler’s Village in Pittsburgh. Mom could stand for only short periods of time, so after quickly perusing the store for ornaments and other items, she established headquarters.  

Now, I’m the mom, who needs to bunker down. This year, I set up headquarters in front of a display of full-price designer purses. It came with a perfect ledge for sorting items and trying on boots. If only I didn’t have people wondering whether the purses were on sale. Dillard’s really should have paid me for answering so many questions about the purses near my headquarters.

My daughters had other concerns. “What is all this?” Liz asked about my stash, which threatened to trip passersby.

“A lot of it is for Daddy and Tim.” I urged her to call them at home and tell them to come. I knew they wouldn’t want to tear themselves away from bowl games, but I also knew they could use nice khakis and Nike windbreakers. They could miss a few quarters of football. 

I discovered the New Year’s Day sale several years ago. I was driving by Capital Mall in Jefferson City, Mo., when I noticed the full parking lot. I considered it fate — my sister, Elaine, had given me a Dillard’s gift card for Christmas.  Since then, I have made an annual pilgrimage to the sale. My finds have ranged from a Vera Bradley laptop case in Java Floral to a swirly peach skirt. Super feminine.  

The New Year’s extravaganza causes me to reminisce about bargain shopping during my childhood. Hill’s Department Store closed in Pittsburgh when I was about 9 years old. My parents bought me a long, red polyester flowered dress with an elastic waist, eyelet stand-up collar, and puffy long sleeves that ended in white eyelet cuffs. Oh, how I admired my reflection. When I wore that dress, I could look past the buck teeth and the straight long hair always arranged in the two-and-tie-back style my mother favored. I was beautiful. 

The memory of that sale and many others have turned me into the bargain hunter I am today, and if the size of the crowd at Dillard’s indicates anything, many other people also grew up scavenging bargain bins.

“This sale is my second church,” a shoe shopper told a friend on her cell phone. Walking through the store, I saw six exuberant shoppers pose for a picture with Dillard’s bags crowding their feet.  The sole man in their group snapped the photo. 

After four hours of shopping, I checked out. By then, Suzie had left to eat lunch with a friend. Jim and Tim had come, moaned, tried on clothes and urged me to hurry up. Liz had threatened to walk home.

Later that afternoon, I thought of returning to look at sweaters, but the memory of my grand total stopped me. (Sorry — no full disclosure, folks! Suffice it to say that shopping for five people adds up.) So far, my favorite purchase is the memory foam pillow currently supporting my lower back. By the way, I passed on the short black Naturalizer boots. Too small. No matter how chic they looked, if my feet hurt, I wouldn’t wear them.  I tried on a 9 1/2; unfortunately, the store didn’t have them in a size 10. Maybe next year.

In the meantime, I may unearth the polyester wonder my parents bought me 40 years ago. If nothing else, I”ll get a good laugh out of it. So will my kids. “Polyester?!!” they’ll gasp. “It was the 70’s. Polyester was huge!” I’ll say.