People often think that because I'm cheap, I don't really enjoy life. In fact, it's just the opposite. Because I don't need to spend a lot of money to enjoy life, I don't need to spend a lot of time getting a lot of money. But, you do need to know how to get the most enjoyment with the fewest bucks, and that's what this section is about.
Pork Chops and Men's Slacks: The Male Appeal of Big Box Stores
Monday, September 24, 2007
I decided some time ago that I'll only buy my clothes at stores that also sell pork chops, in bulk. After years of poking fun at my wife for frequenting Sam's Club, Price Costco, and other "big box" membership warehouse stores, I finally gave them a try for myself. What I discovered is that these stores are in fact built of equal parts sheet metal, cement block, and testosterone. Big box stores were created for men, and specifically for male cheapskates like me.
Sam's Club, the nation's largest members-only warehouse club, racks up more than $29 billion in annual sales and claims more than 46 million members, each paying a minimum annual membership fee of $30. With more than 500 stores nationwide, each at 110,000-130,000 square feet, sixteen Pentagons could be housed neatly beneath the behemoth corrugated shell of this combined enterprise. But then Sam's Club is just a little tyke compared to its parent, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., with combined annual sales of nearly eight times those of Sam's Club alone. It's not clear to me whether Sam's draws a different crowd than Wal-Mart, but as a guy I know that Wal-Mart doesn't charge my battery like shopping at a big box store.
At the risk of sounding sexist, most men unlike women really don't like to shop, and that's the male-appeal of big box stores. Big box stores are really less about shopping than they are about avoiding shopping. To begin with, everything you buy is jumbo-sized, so it lasts that much longer and prolongs the period between shopping trips. There's something terribly reassuring when you have to wheel your groceries and other purchases out to the car on a flatbed hand truck; you can't imagine that you'll need to go shopping again anytime soon, at least during the rest of the Bush administration.
And of course big box stores are ingeniously designed to sprinkle just enough guy-stuff among the groceries and house wares to hold a man's (limited) attention. Hydraulic jacks, big screen TV's, power tools, sports equipment, and lawn tractors are strategically placed among the piles of bath towels, gigantic scented candles, oversized food items, and shrink wrapped kitchen wares. Just about the time you loose interest in waiting for the kids to pick out their triple-pak boxes of breakfast cereal, you round the corner of the next aisle and find a display of fishing gear for the bass season that's just beginning. Now when was the last time that happened when you were shopping at Safeway?
Best of all - and the reason I'm absolutely serious about the correlation between pork chops and men's clothing - big box stores feature a total lack of selection. Especially when it comes to shopping for clothes, there's nothing I hate more than being confronted with the endless array of styles, colors, brands, and fabrics found in most men's clothing stores, and I know full well that whatever I finally settle on will never be available in my size.
At a big box store, there's usually just one or two brands and styles of each apparel item - pants, shirts, underwear - in maybe four different colors. Hardly any decisions to make and stacks of each size as high as the stacks of spare ribs in the meat department. When I find what I want, I buy one in each of the four colors and have the comfort of knowing that my clothes shopping is done for the year.
Last but not least, various consumer reports have repeatedly confirmed that shopping at big box stores is indeed a very good value, an appealing feature for any cheapskate, regardless of sex. While you might save over big box stores if you selectively shop sale items in regular grocery and department stores, for one-stop shopping big box stores consistently beat out the others. Also, the quality of many productssold atwarehousestores(including food items like meat and vegetables) tends to be of a higher restaurant/industrial grade than found in most regular stores.
Of course you need to make sure you have the capacity to avoid spoilage of perishable items, since package sizes are generally 20% to 200% larger than found in typical grocery stores. But if you need a 19 cubic foot chest-style freezer or some industrial steel shelving for your pantry, you'll findthose near the rear of most big box stores, behind the frozen food aisle.
I can't leave the topic ofwarehouse stores, nor such a store itself, without sampling some big box lunch counter cuisine, a culinary
school that is best described as fusion - a fusion of new car tire smell and grilling hot dogs. To cap off the big box experience, you must enter the pen of shopping carts and flatbedhaulers, each overflowing like a cornucopia of bulk-buy items, and brave your wayto the head of the line waiting for $1.50 hot dogs and two buck pizza slices. Self-serve soda dispensers fizz with over use, and soft-serve ice cream awaits you for dessert. The guy at the standup table next to you is eyeing the new multi-setting lawn sprinkler piled on top of your cart."How did I miss those?" he thinks to himself.
So, if you're a guywho hates to shop, give big box stores a try. If you're like me, you'll come away with some flannel work shirts and a bulging celo-wrapped package of pork chops, both in size XL.
posted by Jeff Yeager at 8:31 AM
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