The Fix for a Retail Junky
by katie eldridge
I didn't mean to end up here. I know I shouldn't be this close to doing a very bad thing. I can feel my heart beat racing, getting faster as I ponder how I'm going to get out of this one. I may as well be an alcoholic about to order my first drink of the day. I step back a few feet and look around. This is so unnecessary. There must be a way out. "Do you hold items?" I ask.
The saleswoman tells me, "Only for a few hours."
I counter desperately, "What about layaway?"
She explains the layaway counter is located in the back of the store. To me, it appears to be a football field away, and therefore, it's no longer an option.
I'm forced to make a decision: buy $150.00 worth of clothes I don't need... or, make a break for the door before it's my turn at the cash register. Instead, I begin pacing, wondering how I (the simpleton of consumer goods) have ended up in TJ Max in Salt Lake City when I intended to be mountain biking in Park City.
For me, shopping has become a disease. Like an instinct I don't want, but that society has forced upon me. Inside I know I'd rather save money for travel or outdoor gear than be caught dead purchasing a cashmere sweater. But my friends' comments have brought me here to this bargain basement. For weeks all they have talked about are the great deals and cute, sexy clothes they keep finding at TJ Max.
Most of these girlfriends are shopping professionals. They love the sport, and can participate, full-contact, guilt-free any day of the week. Is shopping hereditary?
Anna Smith says definitely. "My mother is 78-years-old and she's a shopping fiend. We talk about things we buy, and meet for lunch once a week just to go shopping."
Cecilia Brown agrees. "My mom flew me to New York once to go shopping. I watched her spend $30,000 on clothes. For her, it's very emotional."
Emotions and shopping seem to go hand in hand for many women. If you're upset, you may take to the mall for comfort. If you're in a great mood, it may mean it's time to buy some new shoes.
"That's why they call it retail therapy," Anna tells me.
Great. Then why am I a wreck when I find myself in a situation like the TJ Max fiasco?
Beth McMahon is another local shopping pro. She claims never to feel guilty for shopping. She believes shopping values are passed down from generation to generation. "I feel I inherited my grandmother's taste and that's why I rarely go to discount stores." McMahon is one cool cucumber while browsing the isles of Nordstrom or Nativo. I, on the other hand, could use some Valium to take the edge off.
Anna admits she gets a little worked up too. "During a good sale, it's a rush. It's like doing drugs-my palms get all sweaty. I don't feel guilty until I get home."
Do men go through this? Hardly. Successful Park City restaurateur Bill White thinks buying clothes is a waste of time. He says he does feel the temptation to shop, but it's usually for a good meal or plants.
"I do have urges to shop. Just the other day I had an urge to buy a Bonzai tree, and that's what I did."
After trying on everything from embroidered halter tops to a bavarian-style jacket, I've gathered five items from this retail warehouse that I may not be able to live without. I look around for a second opinion on the jacket. The 45-year-old woman in the isle next to me will have to do.
"May I ask your opinion," not pausing long enough for her to answer. "What do you think of this jacket?" Without a second of hesitation she tells me she loves it and that she too was looking at it. I know that I shouldn't be asking a fellow retail addict for advice, but I had no other options. I decided she must know what she's talking about, and I had better buy the coat.
I try to compromise with myself by only purchasing two of the five items, but can't do it. I know it's all or nothing, and I'm gripping my VISA that's everywhere I want, and in this case, don't want to be. I'm going for it. I'll take it all. It's just money. Who cares?
I feel like vomiting. This must prove that I'm a shallow, selfish person. Like the Alcoholics Anonymous member asking bartender Johnny for a double, I hand the woman the plastic. I look up just in time to see the blonde woman who encouraged me to buy the coat. She is leaving the store. She played a dirty trick on me. I'm out $150.00 and she's leaving this shopping vortex without a single item. Alas, I pray to the shopping spirit that someday I too will have the strength and good sense to leave a store empty-handed.
Meantime, I find solace in the fact that winter is just around the corner. Powder always jolts my priorities back in order. Only a fool would shop when there are freshies to be had out your back door.