Thursday, August 6, 2009

Miss Cee's School of Consumer Economics

Ah, and you thought Miss Cee’s Scope and Sequence was limited to the sphere of domestic management! Think again, gentle readers…

Armed without a federal stimulus check, the intrepid Holliday Clan [sans patriarch] set forth this noon to do our part for the stuttering retail economy. Destination: Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, once billed as the largest shopping mall under one roof…but that, of course, was in the Previous Century.

But, no matter. Your Faithful Correspondent had been hoarding Christmas and birthday mad money with the aim of purchasing a Brighton watch. I hesitate to admit that I even had spent an unseemly amount of time surfing their website to study various watch styles.

I was on a mission. As were my Spending Associates. This was a maiden voyage to one of the bastions of consumer craving.

After a relatively quick search for a parking slot on the Macy’s side of the complex, [in a former life, I worked as a security checker at the erstwhile Marshall Field’s department story and, since that time, have used that location as a lodestar to find my vehicle in the acres of parking lot there], we quickly reviewed Appropriate Mall Behavior and sallied forth.

There was a time when I truly enjoyed the atmosphere and tempo of shopping malls. But that sentiment has faded; whether the reason is my advancing age, the dizzying changes in popular society all too clearly on display at malls, or a combination of the two, I’m not sure.

But the human scenery can be vaguely depressing: first, there are the roaming packs of Disaffected Youth, shuffling about with jeans precariously hanging below their “sitters;” no, it is no treat to me to see your underwear. Just when I think I’ve seen every possible body piercing, someone manages to push the envelope further. I am basically hardened to tattoo sleeves. Then there’s the pervasive “time lapse” sociology lesson: clumps of nubile females spilling out of their clothes and peering out from Cleopatra eyeliner…and soon to pass by are any number of child-mothers with vulnerable looking infants in tow. It’s all old news, but it never seems to get happier, no matter how “normalized” some would have it be.

But, I digress.

Once in the vast mall forecourt, we began traversing the catwalks. A familiar yellow sign beckoned: LEGO! There was no turning back…the Lego construction possibilities still amaze me. But the Hollidayettes were more absorbed with the new Sponge Bob Square Pants play sets. Did you know you can build a Krusty Krab restaurant out of Legos? Well, now you do.

Miss Cee promptly clamped her busy pink hand around a few Lego keychains [“I found all the girl ones, Mommy!”] and declared herself sated.

For Sir John, things were a bit more problematical. There was a noticeable gap between the amount of greenbacks in his trusty wallet and the sticker prices of the most desirable Lego sets. How was he to know we would stumble upon a Lego emporium today when he plunked down $3.50 for an ice cream sandwich from the ice cream truck five days ago? But money spent is money gone: Consumer Economics 100.

Ben, Alina, and I tried in vain to steer him toward the smaller Lego sets still in his price range or to suggest he begin his birthday and Christmas wishlists while he had The Goods before him. But, he would not be consoled or condoled with. The eyebrows knitted together and the dark, face-sized cloud descended.

Some time later, we had accomplished a successful foray to Brighton Collectibles and enjoyed a sit-down lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. It was time to check off another destination on our To Go list.

As an aside, today’s field trip yielded unexpected educational benefits; aside from the obvious economics lessons, there were several opportunities to read maps and exercise spatial orientation…neither of which is among my strong suits.

On to Game Stop. In my limited experience, these stores are completely interchangeable regardless of the location. Same layout, same pierced sales associates (usually clad in black), same clusters of Transitional Males scoping the games. Well, some are “gamier” (excuse the pun) than others, but that’s a minor detail. Come to think of it, not always…

Planted in front of the racks of GameBoy DS games, John began making selections. I was willing to spot him a few bills, but not at the cost of compromising the economics lesson at hand. He hadn’t anticipated this wrinkle. Sheesh! What’s a guy to do?

Well, save your allowance, offer to do extra chores for mom or dad, exercise restraint when the ice cream Truck of Temptation tinkles down the street. Just sayin’. These pearls of wisdom went unappreciated.

Time for Contestant #2: “Mommy! Look up there! It’s a Littlest Pet Shop DS game!!! Can you see it!” Yup, $29.99. Crestfallen, she peered into her wallet. “Is that this much?” Um, no.

Ben and Alina exchanged Knowing Glances.

“But, but, that’s really, really the game I want.” Have I mentioned the concept of a wish list? “But my birthday is long away!” [Just-a-guess: this plea most probably would succeed with a grandparent…and perhaps will with me when I am Grandma Kathy. But today, no dice, baby.]

Alternative suggestion: how about looking at this case of Nintendo game cartridges that will work in your DS? They’re gently used and only $8 to $10. One eyebrow arched hopefully.

“Are there girl games?” A quick scan revealed a small handful of pink-labeled offerings. She narrowed it down to “Barbie” and “Groovy Games.” Decisions, decisions. The moment of truth arrived as I summoned a friendly associate to the locked case. “Groovy Games” was the winner.

Now to belly up to the check-out station and open the pink, heart-spangled wallet.

“That will be $10.99 with tax.” We unscrunched the well-fingered singles, and I slipped in a couple of Georges…nine, ten, eleven. “Wait, all THAT?!,” she turned a baleful eye on the cashier.

Well, you DO get some change. You get a penny back! Eleven dollars minus ten dollars and 99 cents equals one cent.

“A PENNY?!?!?! For all those dollars I get one cent back?!” The cashier and I exchange Knowing Glances.

“This is part of your spending lesson, Cecily.” The Eeyore-Formerly-Known-As-John had no sympathy to extend.

“Here’s your penny, Miss. Don’t spend it all in one place!”

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