I'm fascinated by Dollar stores for some reason - the merchandise, the seediness, the ambience - it's all so much fun. Forthwith, some essays about my adventures with a dollar bill.
Dollar store days 3/26/03
I found out yesterday at the dollar store (shut up, I was buying party goods) that some toy manufacturers are wasting no time capitalizing on the "Homeland Security" angle - I found "Homeland Defense" toy packs - guns and handcuffs and billy clubs packaged up so your child can pretend to be an Agent of the State. Creepy, non?
All the packaged sets had guns and badges, but the "FBI" version of the pack also included sunglasses. I got that one - it's going to be one of the door prizes at the party. Nothing says Retro '50s like state-sponsored paranoia.
I don't know whether to laugh or be horrified - perhaps I can manage a bit of both - at this sudden influx of cheap current events oriented toys (they also had a set of soldiers with accessories called "Freedom Force"). Obviously they're stuff that's been around, and someone just did up a new graphic (and a pretty cheesy one at that) and packaging. Cheap, but clever in a twisted, exploitative kind of way.
But, would anyone (other than a 30-something with a rich sense of irony) actually buy this toy? Just looking at the packaging gave me the shudders. However, I'm sure there are people out there that think something like this is perfectly appropriate for their child - probably the same sort of person that feels patriotic fervour instead of a creeping sense of unease when they see the "Protect the Homeland - Inform on Your Neighbours" signs on the Beltway.
*sigh* Though I suppose it's not so far removed from the "anti-communist" slanted toys of the Fifties.
That, of course, being the reason that I bought it. Oh, well.
I do love the dollar store, even though I razz on it constantly - it's just full to the rafters with the craziest stuff. With Easter coming up, I have my choice of the ickiest bunny stuff I've ever laid eyes on. Even if I was having an Easter party for *blind* kids, I wouldn't use some of this stuff.
(Okay, now I'm picturing an Easter-egg *hunt* for blind kids. Sue me for being non-PC, but it's making me giggle a bit.)
What I particularly like is watching what other people buy. Sometimes you see people who are obviously doing their monthly shopping; their carts are full to the brim of cheap knock-offs of name brand cleaning stuff and household goods.
Then there are the ancient old ladies, often in pairs, discussing the merits of this and that, looking for a bargain on (presumably) a limited income. Pity the poor grandchild that gets gifts from the dollar store - even the chocolate tastes cheap. You have to watch out for the old biddies, too - they'll hit you with their carts if they think you're blocking them from the cheap stuff.
Yesterday there was a tall, deep-voiced, gentle-looking woman in the checkout line ahead of me, buying 30 or so cheap cardboard children's books. I like to speculate about this kind of purchase. Church group? Day-care center? Catholic family? At a dollar each, the books were probably too good a bargain to pass up.
I mean, have you *seen* the prices of children's books these days? Some of them are as expensive as those glossy coffee-table art books, so I suppose the dollar store is a godsend to a busy mother on a limited income.
Mind you, I've never found a book *I* wanted to buy in a dollar store, but then, I don't have children. The books for adults are a collection of religious books, "7 Secrets of Highly Successful Hamsters" -type books, and biographies of obscure government officials that didn't sell even on the remaindered table at the bookstores. If you actually pick one up and peruse it, you'll see there's a good reason why they didn't sell. I guess if they don't sell at the dollar store, they're either given to unsuspecting charities, or burned.
Gifts on a Budget.12/6/01
Okay. It's gift-giving season, but you're broke. What to do, what to do? It's easy to shop on a budget, especially if you follow my advice...
Laura's Guide To Giving Gifts on a Severe Budget!
Oh dear, oh dear. You have no money, and a bunch of grasping, greedy people who will whine mercilessly if you don't get them presents.
Consider the joys of the Dollar Store this year. Come with me, and we will take a tour of your local discount emporium...
Stop 1: Check out the fine diplay of extruded plastic ornamental figurines by the front door. If you live in a particularly high-end area, these ornaments may even be something they call "porcelain", or even glass "crystal". They are advertised as "hand-painted", probably by blind orphans in Guatemala, to judge by the quality. Who wouldn't want one of these? Make sure to insist that it be put on display immediately, in a prominent location, so that everyone can admire it.
Stop 2: Christmas ornaments. Imagine the joy on your recipient's face when presented with a pack of exotic plastic santas, imported all the way from China or Taiwan! There's also little birds and snowmen to choose from! All provided with little tangled loops of gold string, ready to hang on the tree! Nothing dresses up a tree like a plastic santa... or maybe it's a cardinal, who can tell?
Stop 3: Last year's make-up selections. For the woman (or man) in your life who always wanted to look like a cheap hooker, there are many choices here, from glitter eyeshadow banned by the FDA for being a health hazard, to nail polish pre-separated for your convenience! These are particularly good value, as you can often get them 2/$1, so you look generous without breaking the bank! Don't overlook the possibilities of cheap plastic hair ornaments, either. Your stylish Aunt Edith is really going to dig a selection of pink hair bows with cartoon animals attached!
Stop 4: Household goods. How many times have you been over at your Cousin Bertha's house, and heard her say, "If only I had a ---, my life would be complete"? Well, it's all here! the best part is it will be sure to break before next Christmas, so you can give the same thing again and again! Spatulas, containers, frying pans coated with that special kind of easy-flake Teflon, plastic cooking spoons that melt on contact with hot water - the choices are endless.
Stop 5: Pet products. Rover can't tell if that food's a year or more old - he'll just wolf it all down and throw it up, anyway. For a more lasting gift, buy him a collar that won't come undone, ever, not even if he gets tangled in the fence he digs under all the time.
Stop 6: Books. Everyone likes to read, and here you have it all! Inspirational books by noted evangelical leaders, bible stories for children, books of religious word games for the illiterate, and Bible word games by noted evangelical kids. If your relatives don't believe in God, don't worry, they will after you give them the book of Amazing True Miracles as Witnessed by Everyday People Who Love Jesus!
Stop 7: Food. Forget overpriced Cheese Logs and Summer Sausage - nothing says loving like candy from Mexico! How about that bag of cookies made from banned food dyes? Or that super-giant economy-sized cardboard box of generic brand chips? What a deal!
Stop 8, and our last stop: Gift wrap. Don't overlook the versatility of paper bows - why buy expensive bags or wrapping paper? Get the 100-pack of strangely-coloured but festive bows (only slightly sun-faded), and stick them on the dollar store shopping bag! Your friends and family will then know what a thrifty and thoughtful shopper you are, and appreciate you all the more!
If anyone complains, tell them you gave all your money to charity, and don't let them know about the X-Box you got for yourself. After all, this holiday is all about giving, and who is more deserving of a nice present than you?
Ho, ho, ho.
Text and images copyright L. Mellin, 2000-2008, except where noted. All rights reserved.