Odd #5: Knowing When a “Deal” is a DEAL

by teresalaynebennett

photo of green and gold paisley-print, 100% silk scarf

Do you have a single thing in your closet that you actually wear that’s over 50 years old? See? More oddity, as I most definitely do.

It’s paisley print with pale green, soft gold, and touches of a darker green. It’s a small, square, 100% silk scarf, and every time I’ve tied it around my collar, twisted it into a “belt,” tied it around a ponytail, or stuffed it in a blazer pocket, I’m transported back to the Woolworth’s of my youth. Though it wasn’t one of those impressive lunch-counter-type Woolworth’s found in the city (see Odd #3), it was the one we frequented most often because it was positioned handily in our little county seat.

As I explained in Odd #3, Woolworth’s Five and Dime Store was a veritable treasure trove of affordable goodies – where there really were things you’d want to buy for a nickel or a dime. Rather than a nickel or dime, though, my silk scarf probably cost an obscenely expensive 59 cents in 1962 money.

All the Woolworth’s I was ever lucky enough to visit had a certain sameness about them. Same basic layout. Same diagonally laid oak flooring. Same low display counters. Same seriously proper clerks. Most even had the same smell – the stores, that is.

I can’t remember enough about the smell to describe it. I remember only that every Woolworth’s I ever frequented as a child had that distinct smell. Maybe a combination of scents from the ubiquitous oiled floors and the coal-fired furnaces deep in the bowels of the old brick buildings in which they were inevitably housed?

Almost forty years after my scarf purchase and a few years after the demise of Woolworth’s in this country, I found myself in a Woolworth’s (when I’d assumed they were all dead). Same low counters. Same candy-by-the-pound section. Same diagonally laid wood flooring. Same affordable treasures, though the smell wasn’t quite the same. The catch? It was in Livingston, Scotland – a post-World-War-II, planned city, in a modern mall. Need I say more?

It was a time warp I was not expecting, but was delighted to find. Just as in my youth, I found all sorts of wonderful objects I simply had to purchase, even though I knew perfectly well the same objects probably cost less in a U.S. Walmart. Still, they were all deliciously inexpensive: charming children’s books, a delicate little glass cruet, classy photo frames, and so on. And so I toted them back across the Atlantic for old times’ sake.

The Pay-Attention Bit

Here’s where it gets sticky and, dang it, I have to contradict myself. I know I’ve said we need to get really, really, really good at saying no to buying stuff. Still, every once in a while, we’re presented with a very affordable “deal” that we can use for a lifetime. That’s when we pay attention and say yes.

Back to that silk scarf from Woolworth’s. I’ve worn it for 52 years. If I divide its 59-cent purchase price by 52 years’ worth of wear, was it really obscenely expensive? I don’t think so. Such a modest price, spread over 40-50 years, is an absolute steal – one no wise woman bypasses. The trick, of course, is knowing when “the deal” will be one that will give you the same bang for your buck as my scarf has given me, isn’t it? (Check out this story about our $12 chair “deal.”)

red box with white text: “Knowing when an item will provide you with years of use or enjoyment and is, therefore, worth its purchase price – THAT is a skill worth cultivating.” – Teresa Bennett

Apparently, no sage has said this, so I said it!

What do glamour and getting-over-it have in common? Read Odd #6, and laugh with/at me when you see where I’m headed with this glamour/getting-over-it spin.

© 2014, Teresa Bennett