Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Almost Less/Less

I’m not sure if the name of the store is Less, Less/Less, or Less/Less Less/Less Less/Less. Pre-Sandy I believe there was a different name. I cannot remember.

Sometimes I think what I tend to blog about most are stuff that is always there but heretofore unnoticed or moments of transitions, witnessed once and never again. This falls into the latter camp. Sandy heavily damaged the strip mall where this 99 Cents Store was. Three months later, I’m still writing Sandy material and I’m not near the end. Really gives you pause realizing the extent of this natural disaster, and the likely fact that weather events of this severity will now occur annually.

I’ve never shopped here and probably never will. Not that I don’t love 99 Cents Stores, I do, but I’m loyal to my one on Newark.

99 Cents Store. A friend from the South calls them Dollar Stores. The retail archetype was Woolworths – the original “Five and Dime” store. It somehow became shortened to Dime Store. Both Five and Dime and Dime Store were still used even after inflation meant there was nothing less than a quarter at the stores. In the 90s, Woolworths went out of business and 99 cents stores popped up. For a while, these ultra-discount merchants proudly proclaimed nothing was more than 99 (not including the inner-city NJ 3 cent tax), but that was short lived. Now the name of the store is an ideal, not a rigid limitation. I still call them 99 cents Stores, my friend Dollar Stores, in spite of the actual prices we now find there.

As these retailers go, this one is larger, almost a 99 Cent super-store. It’s fun shopping in these stores. A supermarket, like Pathmark, in whose strip Mall “Less” is located, has discount aisles and items. The prices for name-brand cleansers are the same, for instance and you can find similarly priced cleaning rag at both retailers. But only in 99 Cents Stores can you find mucho bizzaro Spanish language brands, like “Cleanso” or “Fabio,” as well faux alabaster religious statues, irregular t-shirts and a discounted shower sandals.

There is something tongue-in-cheek about shopping in these ultra-discount stores, like watching a syndicated rerun from a familiar sit-com. You remember when it was new, what life was like back then, just a short time ago in your memory, it still makes you laugh, just not as much. You remember when this was full price, and you don’t feel you need as much as you did then but you still see that it might be useful, so you decide if the lower price is equal to its diminished value.

The factory is making something else now. This product you are considering for purchase was the last of the lot, stayed in a warehouse, sold wholesale from supplier to jobber – the name for a third person re-seller –until the owner of this 99 Cent Store bought the lot for pennies on the dollar. Now it has caught your eye even though the only reason you are in here was for the paper towel you forget to buy when you went grocery shopping yesterday.
The ceiling collapsed if not the roof. The electrical system had to be replaced. The entire inventory was destroyed and made unsellable. But the retail concept of discount shopping is evergreen, able to withstand any Sandy

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