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Dinosaur Does Retail

Richard Quinn

I WAS READING HumbleDollar, minding my own business, when I heard those dreaded words: “I need to go shopping.” Frankly, I dislike shopping. If I need something from a store, I go, quickly find what I’m looking for, pay and leave. I use self-checkout whenever it’s available so I can get out as soon as possible.

To avoid the store altogether, I may go online and never leave my easy chair. Search, click, check out and your package arrives Thursday. No aisles to wander, no searching for a parking space. I don’t even have to talk to anyone who may steer me in the wrong direction.

My wife, on the other hand, meanders up and down the aisles. “What are you doing?” I sometimes have the courage to ask.

“Just looking,” I’m told.

“For what?” I ask.

“For something I might need.”

Sometimes the need pops up based on the item being on sale. That way, you can save money when buying something you don’t need. Occasionally, you buy two of them because you get 50% off the second item. The question is, do you now have two more than you need?

I don’t know about you, but if I need something, I know what it is before I go to the store. I just looked in my closet and counted 22 pairs of pants. More than I need, of course, but I must admit some of the older pairs have somehow shrunk a bit around the waist in the years since retirement.

On our last shopping sojourn, “we” decided I needed new pants. After coupons were applied to the sale price, a $59.95 pair of pants cost only $11.99. I must admit this was a bargain. Now I have 23 pairs of pants—about five or six of which fit comfortably.

My wife enjoys shopping and is deliberate about it. She likes to interact with the sales staff and receive help when needed. Research undertaken at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School suggests “womens role as caregiver contributes to womens more acute shopping awareness and higher expectations. On the other hand, after generations of relying on women to shop effectively for them, mens interest in shopping has atrophied.”

Apparently, there’s a scientific basis for this female need to shop. One theory holds it goes back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Men hunted while working far fewer hours than women, who spent their days and nights gathering, cooking, making clothes and soothing the egos of the men who didn’t catch anything. Okay, that egos part is my theory.

I think my personal aversion to shopping may be linked to my love of Swedish meatballs. Several years ago, I went to my local IKEA for a bag of frozen meatballs. IKEA has a unique way of arranging its stores. Instead of aisles, it uses a labyrinth. I made a wrong turn and it took me half an hour to find my way out. It was traumatic.

It seems we older men may be behind the times. An article in GQ says that, when shopping, many men are now behaving more like women. According to several experts, men are browsing, impulse buying and experimenting with trends like never before. Of course, all this may be wishful thinking on the part of marketers.

If not, then those of us who can relate to the dinosaur days, when shopping wasn’t a thing, will surely become extinct.

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