Dollar Dreams

By Lenore Skenazy

May 11, 2017 4 min read

Some people live to pay retail. They love Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany & Co. and (of course) Target. But give me a discount shop any day.

And make it rock bottom.

I'm talking about the gummy-squids-from-Guam, happy-Halloween-now-that-it's-May, looks-like-Woolite-but-it's-Woolbrite shops that make you feel so darn rich.

I always find something I can't live without — for example, my plastic Hercules figurine that twists apart in the middle, leaving me with a Hercules-from-the-groin-down bottle of shampoo.

Don't ask what it's doing to my household's psyche (three males and me). The important thing is that it was 99 cents.

I'm hardly the only one drawn to these castles of cut-rate commerce. "They're always crowded," notes my pal Liz. "They're like a magnet. That big '99' followed by the 'cents' sign pulls you in."

And by the way, I dare you to go in there and spend just the number of cents advertised. It's impossible. Walk in and you might just as well have won one of those shopping sprees they used to give away on game shows — you know, the ones on which contestants got to keep anything they stuffed into their shopping cart in the space of 60 seconds.

Quince jelly? Grab it! Teddy bear in a Pilgrim hat? Mine! Scowling turtle night light? I'll take two!

It's amazing how greedy you get once you can afford everything in sight. At last I understand the 1 percent!

Every day, a gaggle of trillionaires-in-training trundle into shops that make shopping feel like a very short flight to a very troubled country where a dollar in U.S. currency gets you a goat (roasted or kicking).

Drawn by the prospect of non-penury, bargain junkies whirl from one trove to the next, their bags overflowing with "Moana" coloring books and cheese twists from Bulgaria.

I stood at one such emporium near three middle-aged women (and one Yorkie) discussing their purchases. "Look at this," said the blondest, holding up a canceled-cartoon-character chew toy. "In the pet stores, this would be at least $2.99. Here it's two for a dollar!" The Yorkie seemed almost as pleased as she was.

Turns out these ladies know the liquidation biz from the inside out. They spent most of their lives in retail, selling goods to the big department stores and not-so-goods to places like this.

"Remember Coca-Cola ready-to-wear?" one woman asked her friends. They all cackled. When a seller gets stuck with a truckload of 27,000 dozen "Coca-Cola" briefs for boys, she sells them to a liquidator, who gives 10 cents on the dollar or so. The liquidator then turns around and sells to my favorite stores.

"You'll always find something," burbles my pal Lauren. She has found bargains such as a spatula that melted when she used it to stir stew. And she was somewhat disappointed by her six-for-$1 tape dispensers because "the teeth didn't cut the tape." (So buy scissors, Lauren! They're only 99 cents!)

Personally, I'm becoming a bit wary of the colored pens from countries better known for their falafel. And recently, I bought some wrapping paper I couldn't pull off the roll without it shredding.

Made toilet paper look like brushed steel.

And then there were the tights, three for $1. Look, a bargain's a bargain, and I'll always shop these stores. But I guess I should have known by now:

They meant three legs.

Lenore Skenazy is author of the book and blog "Free-Range Kids" and a keynote speaker at conferences, companies and schools. To find out more about Lenore Skenazy ([email protected]) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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