Yesterday was our second to last HotDocs movie. It was an early one. One o’clock start. And so it was still mid-afternoon when we got out of the theatre. Marilyn wanted to go to a drug store a couple of blocks away; and, seeing as how it was such a gorgeous day, I decided to tag along.
On our way, we passed right by a new Marshalls. Of course we had to go in. We’re women. What woman can resist a bargain? For those of you who live outside North America, Marshalls is an off price (discount) apparel and home fashion retailer.
My first introduction to it, was in Sarasota, Florida about thirteen or fourteen years ago. A friend of mine is the ultimate bargain hunter. And I do mean the ultimate. She could teach classes.
For years she, and a group of bridge-playing friends, would go to Sarasota for a few weeks every winter. They’d rent a house and spend their days outlet shopping and playing bridge. Hour after hour after hour after hour. It was a marathon.
At one point the group broke up. She suggested we go, promising me it would be an experience I wouldn’t soon forget. At the time we didn’t have much in the way of discount retailers in Canada, so when she described the HUGE malls devoted to nothing else but designer and brand name outlet stores, offering humongous discounts, I had my bags packed in a nano second.
Being the pro she was, she cautioned me to pack very lightly. And, in fact, to only bring old clothes I wouldn’t even bother to bring back home with me. She knew I’d need the room in my suitcase(s) for everything I’d be buying in Florida.
Man, was she right!!
We took a very early morning flight, I remember. By about 2 or 2:30 we’d unpacked and settled into the house. I was ready to start shopping, but she insisted we get groceries out of the way. That done we hit our first four stores. Stein Mart, T.J. Maxx (a Marshalls sister company), Marshalls and Famous Shoes.
I was like an animal let out of a cage. I’d never seen anything like it. I found a Ralph Lauren cashmere sweater for $10. Pure silk shirts for $7.50. Stuart Weitzman shoes for $12. Calvin Klein jeans for $5. I kid you not! And it was all in mint condition. Perfect. Brand new. Nothing wrong with any of it.
There’s a six-item maximum for fitting rooms. My shopping cart was piled so high, she had to walk beside me, with her hand on top so the clothes wouldn’t tip over and fall out. And then she stayed with the cart, while I tried stuff on. And as soon as I was done with one batch of six, I’d come back to her for more.
By the time we were done at just those few retailers, the trunk of our rental car was completely full of bags, and we were forced to start using the back seat. Seriously. When we got home we had a show and tell. I had at least ten bags to go through. So did she. When I added up everything I’d spent I was in shock. It wasn’t even $75. It was more like $60.
From that moment on, I was seriously addicted. I couldn’t get enough. We fell into a routine. Our house was about an eight-minute walk from the beach. We’d get up at around 7 a.m. every day. She’d go off in her direction, me in mine. We’d walk for about an hour and meet at home for breakfast. By about 9:30 we’d eaten, showered, dressed and were in the car.
In the two weeks we were there we did EVERY Prime Outlet Mall between Tampa and Naples. We did EVERY Stein Mart, T.J. Maxx and Marshalls as well. Famous only had one store, in Sarasota. But we were there at least three times a week checking on new merchandise. We also checked out the clearance racks at all the Macy’s, Dillard’s and Nordstrom’s. We left no stone unturned. We literally shopped ’til we dropped. We never got home before 7 or 8 p.m.
Occasionally we’d stop for dinner on our way home. Either to a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant specializing in lobster we found serendipitously, or to an Amish restaurant that was a favourite of Sue’s (the friend I went with). Great, simple home cooking with portions so enormous three people could easily share one dish. Their desserts were like nothing you’ve ever seen; and the peanut butter pie was probably every bit as good as the best sex you’ve ever had.
No word of a lie.
When it was time to pack to come home I had to buy two more pieces of luggage. Those thin bags you can fold up and keep in your suitcase, just in case you might need them. Aside from all the clothes, I’d bought six pair of shoes and three handbags. My total bill was well under $300. Well under. Tax included. I didn’t even have to pay any duty. I remember the customs officer in Toronto (a woman) didn’t believe me. I had saved every bill. I’d even left the price tag on the clothes, because I knew they’d think I was lying.
Yesterday I didn’t come away with much of a haul. That’s the thing with discount shopping. Sometimes you make out like a bandit. Sometimes you come away empty handed.
But I did get a beautiful very sheer, almost gauzy, white linen big, loose, flowy cardigan for $24. The designer boutiques sell sweaters just like it. They come in around $350 and up.
Was I a happy camper?
Are you kidding me? What do you think?