Category Archives: Shopping

How to sell some plastic chairs during a pandemic

The six we ended up with.

The six we ended up with.

My mom wanted some plastic chairs. My brother and his family were coming through town, and she had discovered from past visits from grandchildren and great-grandchildren that she and my Dad didn’t have enough backyard furniture to accommodate such gatherings.

So I went to Lowe’s to get some. The stackable kind that are easy to deploy and to store. I was to get six. That was as far as my instructions extended.

I first tried late on Wednesday, arriving about 7:30. I found that the store had closed at 7 — quite a bit earlier than the 8:30 I had expected from my last such expedition. Employees on hand told me they’d be staying open until 9 again starting Friday. This prompted two thoughts: 1) Why would they be resuming normal hours then? and 2) What good did that do me?

I returned on Saturday, after having contemplated seeking such chairs at Walmart. But I didn’t. I went to Lowes. This proved to be a mistake. First, I tried to find them on my own, pushing about a large flatbed cart for most of the time. I did this for maybe half an hour before noticing some chairs LIKE what I sought in the area where they put online orders waiting to be picked up. I pointed to them and asked an employee where I might find more. He copied the info from the bar code and we started to look together. About 20 or 30 minutes later, we had hit every area that I had previously visited by myself. We consulted with a number of his fellow employees. With some, we entered into deals where my guy would help them find something if they’d help us find the chairs.

After we had exhausted all these possibilities, we were back where we had started, when I suggested something: Might they be outside, in front of the store? I seemed to remember having seen such chairs in such a position on a previous occasion. I was not alone — the employee stopped, looked and pointed at me in a way that said, “You, sir, are a genius.”

He was right, because I was right. There they were, no more than 100 feet away when we stepped out and looked. Loads of them, in all sorts of colors. The employee had to return to what he’d been doing before, but he left me with advice: I would need to decide which ones I wanted and go in and find someone to get them, because they were all chained together.

I took a lot of pictures, and texted them to my mom — mainly for color guidance. I knew from previous experience that she wouldn’t like the Adirondack-shaped one. I agree. They look great, but are never comfortable. And I counted out the rocking-chair style. That just left a few.

But I was unable to report on how sturdy or steady they were. Because I would have to bring out another employee to help with that, and I wanted to narrow things down first. Also, she was not pleased with the pricing — running between about $20 and $25 for likely models. She had hoped they’d be more like $15.

I said I’d go see what Walmart had, but I warned her not to expect $15 chairs.

I was wiped out at this point. I get that way since my stroke. I felt like I’d been wearing that mask for a year. I called my wife and said I’d be home soon if I didn’t get a LOT luckier at Walmart.

I was home about 15 minutes later.

Things had not started well at Walmart. I parked near the garden center entrance, and found it was locked from the outside. I uttered some choice words — actually just one (no sense getting creative when no one could hear me), but I said it several times. Then I walked around, and made my way back to that department, where I found the following:

  • There was a stack of chairs exactly like the most suitable ones at Lowe’s.
  • They were all one color. It was a nicer color than any at Lowe’s — a quiet neutral gray.
  • They all looked perfect, but I pulled one off the stack to check. It was, indeed, perfect.
  • They were way cleaner than the ones at Lowe’s, being inside.
  • You know how many there were? Six. Not five, not seven. Six.
  • The sign stated the price: $14.94 apiece. (The exact same model at Lowe’s was $22.98.)

There were no carts nearby, but I stopped an employee who had just unloaded a pallet on wheels. He said he didn’t see buggies, but maybe we could use his vehicle. Being careful not to say it with any sarcasm, I said that had been kind of what I was thinking when I stopped him. He wheeled the chairs to the self-serve area, peeled off a barcode and scanned it six times for me. He then wheeled them outside while I went to get my truck. I had meant to shop for some other stuff while there, but didn’t want to mess with the way things were going.

Driving the truck over, I looked in my wallet and found only two dollars. I was embarrassed to offer him so little for being so awesomely helpful, so I just thanked him profusely, and drove the chairs to my parents’ house. They were exactly what my Mom wanted.

I should have given him the two dollars, I decided later…

Why do things go like that sometimes, but too often they don’t?

The chairs at Lowe's.

The chairs at Lowe’s.

It’s always interesting to watch tech behemoths try to be something they are not

Bing shopping

Anyone out there actually use Bing?

I never have, even though I use a PC most of the time, and am therefore frequently reminded of its existence. I mean, there’s Google, right? So what would I use Bing for — unless I was trying to throw cyber surveillance off my scent? I do enjoy some of the cool photos they use to try to engage my interest, though.

As for Google — remember its pathetic attempt to be a social medium? I tried it out. I even used Google Hangout once for a video conference. But if I wanted video conferencing, I’ve got Facetime on my phone, right? And I have vague memories of something called Skype, although I haven’t used it in years.

Today, on my lockscreen on my PC, against a beautiful photo of a snowy countryside, I saw an invitation to check out something called “Bing shopping.”

Curious, I called it up. And I found something singularly unappealing. Then, intrigued by what sort of e-reader Bing shopping was promoting, I clicked and to my amusement saw that the first three offered were Amazon Kindles.

So… why am I not looking for them through Amazon?

As for Amazon… it might be too early to mock it for its foray into bricks-and-mortar retailing, but perhaps the time will come ere long…


Anybody remember Woolco stores?


That thread-within-a-thread we had going yesterday about the closings of Kmart and Sears stores reminded me of something…

Anybody remember Woolco stores? That was my very first experience of the big-box discount store, before Kmart or Wal-Mart or anything else of the kind.

I’ve written a lot about when my family first moved back to the States from Ecuador in 1965, and I happily overdosed on TV and many other aspects of American culture that I had done without. (As I wrote at one point, “It was so amazingly stimulating, as though all my neurons were on fire. It was like mainlining some drug that is so far unknown to pharmacology, one that fully engages all of your brain.”) The new TV season that fall seemed to this 11-year-old like the most exciting thing that had ever happened (“Lost in Space,” “Green Acres” and “I-Spy” all premiered on the same night!), but I also thoroughly enjoyed the smaller pleasures, such as drinking water straight from the tap without fear of hepatitis.

Anyway, all mixed up in that in my memory was the Woolco store not far from where we lived on the Navy base in Algiers, La., across the river from New Orleans.

It was enormous, and they had everything — way more exciting than the Navy Exchange. We drove there to shop often in our 396-horsepower 1965 Impala Super Sport. I used to spend a good bit of time in the record department. I have fairly specific memories of some of the new releases I saw on display during those couple of years we lived there — “Day-Tripper,” “Mellow Yellow,” “Paperback Writer”…

Woolco went away in 1983. Instead of closing in dribs and drabs like Kmart and Sears, all 336 U.S. stores closed in January of that year.

Oh, here’s a bonus question for Pee Dee denizens: Anybody remember Treasure City in Florence? Similar concept if I remember correctly, although maybe not as big as a Woolco. My brother and I got our first GI Joe there, also in 1965. The building still stands, although I think it has housed a flea market in recent years…

Anybody remember Treasure City, right across the highway from the Florence Airport?

Anybody remember Treasure City, right across the highway from the Florence Airport?