Giant Tiger, Hidden Dragon

By Cam Mather

My wife Michelle is amazing. I know all husbands say this, but my wife is really fantastic. She is the greatest mother on the planet, does the accounting and much of the fulfillment and marketing side of Aztext Press, is a fabulous cook, an exceptional gardener, and as I’ve just learned, she can drive a heckuva  bargain!

I learned this on our recent “big city trip to Kingston”. Since we live a good 45 minute drive from the city, we try to gang up all of our errands do them all in one trip. This trip involved delivering garlic to three resellers as well, so it was a busy day. We also made stops at all of our favourite secondhand stores in Kingston. This includes Value Village, The Salvation Army Store, and a great new one that sells used items to raise money to provide bibles. This new store has amazing prices on their used books. While Michelle wanders around looking for treasures amongst all of the items, I tend to focus on books. Unfortunately I’ve noticed that with the downturn in the economy these stores are becoming more popular and as demand goes up, so do their prices.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not much into fashion. I go for comfort and practicality in my clothing, as shown by my recent blog post about my new pants with the padded knees. I have bought some great secondhand clothing at amazing prices over the years but at Value Village in particular the price on much of the clothing is getting ridiculous. It’s especially silly when you consider how little you can pay for brand new stuff. It concerns me when I see stuff that I recognize from Dollarama being priced at Value Village for $2.99 (or more!). I guess it pays to be an educated shopper and I’m certainly not a dollar store expert. But I will admit to wandering the aisles of Dollarama slack jawed at what can be made in China for a buck. Actually, the items would have been made for less than a dollar since it had to be made there and shipped here and then the retailer had to get their cut as well. I’ve mentioned the documentary “Manufactured Landscapes” on this blog before, which shows the real cost of things made in China.

It’s appalling and as socially enlightened person I should avoid shopping there. But the reality is, if you want to be clothed today, you don’t have a lot of choice. “Roots” used to make some of their goods here in Canada but the last time I checked for jeans they had moved off-shore. So if the used stuff at Value Village is more expensive than the new stuff at Giant Tiger, I’m going to buy new stuff. After all, it’s all made in China.

Giant Tiger is a Canadian Discount Department Store, similar to Wal-Mart but on a smaller scale. I’ve only been in a Wal-Mart once when it first opened in Oakville back in the 1990s, and I don’t plan on ever shopping there again, so it isn’t an option for clothing purchases. Giant Tiger was in fact started by the father of Scott Reid, my Member of Parliament.

So yesterday Michelle and I were trolling for bargains at Giant Tiger. I found some fleece pajama bottoms for $3 a pair on a bargain rack. Then I found a fall jacket for $5. It fit perfectly and had a zipper that worked! I’ve got lots of fall jackets, but most of them are 20 years old and no longer have functioning zippers. This seems to diminish their effectiveness at keeping the cold at bay. So I decided to splurge and treat myself to a new jacket. It represented the income we had just generated from selling about a pound of garlic, and since I plant garlic in the fall, on chilly days, I felt it was justified.

The price tag said “Compare at $12.99”. How you make a jacket like this and sell it for $12.99 boggles my mind. The Giant Tiger price was $9.99 which was even more amazing. Then it had been marked down to $7.00 and then again to $5.00. I guess it kind makes sense, since we’ve been suffering through a brutal heat wave, so no one would have been too interested in this fall jacket. I should mention, that this is part of the premise from my book “Thriving During Challenging Times.” I suggest that you should capitalize on opportunities when they arise. If you aren’t saddled with huge amounts of debt, it’s a lot easier to take advantage of good prices on things you need. Buying things out of season can be a great way to find a bargain. This jacket had clearly been sitting around for a while. You could tell because the shoulders were all faded from being under the fluorescent lights for so long. Now if I was fashion conscious, this might worry me, but since I  plan on using it for a work jacket and it will no doubt get torn by the chainsaw or soiled with horse manure, I wasn’t too concerned about the faded shoulders.

We got to the cashier, and Michelle pointed to the faded shoulders and asked the cashier  if the price could be dropped any lower. The cashier seemed a little surprised –  apparently customers don’t often ask retailers to lower their prices. The cashier hemmed and hawed and then called her manager over. Michelle pointed out the faded shoulders to the manager and then used her best negotiating strategy – she went silent. The manager looked the jacket over and explained that it was already marked down significantly but then she squirmed and stuttered and said “Okay, you can have it for $3.00 but it can’t be returned.” Since we had no intention of returning it, Michelle agreed to the $3.00 price tag.

Three Bucks! For a jacket! A pretty good jacket! The mind boggles. My wife is a hidden dragon of retail negotiating prowess. She is a deal making machine.

I learned a few things from this experience. I learned  that it never hurts to ask for a discount. As Michelle pointed out to me, “What’s the worse she could have said … “no? Since I was going to buy it at $5 anyway, I had nothing to lose”. In the current economic climate, everything is up for negotiation. My new line is “No, what’s MY price?” I also learned to never again argue with my wife. It’s a zero-sum game, and I’ll lose. Now I can hardy wait for the fall weather so I can use my new totally awesome $3 jacket. As long as Naomi Klein (author of the book “No Logo” about sweatshop labor) doesn’t read this, I’m fine.

POSTSCRIPT:

From the photos it’s hard to see the faded shoulders, but they’re there. It’s also pretty obvious that I’m not a professional model, although I hadn’t shaved yet when we took the photos so I do have that chiseled-model-look thing happening. Modeling fall wear outside in the sun during a heat wave really sucks though. I’ll demand air conditioned studios for future shoots. Yea, Yea, I know what you’re saying. Don’t worry, I won’t quit my day job.

Michelle’s Clarification – Just so you don’t think I’m one of those horrible people who hold everyone up in a line, there was no one behind us in line during this transaction, so I didn’t worry about inconveniencing anyone while I asked for a discount. And no, we aren’t talking about huge sums of money in this example, but if it works with small ticket items, it will work for larger, more expensive ones!

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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