Confession: I'm a Clearance Connoisseur. I'm one of those weirdos who gets a cheap thrill from finding something of value in the junk the store couldn't get rid of otherwise. Sometimes it's worthwhile. Tent sized track pants? Well yes, sadly I *can* fit into those, thank you. That's not unique. What is potentially unique are the "rabbit holes" I can fall into when I pass something by that I later regret. Like "buyer's remorse," only it's from not buying something. Recently there was a piece of wall art that was being sold through Kohls.com. It was $7.99 and after a free shipping code and 30% off code, would have been about $6 to my door. I'd think about it. Do I need other things, since I'm ordering? After adding things to my shopping cart, and then removing them when I decided to get more selective. ("You don't need that," I will perennially hear my Dad saying each time I make any kind of purchase. I'll never admit it, but he's seldom wrong about that.) Anyway, I didn't order. I just saved the shopping cart and then went on my way perusing other bargain sites.
Eventually I returned. "Maybe I'll JUST order the artwork. I've got free shipping after all," I rationalized. Nope. I don't know what Spanish is for "no order" but I wasn't pulling the trigger. "They'll lose money by just sending me the one little thing. It's a waste." I don't work there. I don't have to care about their bottom line, just my own. A day or two later I decide I'd better place an order, only now the item is sold out. For most people, that would be it. They would accept that it wasn't meant to be, and not give it a second thought. I, however, am full of second thoughts. I am endless second thoughts, on a second thought machine. Though the image and all other information had been removed from the website, because I'd saved the item as a shopping list I was able to access the "sku" and pull up the store inventory for the item. Only the inventory checker wasn't working, just giving me an empty screen. So I call customer service. "Can you transfer stock from another store that has one?" "No." "Can you at least tell me which locations show inventory?" "No." "Can you hold me while I weep?"
Once again, undeterred I wait, only now I'm ruminating something fierce, which I now think needs to be a folk band name. "Ladies and gentlemen, Ruminating Something Fierce!" The next day I check the site again. It's still sold out, of course, but now the inventory checker is working. Only it's not giving me an actual count, just which stores have "limited inventory." I'm guessing this means less than three. You're guessing I'm going to keep going. You're right. I look at the map to see which stores I can hit up to score my fix. I look at the markers. Valencia is on the list. I call Valencia. Some guy I'll call "Pedro" only because his accent sounded Spanish and he didn't actually tell me his name. That's racist? Fine. I'll call him "Housewares," since that's how he answered. I have the sku. I need this. "Would you like me to go out on the floor and look for it?" "Yes, Housewares, I would." I'm on hold. Nobody has acceptable hold music anymore. Remember when you'd get a radio station to listen to on hold? Yeah, thank the complainers for now having to hear a blaring loop of staccato bullcrap. "Housewares" returns. "I don't see any." "Ok, thank you Housewares. I'll remember you fondly."
Next on the list is Alhambra. Where IS that, exactly? Oh, there. It's like South South Pasadena. I call. I know what button to press. Once again, I get "Housewares." (Please let that name catch on.) This Housewares sounds mysteriously like the last Housewares. Could I have called the same store twice? I could have, but then surely this Housewares would clue me in on this error. Then again, he's working retail, and as someone whose done it, it CAN start to feel like "Groundhog Day." "It says we have two." "Of course it does," I think out loud. "I can go look for them," he says. "Search, Housewares. Search like your life depends on it." Hell, mine might at this point. More hold music. More of THE EXACT SAME hold music. I'm glad the employees don't have to hear this over the store's speakers, because Housewares is too apathetic yet helpful to deserve that kind of torture. "I found one!" he comes back on the line exasperated. "Bingo!" I exclaim. "What?" he says. "Nevermind." "Would you like me to hold it for you?" he asks. "In your precious little hands, Housewares. I'll be in there in the morning about 10 to pick it up." "What's your name?" I wanted to say Housewares, but wasn't going to risk offending, of course.
I drive to Alhambra. Where is this again? Thank God for Google Maps, because I wouldn't have had the energy to "Thomas Guides" this trek. I'm going to tell you a secret: Alhambra is just like South Pasadena. I could not discern an obvious difference. The Alhambra Chamber of Commerce may want to think of a way to distinguish themselves, because so far they should just call this "More Pasadena." It's 10:30AM the next day. Google Maps tells me "I've arrived," and boy have I. I head upstairs where I predict I will find Housewares. (The section, not the person. Well, probably also the person.) It's a ghost town. I peruse the clearance section. I find the other artwork. (You do recall they had two.) Someone has taken a pen and scribbled a line across the top of it. Who in Kohl's has a ballpoint pen, and wanted to vandalize? It was probably Housewares. He saw what I was after and as an act of defiance was like "You're not getting both of them." Well played, Housewares. Well played. I head to the nearby customer service desk. There is no one behind it. Finally a girl comes out from behind a partition, like they used to on "The Dating Game." (She would not have been my choice.) Incidentally, there's no need for peek-a-boo, lady. It's 10:30 in the morning on a Tuesday at a Kohl's in Alhambra. You don't have to be David Copperfield. I hold up the vandalized art (because of course I have it in my hands. It may have pen on it, but what if they can't find the other one?!? Can you remove pen?!? Contingency plan, people!) and without saying anything she hands me the one behind the counter. "Bingo!" I exclaim. "What?!?" she asks. I want to ask her how to send Housewares a thank you card, but even I think that's too much.
I walk away and as I look down I see the price sticker on mine says $3.99. The pen marked one is $1.99. Am I going to have to argue that the undefaced one, though it should have more value, is still ultimately the same thing? Are they going to tell me the only reason the pen marked one is $2 less is BECAUSE it has been damaged? Is this going to end in fisticuffs?!? Am I going to be arrested at a Kohl's at 10:30 on a Tuesday. . .in Alhambra?!? I make my way to a price scanner. They both come up $1.99. Crisis averted.
I totally forgot to mention in between it being sold out online and searching the stores, I searched for the manufacturer of said art. It's a company called "Primitives by Kathy." (I checked the company's FAQ, and yes, there's really a Kathy.) I left them a message on the form on their website asking if they knew where else I could find this artwork since it was sold out. I had envisioned some nice lady in an office (heck, maybe even Kathy herself) would sympathize with my plight and say "You know, we have a bunch of these just sitting around in the warehouse. I'll just send you one." No such luck. It's been three days. I haven't heard from Kathy. (Has ANYONE heard from Kathy?!?) Had things turned out differently, it would have warranted a phone call. It still may, if only to do a "welfare check" on the whereabouts of Kathy.
I have the artwork. It's here in a pile somewhere. I'm going to hang it, or set it on a shelf, maybe. I should really start writing. I took the week away from social media so I'd start writing. First, though, I'd better check the clearance section. There might be something I can't live without. Oh, by the way, here is the artwork: