By Judi Curry
I would rather go to the dentist than go shopping. I hate it. (Not that I like going to the dentist either.) But every now and then an opportunity presents itself that I cannot turn down. Such was the situation on March 26th, when my daughter Michele – whose middle name should have been “Nordstrom” – called me to say she was going to the 99 cent store in Clairemont and wanted to know if I wanted to go with her.
I love spending time with my three daughters, but seldom get the chance to be with Michele because she works so many hours. Plus, she drives a convertible, my favorite kind of vehicle. (Although by the time she picked me up it was after 5:00pm; it was windy and cold, and she had the top up.) She was planning a luncheon honoring the women that she works with – some 60+ – and was looking for a theme to decorate at least 10 tables for the event.
At least we weren’t going clothes shopping, or, even worse, shoe shopping. Because of the time of day, she decided that the Clairemont 99 cent store was the best because we would hit minimal traffic. The better stores are in the La Mesa/El Cajon area, but the traffic would be horrendous at that time of day.
We walked the aisles of the “99 cent store” – which, by the way, is the name of the store– picking up items, putting them down; selecting other items and replacing them with still others. I really didn’t need anything, but thought that I might purchase some items to send to my two great-grandchildren in Australia.
After all, the Easter Holiday was coming up and since they wouldn’t be participating in an Easter Egg Hunt at my house with all my other grandchildren and I didn’t want them to forget me. So while Michele was shopping for her things, I began shopping for the kids. I put twenty items in my cart – most for them but a few for me. (Aluminum cake pans; Bagel snacks; Windex; etc.)
Twenty items times 99 cents should have come to $19.80. One doesn’t have to be a mathematical genius to figure that out. But it was Michele who pointed out to me – after we left the store – that everything was rung up as .9999 and the grand total was $20. Not $19.80. Tax was added to the $20.
I can just hear my critics now. “You are arguing about 20 cents?” “Come on, Curry. You got a bargain.” “You are really just getting too old to do these reviews.” And dozens more that will be tossed my way. But that isn’t the point. The point is that the store is NOT a 99 cent store if everything is rung up as $1.00. I don’t know exactly how many people were checking out with Michele and me, but I would guess it was close to 25 people.
Twenty-five people in a half-hour, one time shopping excursion. The amount of money that the store generated in that short period of time has to be substantial. The amount of money earned by the store during one day of charging $1 instead of 99 cents must be a large amount, and multiply that times one week, one month, or one year of shopping would be an exorbitant amount of profit. I would not object to paying $1 an item; the 20 cents is nothing. But it is the subterfuge that gets to me. Even the receipt says, “99Cents Only.”
So will I go back to the 99 Cents store? Of course, but I will realize that I am paying $1 an item; not 99 cents. And I might just say something about it to the manager. After all, I may have been a blond in an earlier life, but I’m not stupid.
Dana Levy says
I am always amazed (at myself included) that I say gas costs 3.09 a gallon when it is actually 3.0999. The rounding up would make it 3.10 and that would sound terrible. I am using the amounts as an example as 3.09 doesn’t now exist. Seems that this extended decimal game is part of our culture and will remain a fact of life from now on. One has to just grin and bear it and not get bogged down by the minutia. Judi, I sympathize but what are we supposed to do? Life is too short to haggle over the “far right” decimals when it is the actual far right that needs scrutiny, addressing and admonishment.
I agree, Dana. I said it is hardly worth fighting about this, but the fact remains that it is a form of fraud. So what do I do? I go to the “Dollar Store” where things are $1.00 (or sometimes less) or other stores that bill themselves as “Dollar Stores” and stay away from the 99 cent store. It’s not the money; it’s the principle of the thing.
Dave Rice says
Reminds me of my first job in high school where the owner of my bike shop read an industry publication about generating extra revenue by pricing things at $XX.99 instead of $XX.95 (which was our practice at the time) – he was ready to jump on the bandwagon, and even though I was only earning $5 an hour he probably paid me $100 spending a whole week after school plus most of a weekend re-pricing every item in the shop. I somehow doubt I added much more than that $100 (maybe $105) to the price of the inventory…but it made the boss man happy and it was easier than trying to make muddy, rusted-out derailleurs shift smoothly.