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Designer Dishwashing Gloves, Preschooler Alligator Boots: Why Sidewalk Sales Are Irresistible

Two shopping junkies explain the similarities between a sidewalk sale and a Costco run (and why it's so hard to buy a winter coat in the summer, no matter what the discount).

We love sidewalks. We love sales. Combine the two and what do you get? Shopping bags filled with half-priced-no-return-nirvana.

It’s hard to resist these summer sales. Everywhere you turn there are vendors outside, hawking the stuff we’ve looked at through the safety of plate glass windows for months. That cake plate that looked fetching in the display case? Irresistible under the tent. Remember the year we thought Crocs were going out of business? Mesmerized by sidewalk sale mania, it seemed like a good idea to buy two pairs in every size larger than what our kids were currently wearing. We were so impressed with how much we saved… until the company restructured and our kids decided they no longer liked Crocs. 

Even harder though, is getting yourself to buy that parka you know you will need in just a few short months when it is still 95 degrees outside. Sure you are saving boatloads of cash – but how can you bring yourself to slide your bare arm into the satin lined sleeve of a winter coat when it’s roasting outside? And how can you tell if it fits? Are you going to first put on a sweater? And if you do, fine, then the parka fits you. But what about buying a winter coat for your child who is away at overnight camp? That’s the coat you really need, but will he like construction-worker orange? Turns out orange looks better with a tan. 

Now sometimes a little unexpected bounty results from the sidewalk sale. Years ago, a friend bought her daughter the cutest pair of faux alligator zip-up, ankle-height go-go boots. How those boots made it to the sale rack is a mystery. Really, they were a closet staple by any measure. Anyway, she grabbed the non-returnable boots and presented them to her pre-school-aged daughter who made it clear that the world would end before she would deign to put on those boots. 

What’s a mother to do? Suffice it to say those boots got gifted to one of our daughters who wore them until the soles were bare. Money well spent.

Last summer it was mighty difficult to pass up three pairs of designer pink rubber dishwashing gloves with leopard trim. Why three pair? Well, the deal was, one pair for $10, or three for $28. Who knew those rubber gloves would turn out to be seemingly indestructible. Pair number one has been used for dish duty every day since last summer and looks no worse for wear. Was it necessary to buy three pairs? You betchya – it was a deal! (We’d be willing to share the extra two pairs, but we can’t find them. Maybe we’ll buy more

The question is, what’s the difference between a sidewalk sale and a Costco run? You start out optimistic, maybe even with a list, and a plan to get only what you need and save a lot of money. In the end, though, you wind up with a shopping bag filled with items you never set out to buy: belts, picture frames, last year’s sandals, a sequin covered baseball cap, at least one crochet vest, a pot holder and a coin purse suitable for an Afikomen prize or a teacher gift.

What you purchase, though, is really beside the point. It’s just fun to walk through the business district when it’s transformed into an open-air market. On your mark, get set, and shop.

wendy gimbel July 28, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Cute article. If you find the other two pair of dishwashing gloves you could put them on ebay. The proceeds from the sale will make you even for everything you bought last year!

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