Tag Archives: shopping

I bought it on eBay

When I was in high school, I worked at a local restaurant, first behind the counter, scooping ice cream and making cappuccinos, and later on the floor, waiting tables and collecting tips. I’ve written about this before, but the result was four years where I had a lot of disposable income and almost nothing to spend it on. Sure, once I bought a car things changed a little bit. I had to buy gas and insurance and all of those repairs I needed from backing up into street signs and stuff like that. But I was still basically swimming in cash.


I had a computer in my bedroom with access to the Internet via a 56k modem which, yes, it’s inconceivably slow compared to my high-speed connection now, but I remember what pre-56k was like, and this was cutting edge at the time. At RadioShack I bought a really, really long telephone cable and I strung it from the downstairs phone jack all the way up to my bedroom upstairs. Presto, even before I bought my independence a couple of years later with my 1991 Dodge Stealth, now I had an outlet to almost anything I wanted.

I had the Internet. I had cash. There wasn’t anything else required. I would go on eBay and bid on all sorts of garbage. When I won a bid, I would get an envelope, I would stuff it with cash, and I’d wait for my treasure to arrive in the mail. Everything started out pretty small-time. One of my first bids was for a DVD copy of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon. Ten bucks in the mail, it wasn’t too big of a risk. And everything worked out fine.

But my purchases started increasing in value. I was really big into Dragon Ball Z at the time, and being a Japanese import, I was limited to what the TV stations decided to translate and dub to English. I knew that more existed out there, entire seasons that weren’t brought to the US at a pace to my liking, accessories and even video games.

All of the video games were in Japanese, and only playable on the Super Famicom, Japan’s version of the Super Nintendo. So I did what any fifteen-year-old with money to burn would do: I found one on eBay, I bid on it along with all of the games, and I mailed out the cash to some random address in Arizona, hoping that the seller would make good on his or her end of the deal.

It was a little crazy, mailing all of that cash. Even eBay strongly advised against it, warning me that I should send money orders, or checks, or whatever. But this was before I had a car, so I couldn’t really get out of the house without raising questions from my mom and dad. “What do you need a money order for a hundred and dollars for? Japanese video games? No, sorry, I’m not driving you to the bank for that.”

And I don’t know if it was luck or if I happened to have only done business with the most reputable of international video game importers, but nobody ever just pocketed my cash. All of goods eventually arrived. And there were lots of goods. Some of the stuff was pretty mundane, like comic books, more video games.

But a lot of the stuff that I bid on and bought, it was stupid, the very definition of an impulse purchase. I bought a pair of nunchucks. Why? I don’t know. I thought it would have been cool. And it was cool for like three seconds, before I put them on a shelf somewhere in my childhood bedroom. They’re probably still there, collecting dust, a symbol of the clutter that I’m constantly accumulating as I make my way through life.

Twenty dollars for a model kit of that 1991 Dodge Stealth. I never set it up. I remember looking at all of those little pieces in the box and thinking to myself, yeah, maybe I’ll build this thing one day, all while another voice said matter-of-factly, you’ll never open this box again. Put it next to the nunchucks. Whatever, twenty bucks gone, who cares?

I bought an old beer clock from a bar, some ridiculous piece of rust that lit up when you plugged it in. There were weird used obscure punk rock t-shirts that, regardless of how many times I ran them through the spin cycle, I could never get that crusty cigarette smell to disappear completely. Probably the low point of my eBay consumerism was a piece of WWF wrestling paraphernalia I had sent to my house. It was only five dollars, and it seemed cool at the time: a Kurt Angle novelty driver’s license.

This thing showed up in an envelope, it was basically just a piece of white paper that was very obviously printed out of some guy’s printer, he must have hand cut it with a pair of scissors, and then ran through a laminating machine. It was so stupid, citing bogus made-up credentials, like, “Address: 100 Olympic Way.” Because he was in the Olympics. Get it?

I stared at it and finally had a moment of revelation, that I was just throwing money away, all in exchange for garbage. When was I ever going to use this driver’s license? It wasn’t even cool looking enough to keep in my wallet.

I’m glad I got my eBay phase done with while I was young, because every once in a while I’ll revisit the site, I’ll start typing in keywords related to my current interests. And yeah, lots of seemingly cool looking stuff pops up. With the “Buy-It-Now” feature, I’m only one click away from having whatever I want shipped to my house. And look, now I’m an adult, I have a credit card, I don’t have to worry about stuffing an envelope with a stack of fives and tens.

But I get a sense memory of that old dusty smell. It was identical, regardless of where a package was shipped. It smelled like the basement, like an attic. Like, wow, I have a bunch of crap lying around my house. Maybe I can get someone to buy it on eBay.

I went shopping for a new pair of pants

I needed a pair of pants, so I went to this men’s clothing store a few subway stops away from my place. It was pretty early, so there weren’t too many shoppers. As soon as I walked in, this woman standing by the entrance was like, “Hello! Welcome to the store! Do you need any help?”


And I don’t want to belittle retail employees, I mean, I work in the service industry, although restaurant work is a totally different beast than working in a clothing store, I guess we’re like cousins. I get it, is what I’m trying to say. I get how I’m immediately annoyed that this person is all up in my face, but I also get that she has to do that, there’s probably a rule book somewhere, and it’s probably written in fourteen point type, “When a customer walks into the store, you a required to greet them – warmly – within thirty seconds, followed by an offer of assistance.”

Still, I knew what I was there for, a pair of pants. No, I don’t go shopping enough to know exactly where the pants are in this particular store, but I’ve gone clothes shopping enough at places similar to this that I’m pretty sure there’s a wall somewhere, all of the pants are folded in little cubbies built in to the wall, and the labels should all have the sizes displayed, one after the other, no help really required.

I mean, wouldn’t it have been helpful to have this woman point me in the direction of the wall? Sure, I could have used some assistance, a, “Right that way, over to the left behind the big mirror.” But it’s never just a little bit of help. This might sound a little cold, but if I don’t come off as immediately standoffish, my saying yes to help might be misunderstood as an invitation for this person to play amateur personal shopper.

That’s the last thing anybody wants, a bored employee following them around, she’s trying to remember the store’s official rulebook, “If customer says yes to help, proceed to follow him around the store. Make suggestions for articles of clothing that he’d never consider wearing, ask him if he needs any help finding a size, even though all of the sizes are very clearly labeled. If everything on the rack is medium, why don’t you offer to look ‘in the back’ for any other sizes, even though there are never any other sizes, just hang out, give him time to browse some of the store’s other contemporary men’s collections.”

Yeah, I doubt it’s that specific, but really, I didn’t want anything else, just a pair of pants, a quick try-on in the fitting room, and hopefully I’d be out of there as quickly as possible. “No thanks, I’m great,” I told the woman. She responded, “OK! Thanks! My name is Sandra if you need anything!”

Whatever, thanks Sandra. Judged purely on finding the pants, my mission was as successful as I could have wanted. The pants wall was right in the back. The fitting area was right next to the pants wall, and there weren’t any other employees there at the moment, none of that, “Let me set up a fitting room for you,” clothing store filler, just the room, the pants, they fit. Great.

Checkout. “Did you find everything you were looking for today?” I’d been in the store maybe five minutes, and I was standing at the register holding out the pants and my credit card. “Yes, I found everything I was looking for.”

“And did anybody help you with your purchases today?” I looked back at Sandra, she wasn’t too close, but she was close enough that she could have probably heard what we were saying. I mean, the place was empty. I thought going early would have been great to beat the crowd, but I hadn’t taken into consideration the fact that there’d be all of these employees with no customers to serve. Did Sandra work on commission? If I said nobody, which was true, would Sandra feel stiffed, akin to a waiter not getting a tip? I mean, why would she say her name with such emphasis if not for me to repeat it at the register?

“Sandra,” I said, “Sandra helped me out.”

“Sandra?” the cashier said, loudly, “Is this true? Did you help this guy out?”

“What? No. I hardly talked to him.” Then she looked toward me. “Why would you say that? I barely talked to you at all.”

“I don’t know,” I said, “look, I work in customer service, I thought maybe you get like a cut or something.”

“Yeah, well, thanks, but no thanks, because if the boss hears about me getting referrals without having done any actual help, you know what’s going to happen? She’s going to think I’m sending in people to just say my name. I’ll get fired.”

And I wanted to be like, well why’d you scream out your name? Isn’t that a little bit of a mixed message? And now, what, I’m supposed to back off?

But again, I felt myself getting way too invested in the situation, much more involved than I’d planned on being when I walked in this store. “Do you want to sign up for a store credit card?” The cashier was back in retail mode.

“No, just, no credit card, no gift receipt, and just make sure you get the anti-theft thing. The white thing … what do you call it?”

“Christ, no need for an attitude.”

And that was it. I was on my way out the door, I’m sure I heard Sandra say behind my back, “God, what a dick.”

Just Do It

Ever since Lance Armstrong fell from grace, I’ve had to default back to my old life motto, Just Do It. It felt great, just, right, like finding an old sweatshirt in the back of your closet that you haven’t put on in years, like you must have put it back there almost immediately after buying it, because you’re thinking back, how often did I really get to wear this sweatshirt, two, three times? And so it’s practically new still, and you’re looking at it, worried, is it still in style? Will I look like a man from the past? And you’re standing there contemplating all of the various ways in which the world is going to judge you, and this voice pops up in the back of your head, it says, “Just do it.”


And you do it. You put on that sweatshirt. That’s what I did. Not with a sweatshirt, that was all just like an example. No, I’d never lose track of a sweatshirt like that. Maybe a pair of sneakers. Sometimes I’ll go to a shoe store just to see if they even have any shoes in my size. And it’s always stupid, because they never do, it’s always twelve, thirteen, tops, and so I’ll get discouraged, I’ll find myself way in the back of the store, that huge wall where it’s just “Everything Must Go!” the shoes are all organized by size, and there’s a little section just devoted to fourteen.

But it’s like, everything must go for a reason. Why? Because all of these shoes suck. But they’re there. There’s always like four or five pairs of shoes in my size. And I start thinking, wow, this is a great deal, what a find. And I’ll try them on but I’m not really loving them. Like I don’t hate them, but I don’t love them, and I’ll debate over and over, do I want them? Should I buy them? And then, conveniently, coincidentally, maybe, but it’s just what I need to hear, or see, I look at the box, the shoes are Nike, or, maybe not these shoes, but I’m in a shoe store, I see the Nike logo everywhere, and in my head it’s like, “Rob. Just do it.”

So I buy them, I make an effort to wear them once, but I’m definitely self-conscious. These aren’t exactly regular shoes. If they were regular, someone would have bought them off the regular aisle, not the please-get-these-shoes-out-of-our-store aisle. I make an excuse to go home early, change out of my shoes, and I don’t even want to look at them anymore, they’re a reminder of everything that’s wrong with me, my flawed sense of style, my inability to be happy with what should be as simple as picking out a pair of shoes.

Back in the closet you go, shoes. And then years later, I’m doing like a massive cleaning, I find them, I think, man, these are practically brand new, and that same feeling creeps in, I’m like, maybe I can make these work. And again, think about the savings. Think about that sensation of having a practically brand new pair of shoes just materializing in my closet. And I’m saying it out loud this time, I’m like, “Just do it!” and my wife is like, “Rob? Did you say something?” and I have to try to avoid giving a direct answer, because I don’t want to sound like a crazy person.

Still, they don’t fit, they weren’t in style years ago, and while the arc of the fashion universe might be long, it hasn’t yet bent toward this particular pair of shoes. The money lost years ago is hardly worth justifying now, and so I don’t feel any guilt at throwing them away, whatever, lesson learned. I pause at the trash can, shouldn’t I try to hold onto these, maybe find a shoe charity that I can donate them to? But I start imagining all of that work, I’ll never do it, I’ll put it off, these things are going to find their way right back into the closet. I’m outside already, I’m looking at the trash can, just do it man, just throw them away.

Done. It was almost kind of easier with Live Strong. I wasn’t so impulsive. That was just a generic expression of fortitude, like, do I really feel like going to work today? I don’t know. Live strong. Whatever, I’ll take the day off, that’ll be good for living strong, because I need to be relaxed to live strong. I can’t be stressed out to live strong. Living strong is so much more adaptable to any situation.

But just do it? I think I need a new life motto. I’m accumulating so much junk. Stupid t-shirts with lame slogans. This pair of pants that almost fits right but not really. I’ve got to stop just doing it, because my house isn’t big enough for all of this garbage. What other kinds of philosophies are out there? What kind of inspirational sayings might apply to how I want to live my life? Have it your way? I’m lovin’ it? That could work. Maybe I’ll gain like a new positive outlook on all of my bad purchases. Like that ugly jacket. I’m lovin’ it? Yeah, maybe I could be lovin’ it.