When my daughter was a junior in high school, we plunged ourselves onto the city streets of Manhattan one weekend in search of Utopia. It was our goal to find every business, apartment, or reminder of Nora Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail.” We felt giddy as we trolled the streets with our map of filmed locations. Dragging my poor husband in tow, a hefty lesson in consumerism was about to be learned, I wasn’t aware of it at the time. We went in “Zabar’s” and pretended what it would be like to shop in there. To live in Manhattan was a dream shared by my daughter and I. Definitely not my husband’s dream, but “it was” only a dream. We felt the best of everything was contained there: culture, museums, and oh yes! Shopping! Any store you could ever imagine lined those streets pining for the next customer.
As we continued the tour, we saw an apartment similar to Kathleen Kelly’s (My daughter’s name is Kathleen btw), passed by the bagel stand and the “Starbucks”. We wanted to see everything! People really lived it up here, and we wanted to be a part of that culture. Later that day after the tour ended, I was stopped in my tracks as my eyes beheld the most exquisite home store “Crate and Barrel.” Tower bells started to chime, my head got all fuzzy as I stared longingly at these unique square plates. Oh, I must have those! Those are so everything! Food (my second love) will look, taste and smell better on those plates. They were Simple and white, unfussy and elegant. I went inside and was met with the price and sadness set in. I grabbed a catalog, signed up for the mailing list and eagerly awaited each edition. Every time without fail the sultan of dinnerware was still being sold. I made a vow, “when I have the money, I’m buying those plates”.
I moved here to Mississippi in the summer of 2003, I had left Long Island behind months before to return to Newport News, Va. We lived in Long Island about five months while on a project and we wandered into the city as often as possible. It was sad to go, but I continued to receive those catalogs until the company tired of me not buying anything. Funny thing is, after the catalog’s stopped, I forgot about the plates for a while. Then on a random trip to another popular home store, I saw them again. They were far less expensive than I remembered (or so I thought). My rate of pay had increased and so had my taste. I still didn’t purchase them. Then, about five years ago, for my birthday, my other daughter bought me some brown stone square plates. I loved them and they had some of the qualities of my precious white ones, and for a time I was satisfied. We had to buy an expensive microwave to accommodate them as they were quite large.
Time was not nice to my sweet brown plates, long gone out of style in the stores, the broken ones could not be replaced. We made the decision this year to buy new ones. I received a coupon in the mail for that other store. 20% off! Now was the time to get them! I talked it over with my husband and he agreed. Each Sunday after church we bought two place settings. I was more excited than a kid in a candy store. We also purchased matching accessories. Bowls, portion dishes, spoon holders and ovenware we bought until we had service for eight. I would open the cabinet periodically and look at them. A dream year’s in the making. I showed them to people, some I recited the story of how they came to be. Eight months have gone by and the fascination has worn off. The food tasted like it was supposed to, no difference whatsoever! (That line was for fans of the movie.) The plates didn’t have any kind of magical spell on my guests. Some remarked they were nice. Obviously, something was wrong with them, my guests. How could they not recognize such a work of art!
In the end, what did I learn from this experience? A nicely crafted window display and taunting with catalogs and coupons are sales methods that have never gone out of style. Maybe I bought them somewhere else, but they managed to hold my attention for a while. Had I not been broke at the time, my first love would have made a hefty sale. It’s up to retailers to show us what we want before we even know we want it. Two weeks after I purchased the plates, I found a slightly different take on them at a clearance store and was sick at the price. It was a third of what I paid. In the end “Crate and Barrel” lost a sale but they had my devotion. My first dream of the perfect entertaining mecca. I still have not purchased an item from there. I’m sure they sold some plates from that display, so the loss of my sale did not affect them much. You win some, you lose some. I have lost big for many years believing a plate would make me happy. What’s your plate? Have you read the nutrition label on it yet? It reads: Consumerism is unhealthy and leads to debt. There were bills I could have paid and eaten off less expensive plates.
Note: I am not against shopping, and when I NEED an item, I’m happy to purchase it. I’m against tricking people into believing they need something instead of wanting it and allowing them to believe they deserve to have it, just to make a sale.