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In Store

Now Even Mom's Car Needs Love

Retailers of All Types Tell Us How to Be Mother's Little Helper

By Kathy Lally
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, May 1, 2005; Page F05

We all know what we're supposed to do, well brought up as we are. Mother's Day is coming at us next Sunday, and it's time to open up our wallets and pay attention to the retailers reminding us to be grateful. Buy a greeting card, don't forget the flowers, pick out a nice necklace. And if you're not there to take her out to dinner, you better call home.

These are the rules, and we follow them. Tradition demands no less.

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So when the International Carwash Association turns up, suggesting we tell the world Mom is a slob, it's hard not to stop and listen, whether in horror at calling names or in reluctant admiration at the gall in appealing to our inner bratty kid, and taking the art of the sales pitch in startling directions.

The Carwash Association, based in Chicago, is running a contest called the Mother's Day Car Slob Makeover Contest. "Is your wife or mother a car slob?" the group wants to know.

On its Web site (www.carlove.org) and in its promotions, the group is urging us to describe, in 50 words or less and accompanied by a photo, why Mom needs a car detailing.

No purchase required.

"Beauty makeovers might be the latest rage, but this Mother's Day skip the spa gift certificate and head for the garage," the contest literature advises. The promotion adds that it's a good idea to enter if the car looks like a Dumpster on wheels, if it's possible to open a Swiss bank account with the change on the floor and if the local convenience store directs customers to Mom's dashboard for napkins and straws.

Those entrants who revile the car housekeeping of their mothers (or wives) persuasively enough will win the lucky woman an exterior and interior cleaning -- and roses on the front seat. The deadline is May 8, Mother's Day.

It's always hard to find that perfect gift, and everyone loves to win a contest, but maybe someone's been watching a little too much reality TV here. Or maybe not. Hecht's, after all, thinks you should flatter Mom with $127 worth of wrinkle cream (a $149 value), advertised as "Better than Botox?" If Mom ends up looking like the woman in the accompanying photograph, she's going to be very grateful indeed.

For retailers, there's a lot of money at stake this Mother's Day. No wonder they're scrambling to find new and creative ways to pick up their share of the business. The average shopper plans to spend $104.63 this year, according to the National Retail Federation, and total spending of $11.43 billion on the holiday is expected. That's a big increase from just five years ago, when the NRF reported average spending of $49.90, less than half of what is predicted this year.

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