Do the salespeople at Sears call you by your first name?
Do you go out to your car at 3 a.m. to bring in the purchases you were afraid to show your spouse?
When you bring home a new pair of shoes, do you discover you bought the exact same pair three months ago?
If you can answer "yes" to these questions, then you are a candidate for a "shoppers anonymous."
There are, unfortunately, no instant cures for the compulsive shopper. Some compulsives try limiting themselves to two shopping malls a week, put a ceiling on how much they can spend, vow to return everything they buy within 10 days or otherwise battle their addiction to acquisition.
Sometimes, they try to ease the pain of their shrinking wallets and bulging closets by telling themselves they are patriots in the war against inflated prices, come-on advertising and super-bargain merchandising.
But try as they might, they find it hard to disguise their inability to pass up a bargain, discount, fire sale or sale to end all sales.
The fact is that committed shoppers can no more turn in their charge cards than marathon racers can turn in their running shoes.
It is no wonder that the compulsive shoppers' motto is: "Bury My Heart at Bloomingdale's."
If you are going to spend your life among the racks and counters, you might as well know some of the tricks of the trade:
Learn the shoppers' calendar. Connoisseurs tell time not by weeks or months but by sale days--from January white sales to after-Christmas clearances. Your Aunt Minnie can get married any time but the big alligator leather sale comes just once a year. The best of these are held in warehouses beyond the Beltway, reachable by routes so circuitous they are handed down from father to son.
Never trust a sales ticket with only one price. A price tag should show an original price, carefully crossed out so that it is still readable, then a sale price. Purists insist on three prices per ticket--the inflated price other stores allegedly charge for the item, the sale price and then the markdown from the markdown.
No bargain is ever too far away. What's a few hours, a few miles, a few tanks of gas compared to the satisfaction of saving a few dollars? Veteran shoppers head toward Hagerstown or York, Pa., to the factory outlet barns and discount centers where half-price sales make even factory rejects look good.
Never take a sale for granted. A few months ago, a new store opened in my neighborhood with a gala sale starting at 7 a.m. "Who is going to be crazy enough to get up at dawn to get a $45 pair of designer jeans for $15," I reasoned. By the time I pulled into the parking lot at 8:30 a.m., the line to get into the store stretched around the block and the store was packed with passionate shoppers--all coming between me and my Calvins.
What makes it all worthwhile, of course, are those all-time Great Moments in Shopping, those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you can tell to your grandchildren. Mine came at the exact moment Ronald Reagan took the oath of office. There I was, in Loehmann's dressing room trying on a copy of a copy of a dress worn by the first lady herself. In the shopping yearbook, that's the stuff of history.