Recently my friend I’ll call “Mrs. T” and I went on another of our infamous shopping forays out of town. I’m usually the buyer, she is usually the partner in crime, the bad influence when it comes to gratuitous buying.
This past week, I was tempted to purchase a pair of cherry-red serving bowls. I didn’t know that I wanted them until we stopped by a pottery shop, and there they were in their crimson splendor, sitting on a lower shelf with other member of their crimson family: pitchers, vases, plates and so on…all hand-turned, signed and brilliant, lustrous red. Each had a decorative handle motif on the end for easier carrying. These bowls were begging to go home with me.
“I know what you’re going to do,” Mrs. T said. “Just get it over with.”
I hem-and-hawed. I didn’t really need them. They weren’t on sale. They weren’t even available on a quantity discount. I try to subscribe to Mrs. T’s philosophy, own only what gives you joy. I imagined how joyful those red bowls would look amongst Blue Willow dinnerware, or as accent pieces on a side table, notching up the holiday décor when Christmas rolls around.
Two days later we were having lunch near the “red bowl store,” still considering the possibility of me owning those bowls.
“I’m not going to be party to this any longer,” she said. “Just do it or so I won’t hear about those blessed bowls forever.”
It’s not usually the things we do that we regret, it’s the things we don’t. At that point, I still had the chance to act by returning to the store. Instead, I practiced restraint. We went on our way until I stopped in my tracks. “All right, let’s go get them.”
She rolled her eyes. “I knew it from the get-go.”
I had violated my own rule: if you see it, and want it, you’d better get it. Those bowls were signed, hand-thrown in an unusual squarish shape. And when we returned, the store was closed for winter hours. They wouldn’t re-open for two more days, when we were long gone home.
The episode reminded me of what happened a few years ago at The Hickory Tree on Old Lenoir Highway. Both of us spotted four prints of delicate French pastries. The framed set enchanted us both. We aren’t particularly fond of tarts, choux, canelés or petit fours, but the prints spoke to us. Neither of us needed four. Neither of us needed two for that matter, and in the end, we didn’t buy any of them. Later, suffering non-buyers’ remorse, when we returned, they had been snapped up by another customer.
We regret not buying those prints. When an object “speaks” to you and you can afford it’s often best to not ignore that small voice. Between the two of us, we have regretted not buying various pieces of clothing and household accessories, special note cards, a bear folk mirror, and for her, a house with a brass fox head door knocker. Actually it was more about the door knocker than the house. “But I could never find a door knocker quite like that vintage one,” she said.
Those “buy-me” moments define us as consumers. Mrs. T and I both agree with Madonna. We do live in a material world, and we are material girls.
Over time I have some cardinal rules about shopping. One is if you see it, and you want it, you’d better buy it. Secondly, if you don’t buy something, someone else will, and its corollary, everything worth buying is already bought.
I have no doubt that I would be a bit more joyful I had not broken my own shopping rule, bought those red bowls and shut up about it.
Mrs. T then quoted her favorite Sheryl Crowe lyric. It’s not having what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.
Will we ever be satisfied? Not as long as there are deals to be had and cool stuff to be bought.