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Joe from the Block



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August 17, 2011 - Every once in a while, my teenage daughters suck me into shopping adventures that jeopardize my sanity.

Such situation also make me question what kind of economic recession are we really experiencing these days or, more likely, just how wacked out American consumers really are. Myself included.

Anyways, my wife asked me one night last week if I would take my youngest daughter, Meredith, to Somerset in Troy to buy a Vera Bradley handbag. She had her own money and a 20 percent off coupon. I had not spent much time with her lately, so I thought it would be a nice time to bond.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

At 7 p.m., there were 150 people in line in front of the boutique, with another 75 or so jammed inside. Women of all ages were patiently waiting their turn to enter. (The coupon was only good for three hours, causing this craziness.) My sisters bought my mother one of these flowery bags a while back, but apparently Vera has made it big time and this was her way of celebrating her birthday by soaking even more folks for her trendy bags.

Some of the women knew exactly what handbag, purse, wallet or whatever they wanted; others were frantically thumbing through catalogs as the merchandise flew off the shelves. There was a young mother in line feeding her month-old baby (no older) a bottle, while grandma looked on. A boyfriend was standing in line with his girl I guess he really, really liked her. A couple of older men stood there with blank looks on their faces, obviously wondering how they too got sucked into the estrogen-induced madness. Store employees, meanwhile, were handing out complimentary designer water.

This was crazier than the time I stood in line at midnight with 200 preteens to pick up one of those Twilight books a couple of years ago, while my oldest daughter slept in bed.

I looked into the store next door another trendy spot called Pandora and saw a young dad obviously bored out of his mind looking at charms with his wife. I envied him.

After about 45 minutes in line, I needed to escape. But Meredith had saved her babysitting money and recognized the value of a 20 percent discount. They did not have the bag design she wanted at one of our local stores and you could not receive the discount online, so we decided to wait it out.

My wife texted me and said Meredith should only buy something if she really liked it. Forget that, I texted back. After this wait, she better buy SOMETHING. When we entered the store, however, we quickly found out her hipster bag was out of stock. But, we could special order it at the counter as long as we waited in the next line that snaked through the store. Oh my God, this is insane, I thought. Meredith was bummed to have to order it, but she is patient if anything.

As luck turns out, a young girl by us was returning the exact bag my daughter wanted. There was nothing wrong with it she just wanted a bigger one. When we got to the counter, the sales lady smiled and politely asked if I found everything I was looking for tonight. (She was lucky I was broken at that point, with nothing left to say.) Meredith paid cash for the purse and a wallet, got the discount on both and signed up for their frequent shopper program. (Great?) We walked out of the store at 9:20 p.m., with at least 20 ladies still waiting outside of the store.

As we walked to the car, my daughter thanked me for waiting with her and told me I was the best dad in the world. I had not heard that in a while from my youngest teenager.

It made my day.

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