I usually donÕt like to disclose my shopping secrets, especially so close to Christmas, but IÕm going to make an exception. Mainly because it is so close to Christmas and itÕs going to be gone soon and itÕs just too good to keep to myself. JC Penney at the Mall of Memphis. I went there last night and, if youÕll excuse the expression, almost peed in my pants. The first heady flush of excitement came when I brought a sleeveless sweater ($24, regular price) and a pair of studded jeans ($30, regular price) to the check-out counter; the end total was $5 and some odd cents (dare I say priceless?). Go down towards Perkins and American Way and everybody will be talking about it; JC Penney is leaving the mall in February and everything in the store (everything!) is 60 to 70 percent off of the lowest marked price. In the past few months, the DillardÕs there did the same thing, but I missed it entirely. By the time I made plans to go there, the merchandise had already been picked over and cleaned out. The only things left were big girl clothes. IÕm not going to let that happen with the JC Penney. I already have plans to go back tonight. Last night, I got a pair of jean shorts for 89 cents. And a bikini for $1.15. ThatÕs less than a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk. IÕm even thinking of getting a dresser because IÕve been needing one anyway. ItÕs just too good to pass up. Everything is so cheap itÕs almost more expensive not to buy it. There are a few issues, which I feel I should warn you about. ItÕs way more crowded than any other department store, even in this holiday time. And the salespeople are a little stressed. Actually most of them are really nice, singing the total like youÕre the grand prize winner on a television game show. But there are others who are less so. One woman was helping ring up my purchases and started going off about how some of the items did not have tags on them (I hadnÕt even bothered to check; at 60 to 70 percent off, I figured I could pretty much afford everything I had picked up) and how IÕd have to take them to another counter and Òdo something with them.Ó The situation went less well when I told her that Òit wasnÕt like I took the tags off myselfÓ and asked ÒCanÕt you just call someone to get the prices?Ó This prompted a rather choice comment about the ugliness of the merchandise I was buying, as well as an incident wherein I threw some of the clothes back on the counter and stalked away angrily. In times of great discounts, it seems, the customer is not always right (In my shopping vigilante way, I tried to report her, but since I only knew her by expletives, it was rather difficult). On the other hand, however, the ridiculously large discounts swayed me right back to my happy place. Candles, framed photos, wine glasses, clothing, all on the cheap right there for the asking. I know there are more important things to think about. The attack on the Indian Parliament, for instance. Or the smoking-gun Osama tape. But those things depress me and a JC Penney close-out sale is just the panacea. Not to mention that itÕs patriotic to buy stuff. Now if only summer would hurry up so I could wear my new shorts.


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