A Meditation on 99¢ Paradise
Along with my friends and colleagues John and Sean, I was in New York City last week. Frugal business travelers that we are, we stayed at a Holiday Inn in Long Island City.
While we were walking back from a very nice dinner in a yupscale restaurant on Greenpoint Ave, one of us - Sean I believe - spotted a store named "99 ¢ Paradise", with the curious tagline that read "everything 99¢ of more". (Photo credit goes to John for the shot below.)
Didn't dollar stores (and, presumably 99¢ stores) used to sell stuff for, well, a dollar?
Maybe there's just so little these days that actually costs that little, forcing stores to change their tune.
Let's face it, what can you get for that little? Two postage stamps? A roll of Life Savers? A couple of pencils? Some postcards? Poison-laced toothpaste? Plastic bottles that leech chemicals into our sports drinks? Canned green beans with mouse-heads floating in them?
Not much, that's for sure.
But what can it possibly mean to have a store where everything is 99¢ or more?
Doesn't that pretty much cover every store in this country?
I mean, Tiffany's can make this claim. So can Neiman Marcus. Barney's. Saks.
John chalks the sign up to marketing genius, and I guess he's right. The sign attracts shoppers who know that, whatever they get there, it's probably not going to cost that much. ("Look, honey, this toothpaste only costs $1.01.")
But it's also a good and sobering reminder that, for a lot of folks, being able to buy miscellaneous and sundry stuff - some necessary and useful, some Adam Smith's "trinkets of frivolous utility" - for a buck or thereabouts is a good deal.
They're the folks that are working at thankless jobs that pay not much north of the minimum wage. Old folks eking out an existence they never dreamed would last this long - or cost this much - on a meager pension or miniscule SSI check. I was going to add 'kids with their first paycheck from Mickey D's", but I doubt that any self-respecting teenager would be caught dead in 99¢ Paradise - I can't imagine that there's much in there that would appeal to anyone much over the age of 5 or 6.
The price, I guess, is probably right.