“It’s $100 at the Milpitas Walmart,” Chris messaged. “Saw it on slickdeals. Do you want to go?”
“Okay,” I replied, thinking that it was only 15 minutes away. Just south of Daly City.
Then I got into the car and he said that the estimated time on Waze was 50 minutes. Wait a minute, I thought, it’s not Millbrae. It’s Milpitas, as in the city next to San Jose.
But the $100, when normally the retail price is $199. But I acquiesced, knowing that my schedule for the day was going to be all mixed up. That I wasn’t going to be able to remember all the other things that I was supposed to do, because I hadn’t planned for a day with this much spontaneity. It’s this kind of day that would lead to missed appointments and missed meetings and missed tasks. But according to my calendar, it wasn’t the case.
So we went. Zooming down the 101 and across the 237. Nearly an hour later, we pulled into a barren parking lot.
We entered the Walmart, a hot day in the blaring sun in the south of the east bay.
Now, I rarely if ever go to a Walmart. Being one of those uppity hipsters, Walmart represents a foregone era. It’s the Kmart of my childhood. The bouncing smiley faces. The rollback deals that I don’t really need. I don’t necessarily trust it. In fact, I would rather shop at Tar-jay, than to be caught at Walmart. It’s the retail store that would employ people who would never enter my social circle. It’s a rather snotty way of looking at it. But I would like to think that I am more accepting of it than my fellow peers who regularly visit Whole Foods and other “authentic” brands.
But there I entered, my feelings pulled by the sudden realization of the low prices. Fantastic.
We rushed over to the electronics area. The shelf was empty, so we asked the man working if he knew if there were any boxes anywhere. “Check online,” he said. “I just sold one.”
“Can you check on your computer?” Chris asked.
“No, you check online,” the man insisted.
But online on the website, it showed that there were 4 boxes left. “Does it not update real time?” I said. Just 30 minutes ago, it said there were 4. Maybe we could find someone who had it in the cart and they hadn’t checked out yet. Maybe we could negotiate for the box in their cart.
We came all this way and there wasn’t anything. Was it that slickdeals was heavily trafficked by Bay Area people and they rushed here as soon as it was posted. But that’s impossible. We didn’t see any deal hunters in our entire trip. And it was just posted two hours earlier. Did so many people really have that much free time during the day as Chris and I luckily did? I clenched my jaw and a despair settled in my stomach. Chris tried to lighten the mood by suggesting other interesting things. Go deals? After all, Walmart did have the lowest price for most purchase-able items. So we skulked around the store, going through each aisle in case extra things should pop up.
Perhaps we could return and the 4 boxes as listed on the website would show up. But it didn’t.
We walked around the store again. We had traveled over 50 miles to this store, and I couldn’t think of anything to make this trip all worthwhile.
I returned to the electronics section in hopes that the boxes would appear. It didn’t. But there was a different man working the section. He had a thin mustache and a jubilant look on his face. Chris went to ask him about the inventory. “Strange,” the man said. “We should have some. Let me check our storage unit.”
And there it was. Two completely packaged. One for me. One as a gift.
And I giddily checked out.
More than 8 years ago, I mentioned to a colleague how I enjoyed buying presents for Chris at a good deal. “But doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the gift?” he said incredulously. “A gift should be without the value.”
“But it’s the hunt that’s part of it,” I replied. “Chris would appreciate the gift, the fact that I didn’t spend much, and most importantly, the effort I put into finding a good deal. Paying full price would taint the gift. It would suggest laziness. Finding the good deal suggests cleverness and diligence.”