My wife, Joice, has learned how to buy on-line and, as a result, we get stacks of catalogues from on-line stores, places like Haband, (rhymes with Yourbrand and Mybrand), Blair (rhymes with Hair and Chair), Traditions (rhymes with Exhibitions), and Amazon (doesn’t rhyme with anything I can think of), and other places. Blair liked her so much that they have designated her “most favorite customer”, and Haband offers her weekly sales—if she can find the penny in the mountain of flyers with pictures of clothes, shoes, household items and assorted junk not even seen in the Dollar Store.

Today a catalogue arrived from Blair advertising specials for their “Black Friday” sale. Joice always looks for “free shipping” and here it is, if she uses promotion code BZCU. Black Friday is not for a week or so but she can “avoid the crowds” because Blair’s deals “start now!”. There is also a $10 reward certificate for every $150 she spends using the Blair Credit Card.

I don’t think she will be interested in the screen printed fleece sweatshirts, on sale (everything is) at $17.99, unless she has grown to XL and more, in which case they are $22.99. That is 5 dollars more of fleece and one lamb less.

She doesn’t usually wear turtle necks, but there is a soft embroidered crest knit one offered that will make her feel “festive” and it is only $9.99. And for only $34.99 (unless XL or bigger) she can buy a vest to cover the crest. But why should the vest cost more than the crest? How would I know?

Next up I see something that will help her to “shake up” her style—a “tradition with a twist”, meaning a “shaker hooded sweater” with a functional drawstring (apparently they sell some that do not function) and a “kangaroo pocket” for baby joeys. They come in 6 versatile ways: cozy, warm, colorful. That is only three , but I notice another adjective “thick “, so I’m sure the other two are there somewhere. This great sweater costs $34.95, unless you are fully grown, in which case it is $40.99. The selection of colors are boysenberry, which I thought was for eating, royal, perhaps for princesses, red, off-white (slightly dirty maybe), navy, heather gray (as in Scotland), dark camel (as in the Arabian desert), capri breez, which I have never heard of, and fuchsia, which I have heard of and which looks red to me.

I see that she can save $3 on a Persian red plaid infinity scarf, implying that it comes from Persia and will last forever. It has an ”on-trend fringe trim” that will be the “finishing touch for your [her] cold weather wardrobe”. Again, that sounds great but I have no idea what it means. There is only one size, so the big girls will probably need to buy two and it costs, on sale of course, only $16.99.

She is going to need pants and there just happens to be some knit corduroy pants going for $24.99 for the misses, $24.99 for the petites, $30.99 for both the women’s  and the WMS petite, whatever size that is. These stretch knit pants are “smooth as velvet, with a touch of stretch for maximum comfort”. In other words, if the woman feels a bit fat around the waste this elasticity will make her feel “normal” again. The dark camel color is available again, but also the Persian red, deep purple, indigo, black, ivory, sapphire, and chestnut. The chestnut looks a lot like I think the black will be after it has been washed.

There is also a “fleece jacket” and one customer writes that she has “bought at least 10 of them for myself” so they must not last long. She wears them in cool mornings and evenings, but apparently hangs them in the closet the rest of the time. It is “the right dose of comfort” with its snap front and slat pockets, its ribbed collar, cuffs and bottom. There are four sizes offered and the price range is from $19.99 to $24.99. Oh, yes, and they are imported, but probably not from Persia.

Joice loves to shop for shoes and here is her chance: “Jamie” sweater top clogs that are offered from Classique, surely a classy sounding company, are only $49.99. There are four colors in medium, wide and, for the big girls, extra wide. But Classique is not done—they also offer “scrunch boots” that are faux (meaning “false” in the original) suede slouch boots and have a side zip, foam padding, and skid-resistant rubber soles with traction grooves—something like snow tires for automobiles.

I’m skipping to the back now to see the really fine winter coats, hardly necessary in Texas where we live, but with fleece gloves at $12.99 and “waterproof insert, soft tricot lining; sure-grip palm patch”, they are something that every cold-blooded woman will want. The “weather-resistant microfiber jacket” will apparently resist any kind of weather, so I am unsure when she would wear it. It is wind resistant and insulated and is the best “outerwear” one can purchase. Big women will pay $51.74 but the average woman can get it on sale for $44.99, a bargain for the plush Scandia fleece, an upper lining and adjustable snap-off hood, secure zip-close pockets and the snap storm flap. There are five colors: deepest teal, apparently real deep, plum jam, which sounds messy, dusty aqua, (it could make you sneeze) and the plain old red and blue.

I’m done shopping so I turn to the handy order form. Wait a minute! Closer inspection tells me that Blair, Haband, Old Pueblo Traders and Bedford Fair all operate out of the same warehouse, which is apparently on Alberigi Drive in Jessup, Pennsylvania. Why don’t they send us just one catalogue? Well, it is comforting that they are open 24 hours a day, every day. They offer standard postal service (no guarantees), 3 day delivery (add $8.99), and next business day delivery (add $17.99 to the standard). No wonder my wife opts for the free shipping.

A lot of people go to their mailboxes each day and are disappointed to find no mail. We do not have that problem: many days I need the wheelbarrow or a forklift to transport the catalogs or merchandise to our dining room table.

I say to Joice, “The mail is here. The female male mailman has just come.” She rushes calmly to the table, opens the parcel immediately and the contents come spilling out like a Texas cattle stampede. We stop them just before they go over the cliff.

Returning to the advertised flyers: Joice then puts most of the items in a pile for recycling. But then the word “sale” followed by “free shipping” catches her eye and she is hooked, like a lamb going to the slaughter or a bird about to be caught in a net. Thirty minutes later she comes to me with five or ten flyers in her hand and says “Do we need this?”, or “I haven’t seen this before” and, before I know it, I am hooked as well. “Let me see the rest of those flyers, there may be something we need [said softly] for the garage.” And of course there is, so we find the penny and get free shipping and send the order off to the warehouse in Pennsylvania.

About 10 days later a package arrives and there is another stampede on the table. Somehow the items don’t look as expensive or well-tailored as in the catalog. The cattle drive has taken its toll but, never mind, we can always send the stuff back (but the postage will not be free).

And now I don’t know if I will like her choices or not, in fact I hope not. She looks just fine to me in her sale items from Bealls, Kohls, Target, Sears, etc.—but not Walmart (or Blair).

November, 2016