Every one has to shop. Even the Yogi on top of Himalayas now requires toothpaste. For some people shopping is a necessary evil and they do not like it. Some do it as a sacred duty. Some people like shopping. Some people like to keep on shopping. They wait for an opportunity to shop. If there is no opportunity, they create one and if possible, many. For some Music is life. For some others, their work itself is life. For many people, shopping is life.
All of us have to buy some thing or the other. Each and very day of our life. Shopping begins with the beginnings of life. Yes, but it was two or three decades ago. When a baby was born some decades ago, Hospital staff would give a list of items to be purchased from the Medical shop. Starting from baby soap and feeding bottle to sanitary napkins. But now it starts even before life begins. Nowadays "would be parents" are given the list of items to be brought with the expectant mother when she comes to the Hospital with the first signs of pains. She will be taken inside the hospital only if the basket or baskets have all the necessary items as per the list. No need to rush to the shop when the baby is born. Have the items ready so that you enjoy watching the baby's face without shopping worries. Use your credit card to pay and postpone payment worries for some time. Enjoy your happy moment here and now. It may not last long as the bills will start arriving shortly. Good philosophy.
Everybody is willing to talk about birth. Nobody likes to talk of death. But unfortunately, laws of nature stipulates that every birth has a matching death. Like double entry book keeping. Only the time interval taken to match the two is different for different persons. And shopping is linked to death as well. Though shopping begins before life begins, shopping ends after life ends. In that respect, shopping is bigger than life itself. Somebody kicks the bucket, as the saying goes. Life ends. But there is shopping required after the death also. There is a very old joke about an Accountant of a company. His Managing Director had the habit of charging all expenses to the company's accounts. His hair cut charges would go as maintenance and upkeep charges. Like that. Not just him, many people do it but may not admit it. This accountant knew how to account for all those personal expenses by giving an appropriate "Accounting Head" in the books of accounts. Managing Director's mother died. Many expenses were incurred. The accountant kept a perfect account of the expenses. Only even his well trained (!) head could not find an appropriate head of account. He was constrained to ask his MD himself for a solution. MD was in deep thought for a moment. Accountant thought that the MD was thinking of his revered mother. But MD was actually thinking of a solution to the problem. He finally advised the Accountant to debit the amounts spent to "Packing and Forwarding" expenses. Very appropriately. The last advertisement I saw on TV was about an old man shopping happily for a coffin for own use. He was shown as having died very happily after selecting a beautiful box. Died happily at the thought of lying happily for ever in that beautiful coffin.
The only type of cloth available when I was a young boy was "Controlled cloth". There was even a shop by name "Control Cloth Show Room", near Minerva circle in Bangalore. Now neither Minerva theater is there nor the shop. Finlay Mill one line border dhotis were the best then. Now You get all shades of Dhotis, in rainbow colours. shopping has evolved over the years. but faster than evolution of man himself. Shopping is an art as well as science now. We often see some youngsters coming up with beautiful items. And they bought them at very cheap rates. They have an uncanny eye for the tasteful item and at bargain prices. They have mastered the art of shopping scientifically. From the "Corner Shop" we have moved over to "Air Conditioned Shopping Malls'', where one can shop till falling down with fatigue, only to buy a refreshing drink and resume shopping.
"Innovation and Marketing are the watch words of businesses" said the Marketing Guru, Peter Drucker. Marketing has now reached fantastic levels. Levels never reached before. And still soaring. "Buy two, take one free" is a old adage. "Buy two, take two free" has no takers. It should be at least "Buy one, take two free". "Buy and Save" boards beckon us. When you buy, you only spend, I used to think. Not any longer. When I see people buying some things I ask then what use they have for the item. It may be useful some day, they reply. Make hay while the Sun shines. Keep it for the rainy day. Even if the rainy day never comes.
Marketing agencies and manufacturers have many schemes. Discount sales. Clearance sales. Winter sales. Summer sales. Product launch sales. Inaugural sales. Winding up sales. But discount coupon sales takes the cake. How about "Buy ten, take all free"?. Is it possible?, one may ask. I myself used to ask. Until yesterday. Not today.
There is a TV programme on a channel called TLC. Title of the program is "Extreme Couponing". We are familiar with the reduction of bill against coupons. But this takes the cake. Coupons are available in newspapers. They are available on on-line sites. People collect them. Collect them by collecting newspapers. Collect them by visiting on-line web sites. Visiting door to door and collecting coupons and news papers. Even searching in garbage cans. By taking family members and friends for assistance. Then arranging the coupons as per various classifications. Visiting the shops and malls the moment they open for the business. Carefully selecting the items as per availability of coupons. From tooth brush to fruit juice. From cleaning material to body lotions. From paper napkins to toilet papers. Finally when the cash register breaks down, having a rebilling. Amounts of bill to be paid in hundreds of dollars for several cart load of items. Then coupons are taken out. When they are all accounted for, final amount to paid is one or two dollars or only few cents. In one case it was even NIL. In one case it was two dollars and forty cents, but the buyer got a five dollar voucher! Which means take all free and I further give you two dollars and sixty cents. Buy so many things, give coupons and then take everything free! Then arrange these items at home in shelves, garages, rooms and everywhere. There are people who have collected toilet paper to last for decades. Fruit juices to last for five years. By paying nothing.
But things are not simple. These people spend hours and hours for collecting coupons, cutting them, arranging them, caluculating the amounts, making lists, going to the shops or malls, choosing items, getting them billed, carry them home, arrange them and protect them. Hats off to them. Many of them support other members of the family and help others in need as well. Informal Coupon exchanges for exchanging coupons also exist. Hard work truly but when you see the quantity of items procured, it is rewarding indeed.
Once, when I was in service, Big boss wanted all Managers and staff members to come and work on a Sunday, to complete audit of the annual Balance Sheet. As usual, the task of conveying the unpleasant message was given to me. I told everyone. Some of them asked whether there is any escape from coming on a holiday. I told them indeed there was one. What is it, every one asked. I told them that they need not go home that day to avoid coming on the next morning. I had used humour at the wrong time and place. Next morning only Big Boss and me were there in the office. Both Big Boss and Auditors were unhappy. When the Boss asked the others on Monday, every body said they thought I was joking. Needless to say every one escaped as I was known for making things appear funny. That day I ended up as the funny object.
I am not joking now. Buy ten or more and take all free. If you do not believe me, you can see the program yourself.