In which I learn a lesson about myself

This year, about a day after DH started his new job, I was on the way to meet a job candidate for breakfast.  Just as I was driving into the parking lot, the radio made an announcement for one of those adopt a child for Christmas things, where you get a child’s Christmas list and buy things off it.  The point of contact, coincidentally, was the restaurant whose parking lot I was driving into.  As I walked up to my regular “meeting the job candidate” table, right at eye-level on a Christmas tree was a tag for a girl with my first name, the age of DC1.

The coincidences were too much not to be taken as a sign, so I pulled the tag and figured I’d shop for the items the next weekend.  She wanted a “Dora the Explorer doll.”  Immediately I started thinking about the Dora related merchandize I could get, shirts and socks and books and so on.

Upon closer examination, the girl’s simple request was more complicated than I had suspected.  First off, there are something like 100+ different Dora the Explorer dolls.  Since my DC1 is unusual, I asked our secretary’s daughter (age 8) what she thought this 6 year old could be wanting, and she said probably one of the big ($34) plush ones, and not one of the ($11) figures.  Her mom said she always did the Christmas adopt a child thing (one adoption for each of her kids) and suggested Toys R Us.

I reserved a Dora book at our local Barnes and Noble so we could just drop in and pick it up.  I wanted one with words and buttons to push because DC1 has loved hir button pushing Dora books for about 4 years now (even if technically they’ve been passed down to DC2).

First stop, shoes size 13… but, of course, Target hides those.  After a lot of fruitless searching, I found some acceptable sneakers shelved with the size 1s.  I tried to find some dress-shoes too, but gave up.  Target did not have any of the plush Dora dolls, and it only had one of the $29 large doll versions (Sleepy-time Dora), but her hair was totally messed up and the packaging somewhat beat up.  Then I thought, Dora underpants would be kind of neat… but they do not make Dora underpants in size 8 (or at least, Amazon says they do, but they’re hard to get and definitely not stocked at Target– they only go up to size 6 in Dora).  So I wavered between size 6 Dora underpants and size 8 regular girl’s underpants, and went with the size 6.  Similarly, Dora socks only seem to come in toddler sizes, and I was overwhelmed there not knowing quite what size I wanted or what I was looking for in socks.

I know this is ridiculous, but my MIL buys most of DC1 and DC2′s clothing, except for school uniforms, and we’re told exactly what to order from Land’s End.  The rest comes hand-me-down from various colleagues and neighbors.  I almost never have to buy kids’ clothing.  So, yes, I should know what socks go with a size 13 shoe, but I don’t.    Also DC1 is a bit on the small size, so we’re not quite there yet.

Then I made it to the clothing and had a hard time finding anything in size 7.  And I had no idea what to get.  So finally I sought out DH and DC1 (found them in the cat section, as we’ve got 3 new backyard residents we have to get acclimated and to the vet.. more on that in the future) and made them look.  That didn’t help much.  Then DH vetoed size 6 underpants for someone who was size 7, and I forgot to get the size 8 underpants when I put back the size 6.  Or maybe I thought Toys R Us would have underpants and socks (they didn’t) because we once got training pants for DC1 there (which is completely irrelevant when you’re looking for a 6 year old).

Finally I got a pair of matching black (because everyone looks good in black) yoga/sweat pants and a hoodie with colorful peace symbols on it.  All the jeans there were skinny jeans and I was concerned that a 6 year old who liked Dora the Explorer (suggesting an age closer to 5 than to 7) but was size 7 might be something other than skinny.

Then to Toys R Us.  They also did not have the plush $34 Dora doll, but they did have better versions of the $29 plush + plastic head dolls.  I picked out Baby-sitting Dora over Sleepy-time Dora, because I thought baby Boots was cute.  While there I also picked up another 3 Dora books, including one with buttons that make noise.  Realized I forgot underpants and socks.

Then to Barnes and Noble to pick up the last book.  At this point DC1 and I both had seriously low blood sugar and had to stop at the cafe which took a long time and cost more than it should have.

As I write this, I’m trying to figure out when I’m going to make it back to the store to get some final clothing items, or if I’m just going to take it in as-is.  She didn’t ask for underwear and socks, but a lot of the kids do.  (Why are underpants and socks so important?  Because you can’t buy them used and you rarely get them as hand-me-downs.)  It would also be nice to get a lighter weather shirt too, and not just the hoodie.

So what did I learn?  Turns out I HATE shopping.  I seriously hate shopping.  (Also I learned that almost all Dora clothing maxes out at 6x.)  It’s not about the money– we’re feeling pretty flush in the pocket and given that most of the kids ask for bikes, spending another $20 on books and $20 on the clothing set and $10 on underpants and $5 on socks (and probably another $20 on shirts if I can find any, possibly $20 on a dress if I can find any) isn’t much in the grand scheme of things for us (though it surely is quite a bit for someone who qualifies for this program).  It’s about having something in mind and then not being able to find it and then having to make choices and having to think, “what if she looks terrible in this color?  what if it doesn’t fit?  what if she hates this?  what if she already has this?  what if this is the wrong kind?”  And then more sinister thoughts, “Should I include the receipt?  If I do, what if someone exchanges the gifts for something not for the kid?  If I don’t, what if the clothing is too small or this is the wrong doll?”  (In the end, I went with including the Toys R Us receipt but not the Target receipt, mainly because we bought other stuff at Target and didn’t get a separate gift receipt.)  I just don’t have the mental fortitude to deal with all these decisions.  And it took so much time just trying to find things.

Next year if I get the same sign, I’m totally going to make a note to myself to just go to the damn webpage and press the “donate here and we’ll shop for you” button.

(Update:  Walmart, which we normally avoid for various reasons, allows you to purchase online and pick-up at the store, similarly to what we did with B&N.  And they have more size 7 stuff in stock than Target did.  And they have size 8 Dora underpants.  $40 of clothing later, including a very pretty black and white dress, I feel as if I’ve done a reasonably decent job.  Also I went through MIL’s size 7 offerings still with tags since DC1 always has more clothes than ze needs and added a bunch of shirts of various colors and styles.  Still, next time I’m just gonna give the ~$100.)

Do you enjoy the process of shopping?  Would you pay someone to do it for you if you could?

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37 Responses to “In which I learn a lesson about myself”

  1. Liz Says:

    HATE shopping. But what I’ve learned is why: I hate shopping because there are too many choices, laid out in arrangements that get changed way too often (e.g., I was once told that the grocery store layouts are changed every few quarters specifically to confuse people – so they spend more time in the store, buy more stuff…), and never really satisfy the list I’ve made in anticipation of a trip.

    “I just want a plain t-shirt! Where are the plain t-shirts that fit busty short girls! Gah!”

    Once I started shopping at small, local grocery stores and requesting assistance in doing clothes shopping (boyfriend!), the anxiety lessened. Fewer choices, moral support, I can get things done.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Definitely. I wasted all my choice making power in the shoe aisle!

    • Rosa Says:

      this is why i love thrift store shopping. Look, there are six pairs of pants in my size. Do I like them? No. Okay, done. Yes, try them on. Do they fit? No. Done. Or yes, buy them!

      I would rather do six half hour shopping trips than one 3 hour shopping trip in which there are many, many, many pairs of pants to try on and then they cost enough that I have to weight cost vs. how much I like them.

  2. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    You’ve pretty much covered all of the reasons that I hate shopping as well- too many choices and options. It’s overwhelming. Still, it’s very nice that you sponsored that little girl. I’m sure she will love her Dora gear.

  3. bogart Says:

    Oh ugh. Another anti-shopping fan here. Also I basically make it a goal to stay out of all retail establishments between Thanksgiving (day) and Christmas (day). A goal at which, obviously, I fail (it is a safe bet I will need to do some grocery shopping, and I will go at least once to a gourmet food store in our town to buy gifts, and I will likely go to a farm supply store for ditto, though I don’t *really* count the first or the last as failures, as neither store is riddled with holiday “spirit” or shoppers). During that interval I also refuse (last year I was 100% on this) to buy anything from any “shopping” retail establishment that is open, at all, on Thanksgiving day (I make exceptions for grocery stores and gas stations, which I figure can reasonably offer some morning hours before closing for the day. But otherwise, no.). Or their online equivalents. So, the goal: get all Christmas shopping done via online retailers whose brick-and-mortar components aren’t open on Thanksgiving day. Overall it works well for me even if I don’t hit 100%.

    I have tried a few times to do what you are doing and had pretty much the same problems. So, yes, I give money. Last year I allowed myself to decide to do this for a child in my child’s school (there was a request sent out), and it was a nuisance (even though obviously a good thing to support). Plus the organizer (school counselor) got more volunteers than she needed and actually turned people away (I acted too quickly!). Per her, she also always has families she knows of that will benefit from gift cards to our local gas station and/or grocery store (there is one of each within a half mile of the school — and one of the trailer parks whose low-SES children attend it — in addition to of course being others around more generally), so I think this year I will just buy a batch of those in smallish values and give them to her with the request that she pass them along to those she thinks will benefit, and figuring she can group them or spread them out (thus my “batch/smallish” approach).

    I’ve recently quit shopping myself, actually, having decided that whenever possible I will order from Amazon or, yes, Walmart (or other places, but I do price compare and prefer free shipping over not) rather than set foot in a retail establishment. I just don’t like doing it and it’s not at all a good use of my available time. But of course I have to skip any Walmart orders during the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas window because of the “shopping hours” rule above.

    I don’t know if you’ve picked up your Walmart wares yet, but I have not had good experiences with the ship-to-store option, though I’ve tried it. Pickup is way at the back of the store (mine, at least), so you have to traverse the entire large establishment in all its glory, find an associate at the back desk (no mean feat in my experience) and then have them find the good you have ordered (ditto). The way it is structured, paired with the availability and competence of the associates I have encountered, have led me to decide I won’t use it, ever.

    • jj Says:

      I had a bad experience with Walmart’s ship to store option also. I chose the option to ship to a Fedex location near my house (no shipping fee) but the item was delayed and then cancelled! They never gave me any explanation for the delay. When I called to cancel, they said I couldn’t even though the item was 2 weeks late. Then after another week or 2, after I got the item from another online retailer, Walmart finally cancelled the order. No explanation given.

      I haven’t had issues with Walmart when I order an item to be delivered to my house, just the ship to store option. Never again!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Didn’t do ship-to-store, just stuff that was already in the store. And even then they cancelled the shirt order. Sent DH to get it, so I didn’t have any problem with walking through the store. :) He said it was easy once he figured out it was a different desk than customer service– I think he said it was next to eyeglasses.

  4. Linda Says:

    I think I have a fairly low threshold for the mental and physical stimulation of shopping. I really hate visiting stores, and shopping for clothes usually means I have to visit a store to try stuff on and make sure it fits properly. As others have said, there is too much stuff I have to filter through my brain to do this and I wind up fatigued and cranky. Plus I get frustrated when I can’t find stuff that fits decently or that isn’t the color I want. Shopping at thrift stores has the same effect on me; too much to filter through, and I am exhausted by the process.

    Once I know a brand of clothing that works for me I switch to online shopping and am usually much more relaxed about it. Until they change the cut/fit of the clothing, and then I get frustrated again. (Thanks, Lands’ End for changing your Squall parka and making it less useful me! NOT! I think I wrote a blog post about this last year, so I have to stop spewing about it.)

    If I had the means, I would pay someone to make clothing for me. Then I would always be happy with the fit, color, etc.

    On the other hand, I LOVE to shop for office supplies, hardware, and at places like the Container Store. I guess it’s because of all the possibilities that flit through my head and actually stimulate my senses rather than saturate them. Grocery stores are sort of in the middle. I prefer to just get in and get out, although occasionally I will be more leisurely and check out some new food items or products.

  5. Ana Says:

    Oh no, I would (and do) give the $100 rather than that hassle of going from store to store (with kids no less!). I am easily overwhelmed by too many options. I hate crowds too, so you will not see me in any kind of non-grocery non-drug store for the next couple of months (I wait til mid-January to try to snag some “end of season” bargains on warm-weather gear. I do all my own and the kids’ clothes shopping online and am willing to pay a significant amount in shipping charges to avoid wasting precious weekend hours lugging the family to stores (I bought a $30 duvet cover/duvet for L from IKEA last week and paid $15 shipping because IKEA is a full day adventure/disaster)

  6. Chelsea Says:

    I don’t mind shopping if it’s just dropping in to get stuff we need during a non-busy time, and there are few places that I actually like to browse, but I hate that comparison-type, drive around all over the place shopping. My MIL loves shopping (and actually has a great eye for things) so that’s what I like to assign her to do when she comes to visit and wants to help. I do see myself doing more shopping on the weekends this winter because my little boy loves going to Target and the mall (so many things to see! so many people to interact with!) just to have somewhere warm to go when the weather is nasty.

  7. plantingourpennies Says:

    I hate shopping but like shopping for those Christmas boxes for the precise reason that I will never know if the box is unappreciated. It retains a status as a perfect gift perfectly appreciated with no worrying or disappointment.

  8. Cloud Says:

    I don’t particularly like shopping. I don’t mind it when I have plenty of time and no kids along, but that is rarely the case these days. When I take the kids to Target we always end up having snack there. I started that at some point and didn’t stop it soon enough. Now they think it is a tradition. So trips to Target w/the kids are rare!

    We do an adopt a family every year. You just reminded me that I need to email the charity that organizes it and see why we haven’t received our shopping list yet. The adopt a family is one of the few times I try to shop in stores rather than online, because I want gift receipts so that they can return anything that I get wrong.

    • bogart Says:

      “I started that at some point and didn’t stop it soon enough.” Hahahaha (laughing with you not at you!). Yes. This is one of the parts of parenting that no one warns you about (as opposed to all the parts they do warn you about that they didn’t need to!). And you can’t be too careful! We hosted a waffle breakfast the first late-start day of my son’s (public) K and invited families in our neighborhood with similarly aged kids to join us, which was great, but then DS (apparently) decided that this was something we would do EVERY late start day. Um, no (and we did host a few more, but not every time!). Fortunately we got past that!

  9. jj Says:

    You nailed down why I hate shopping..for gifts! I often try to find that perfect, original gift and end up giving something generic. I guess that’s part of the reason I’ve gotten out of all gift exchanges and just meet up for birthdays and holidays whenever possible.

  10. chacha1 Says:

    I used to shop for entertainment. :-) Then I got disemployed and stopped shopping for, like, three years. Now I enjoy shopping again BUT with the important caveat that I do very targeted shopping, and I do not mean I shop at Target.

    Most of my personal shopping – books, clothes, books, music/movies, books, household stuff, books – is online, the majority on Amazon. You can’t get much more low-hassle than that. I also do most of my gift shopping online. And I have a very, very short gift list.

    I do not browse or window-shop. I always shop from a list. And I stay within a certain radius, about five miles from home.

    When there is something I need or want that I prefer to get in person, or that I HAVE to get in person – like stuff for the patio garden – I limit the places I go. In my radius there’s a hardware store with garden center, so if I also need batteries, lightbulbs, whatever when I want to mess around with my plants I go there. If I am JUST after a plant I go to a proper nursery. If there is more than one household thing I’m looking for and I don’t have a specific item in mind, I’ll go to Bed Bath & Beyond; but if it’s something specific, odds are I will find and buy it online.

    If I need, say, a new pair of shoes for work, I go to a certain mall that has a Nordstrom’s with a great shoe department that is very well staffed.

    I have one preferred supermarket for major grocery shopping, and one local outpost (I call it the gourmet 7-11) for after-work pickups. I buy the same items over and over again, and stay out of certain aisles altogether.

    These general practices mean that typically, even in L.A., I can do three or four errands within two hours and be back home well before I get cranky.

    p.s. If I were called upon to shop for a child, the parent would be getting a gift card. I wouldn’t know where to begin.

  11. Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

    I’m OK with shopping if, like Cloud mentioned, I have tons of time and no kids with me. These are two highly unlikely circumstances. Even if both of those stars align, I don’t like shopping for clothes because I don’t know what to pick, I dislike bringing multiple sizes to dressing rooms, I can’t remember what shoes/accessories/shirts/pants I have at home that would match, etc. That’s why I’m using Stitch Fix for clothes.

    • Cloud Says:

      I am unfortunately on the very large end of sizes for Stitch Fix, I think. There is at least one thing per fix that I would like but is too small. I have a large chest so even though I’m comfortably a 12/14 Large, fitted tops often do not work. So I’m now liking eShakti for getting things online. I still have to pick things out, but I don’t have to go to a store, and they’ll customize to my size. I tried it with a skirt, and that worked well. It is high quality and fits perfectly. I will try a shirt next.

  12. rented life Says:

    If there’s no pressure, I don’t mind shopping. As in there’s not a specific end goal–if I’m looking for that one thing: work pants, a certain book, etc, I hardly ever find it. But browsing or just shopping with the freedom of not needing to buy something but being able to if I want to usually goes well. I hate grocery shopping. I’m not crazy about online shopping–I miss browsing cd and movie racks, I miss being able to go to the store and buy what you want instead of the online process. It’s just not fun to me. I want to see and touch the product before I make a decision.

    That said I love doing the adopt the family/kid stuff because I just feel so much better when I’m shopping for people who just can’t get those things. Sure we donate money too, but if I can buy and drop stuff off, I know I’m saving the organization time as well. This year we’re dropping a big box off at our local city mission–baby stuff we didn’t need/want, and items for adults. Normally we just send money. I’m enjoying this much more.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m much better donating stuff we have–I think because I’m not worried I’ll make the wrong choice and disappoint someone.

      • rented life Says:

        I thought of this post–just last night we window shopped at a bookstore and at a home decorating store. And I found a Christmas gift that I got for 30% off, but only because I wasn’t trying hard to find it.

        Donating stuff we have makes me feel better because I just can’t imagine throwing decent stuff away. But then there are others I know that donate the stuff that is so ratty and used and say “well the people won’t care that this is full of stains and holes because they have nothing anyway.” ugh.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We donate a lot of new with tags things that we get as gifts (wrong color, wrong size, wrong climate). It’s easier than returning them.

        In terms of the ratty cloth, it’s still fine to donate those– I read an article that says those get resold and the cloth fibers are used for other purposes. So when you donate ratty clothing it gets recycled. (Still, we generally don’t because we use ratty clothing first as around the house clothing and then as rags.)

  13. Leigh Says:

    Shopping is the worst! I like donating money to a group at my company that adopts a family and then helping to wrap the gifts. I love wrapping presents, but I hate shopping for them.

  14. GMP Says:

    I hate shopping with a fiery passion. Especially for clothes. And groceries. And everything else in between.
    The only exception is stationery: I am a huge stationery geek and live for back-to-school supply shopping.

  15. chacha1 Says:

    Hmmm, I am wondering if the reason I like shopping is that I don’t have to do much of it. All y’all mothers (and fathers) out there have time and supervision challenges I definitely do not. :-)

    I looooooove taking the time to go to the big supermarket. I feel so rich in there.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I do love me some grocery shopping. I might even be able to grocery shop for other folks, though to be honest our food pantry donations tend to be stuff we somehow ended up with but don’t want that much of. Besides, I know it is more efficient to donate money there since they can buy in bulk thinks ppl actually need.

  16. becca Says:

    I often enjoy grocery shopping without kidlet, but Target shopping with kid ranges from ‘a persistent rash’ to ‘ripping off your fingernails one by one with shards of glass, followed by dipping them in hydrochloric acid, followed by drinking dry ice, followed by soaking your hair in gasoline and lighting your head on fire’ level of unpleasantness.

  17. Jacq Says:

    I like shopping for little things like presents – I’m a satisficer then and have no problems, except that I tend to over-buy for other people. Big items like furniture that I have to live with for XX years though, I’m a maximizer and so don’t like it as much. Or decorating items because I don’t really understand the whole visual concept.
    Although I’m not sure if I don’t like the big thing shopping because I correlate spending large amounts of money with foregone dividends – I don’t see a $5000 living room suite, I see $200/year of dividends that I don’t get to have so can easily perpetually not spend that despite the fact that it would probably make me very happy. Although I have gotten to the point where an extra $200/year has become rounding so I guess that’s gotten better too.
    Love love grocery shopping. Infinite combinations and possibilities with that.

  18. Rosa Says:

    I don’t enjoy shopping, in general, but I guess i’m the weirdo who enjoys it more with the kid than without.

    I am also stuck doing a LOT of shopping this time of year – gifts are non-optional in DH’s family, and if I leave it up to him he does all the shopping at the very last minute, which stresses me (and him) out and sets us up for failures like “there is a blizzard coming but if we leave now to get ahead of it we won’t have that gift we ordered at the last minute”. So adding the wish-tree kid is just adding something that makes me feel good to this terrible chore I have to do anyway.

    It helps that we budget a ton of money for Christmas (part of the non-optionality is that we need to spend a certain amount of money per person) and I’m not super invested in getting the most possible crap for that dollar amount, so I do about 4 trips – bookstore, Target (where i also get kiddo’s new winter coat & gloves & hat – usually I pull a kid his size off the tree, so i just get the exact same stuff in a different color for the other kid) and then the used bookstore for FIL and sometimes a toy store or comic book store.

    If I don’t have a wish tree kid to shop for I end up buying a bunch of stuff for myself, due to poor impulse control and a need to comfort myself while doing this emotionally-wearing chore. And then I have spent too much money AND feel bad about myself. But if I had to do a bunch of special trips for it I wouldn’t enjoy it either.

  19. Leah Says:

    When I shop, I find I waste lots of time aimless wandering around the store. I’m okay with shopping on occasion, but I don’t really like to. Thankfully, my mom loves to shop, so I’m sure she’ll buy all the clothes needed for my future children.

    Oh, and I agree with Jacq — i particularly hate big ticket shopping. Couches are such a HUGE decision.

    Side note: can you write a post about economic reasons why you dislike Walmart? I’d like more mental fodder for myself. I don’t like Walmart, but it is the store in my town — I drive 20 minutes north for Target sometimes or just figure out how to do without instead. But sometimes I need reinforcement so I don’t get lazy about shopping there.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t know I’m knowledgeable enough for a full post. Obviously they have worker concerns, but I haven’t looked too closely into how target compares. (I understand that if worker issues were my driving concern, costco would be my go-to big box store.). Also I don’t like the way they use their monopsony power to dilute brands. But mainly I don’t shop there because it is always an unpleasant experience.


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