Monday, April 3, 2017

One Plus One

Wherever in the world I've been, one thing I have learned for sure is that everyone likes a bargain.  In markets everywhere, I've heard the words, "I give you special price!"  Which usually means about twice what the locals would pay.  But at least you felt like you were getting a deal!

I also had the unique experience on the selling side once when I lived in Spain.  I hosted a garage sale at my house with two of my friends.  I sold a whopping $15 worth of baby toys (which was probably foolish since I've had three more babies since), while my friends hauled in quite a bit more.  That afternoon, when everything was cleaned up and my girls were down for siestas, the doorbell rang.  It was a Spanish woman and her teenage son, both nicely dressed.  She had a bathrobe in her hands and was carrying on about a belt.  Ah! She didn't have the belt that was supposed to go with the robe!  I hadn't sold it, but I called the friend who had.

My friend started laughing. "Joy!  That woman!  I tried to get her attention because she was running away really fast after she bought it, but I guess she didn't hear me!  Then someone else came up and bought the belt!  Without the robe!!!"

I also cracked up and went outside to explain the situation to my visitor.  To my complete astonishment, I found her digging through my garbage can, I assume looking for the errant belt!  Now... I love a good bargain as much as the next girl, and I have friends that get amazing treasures by dumpster-diving.  But in this case, I'd have drawn the line as soon as I lifted the lid.  I had a toddler at the time, so the garbage was filled with stinky diapers, doggy-doo bags from picking up after our puppy, and a dead bird I'd found on my driveway the day before!

To each her own, I guess.

Koreans love a good bargain, too.  After only a couple days in the country, I became acquainted with "1+1" or, "2+1".  These are "BOGO" or "buy two get one free" deals.  And yes, I realize this sales tactic is not unique to South Korea.  But what is unique is that I have yet to meet a Korean sales employee who will let you leave the store without getting your "+1".  Say you're buying ice cream for your kids, and in the commotion of the whole, "I want chocolate!... Wait, she has strawberry?!  I want strawberry!  No!  I want vanilla!" (hypothetically speaking, of course), you fail to see that you were entitled to one free popsicle.  When you go to pay, the cashier will emphatically tell you (if not yell), "One plus one!"  And if you don't take this moment to hurry back for your free ice cream, well then, what hope even is there for you?

Generally speaking, I love it.  I've always wanted to be one of those extreme couponers who pays five cents to feed her family dinner.  But then... my life.  The coupons get lost, torn, chewed, or used as someone's Kleenex.  I really do need these salespeople and cashiers yelling at me to go get my free ice cream already.

It's just that sometimes... Well, sometimes I don't want that one.  There is one kind of tofu I especially enjoy here.  There are others -- a whole large section of the store, in fact, devoted just to tofu -- but this one is extra firm and cooks up well with the sauces and spices I like.  But darn it, if there isn't a 1+1 deal on another kind every time I go to buy it!  And there's always a lady there with that brand, yelling at me to stop paying more money for the kind I want and buy her kind already.  (in Korean). And then I smile politely and say through my teeth, "But I like this kind! I don't like that one! I won't buy it!" (in English). 

Like I've said before, it's amazing what can be communicated without speaking the same language   

But also, the 1+1 phenomenon led to one very unique experience.  

First I must digress.  I can purchase feminine products at the commissary, which is at least ninety minutes away, and I can also order them online through Amazon.  But sometimes the ill winds of bad timing and miscalculation of supply and demand blow strong.  And so it was that I found myself at the Korean Target/ Walmart store nearby staring at a row of pads (because they don't sell tampons).  Of course, all the labels were in Korean, so I was struggling to determine what would meet my needs when I felt a gentle-but-firm "whack!" on my upper arm.  I looked up to see the kind, smiling face of a saleswomen.  

"One plus one!" she said, pointing to a sign on another brand nearby.

"Oh... sure enough!" I replied, smiling politely but not ready to make my decision.  She pointed to the sign again and, using both hands with index fingers pointed up as sign language, repeated herself, "One plus one!!!"  She indicated the items that were included in the deal.  I started to look at them, realizing there were measurements in English, but they were written in centimeters... so I had to try to remember about how big 30 cms was, and did this one have "wings" or no?  In the meantime, the salesperson walked away but reappeared shortly with a giant binder.

Have you ever gone to a home improvement store to buy new counters or wood floors or carpet?  Yes?  Well, this binder was exactly like the ones you would be shown at Lowes or Home Depot, only instead of 50 different granite pieces or carpet samples, it was filled with pads of all shapes and sizes, for every kind of flow a girl might ever have in her menstruating years.

I might have been doing this period thing for ages, birthed five babies (and written about it), had lots of "woman visits" to the doctor, even had countless "girl talk" conversations with close friends.  But I have never, ever, EVER shopped for pads like this.  Was it a little awkward to stand in the middle of a busy supermarket, staring at page after page of maxi pads mounted on cardboard?  Why yes, I would say it was. 

Still, it was somewhat comforting with my new best friend at my side, guiding me through the catalog, showing me the features of this one versus that, and asking me things I couldn't understand, so that I had to shrug and smile sheepishly.  I made a selection as quickly as I politely could and hurried on my way.  

Since then, I've bought feminine products every time I go to the commissary, without fail -- even if "Aunt Flo" isn't visiting for a month, even if my bathroom cupboard is still chockablock full, even if it does seem a little OCD.  But when I pass that particular aisle at the store, I smile to myself.  Because shouldn't we all have a friend like that saleswoman, who stood patiently beside me that day?  Yes, I'd say we all need that, people who can guide us through all the ebbs and flows of life, so to speak, all the while making sure -- 100% sure -- we get the best deal.