By Dick Wolfsie
Editor’s Note: Dick Wolfsie is an Emmy-Award-winner who has been a television talk show host and reporter for almost 30 years. The former high school psychology teacher is also a syndicated newspaper columnist and author of 11 books.
The dollar store as we knew it is gone. Oh, it’s still there. I can see the helium balloons from the street — hugging the ceiling, beckoning me to enter.
But don’t you fall for it. It’s not a dollar store anymore, it’s the Dollar and a Quarter Store, regardless of the store name. One chain considered the name 2 BELOW. That would give them the option of two more price increases without having to buy another new sign.
I am addicted to all dollar stores. But now with this price increase, maybe it’s time to break my habit. Years ago, when pay phones went from 10 cents to a quarter, that was the last phone booth I ever walked into, except to check the little coin return to see if anyone had left any change in it.
Let me pause here while younger readers Google what a phone booth is. By the way, for older folks, just so you know, the five-and-dime store has also raised their prices.
Several weeks ago, I was in a dollar store in my neighborhood, unaware this seismic shift in my budget was about to occur. I waited for the cashier to ring up my purchases, though I thought I knew exactly what the total would be. I kept track of how many purchases I was about to make, and I even know to how multiply 1 x 16.
“Wait, how could the total be $20? I only bought 16 items!”
“Everything is $1.25 now, sir.”
“Even a can of okra?”
“Sir, if you really like okra, why not just spring for the extra 25 cents?”
“Because I hate okra. Everyone hates okra. I was buying it because it was a dollar. How about those helium balloons? How much are those?”
“Everything is $1.25, sir.”
“Okay, I understand the increase with food, but why did balloons go up?”
“Because we put helium in them.”
Frustrated, I wandered around the store putting my willpower to the test. At a buck and a quarter, could I resist a half gallon of generic cola, a set of three screwdrivers, sunglasses, or five pounds of dog food? Hey, we could get a dog someday.
I wondered if I should start a support group for people like me who are getting sucked into an increasingly more costly addiction.
My support group would have six steps to recovery:
1. Admit you are powerless to pass up a dollar bag of ginger snaps.
2. Resist the notion that lower prices are a higher power.
3. Never question the price of goodness.
4. Share your story with others so they can be savers as well.
5. Pray the $1.25 stores never go to $1.50.
6. Before buying on impulse, look deeply inside your shelf to be sure of what you really need.
As I was finishing this column, I saw a rumor online that the dollar store may revert to the old dollar price for some select items that are less popular.
My goal now is to find a really good okra cookbook.