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Penny Power

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Words 629
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Only in America, with its epidemic commercialism has consumerism risen to the echelons of the ridiculous and bizarre. Bargain hunting is ubiquitous, seen in its many forms and transmutations: couponing, run deals, clearance blasts. You name it- we are running for it.
The constant revolving door of new merchandise in stores being marked down to clearance has resulted into what I call the “Penny Phenomena.” Clearance gets clearanced and an overwhelming push for new inventory created a wormhole straight thru Shopper’s Paradise. Thanks to a beautifully flawed pricing system where merchandise automatically goes through a series of markdowns, all the way down to the lowest decimal known to man- a penny.
But c’mon, 1 cent!? Where will that take you? It used to be and always- nowhere. No one in proper headspace would think you can go far with a penny or a bunch of pennies jingling in your pocket. But go ahead, type in #pennyfinds, #pennyhunting, #pennydeals on Instagram and you will be taken to a nether space in the universe full of amazing, whowudathunk deals. The purchasing power of a singular coin has marked the online collective consciousness and “pennyhunters” boast of a ludicrous following on social media.
We’re not talking about cheap crap either. $200 designer shoes for a penny! Ding! A Rag & Bone sweater that retails for $350 for a penny? Ding, ding! A Dyson vacuum for $0.01 cents? Ding, ding, ding! Toys, clothes, shoes, jewelry, appliances, home goods -- the list goes on to infinity and perhaps even further. You the customer- you WIN. You just beat the system! And with the addictive seduction, the rush of adrenaline once you hit one of these penny unicorns, you will be a penny crackhead in no time, I guarantee it.
The first time it happened to me, I found a pair of brand new shoes that retailed for under $50 at Nordstrom Rack. It was on clearance and marked down to $10. My ecstatic self took the beautiful red shoes to the cashier. She rang me up and said the three of the most beautiful words ever uttered in history: “It’s a penny.” I looked at her dumbfounded. Some conversation and laughter ensued and my penny shoes and I danced all the way home.
Now why would stores allow people to take merchandise for next to nothing? It’s simple. It’s the law. The store will have to sell the item for the price it rings up to. Any penny more is overage and they could be liable for overpricing a customer.
Committing an act short of the crime of stealing is an approach worthy of a sophisticated mathematical algorithm. Study the merchandise, follow the patterns and calculated timing. I watched the clearance blast at Toys R Us go from 50%, to 60%, and then 75% until finally, it hit 95%. After the last day of the sale— the unthinkable in America happened. It hit 100%. So technically, I was getting FREE items without paying. $80 remote control cars, Legos—ringing up at $0.00! I made out like bandit. I also felt like one because never in my wildest technicolored dreams did I expect any store to hand me a printed receipt that said I didn’t owe anything.

It was a moment of surrealistic reality. I could still hear the words in my head: Congratulations, you’ve found the glitch in the system. Welcome to the Matrix. "You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."

And fortunately for me, I’ve yet to find the end of this rabbit hole.

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