The parking lot at the Tanger Outlet Center in the Great Smokey Mountains this past weekend.
A person would be hard pressed to find evidence of a recession where I was dragged to this past weekend. Okay, dragged may be too dramatic...with apologies to Mrs. Tony C Today. The family loaded up and made the 90 minute journey to the mecca of area shopping...Sevierville/Pigeon Forge. It doesn't take long after leaving I-40 at Exit 407 to figure out your thoughts of outstanding savings, at outlet pricing, on this day are neither original nor unique, as you sit bumper to bumper in traffic inching slowly closer to her...excuse me...your ultimate goal of over 100 brand name stores in one location. One location!
Let me predicate this post by stating I'm not a physical shopper. I'm a cyber-shopper. But, I love my wife, and she is very much a physical shopper. To her, Black Friday is an annual sporting event that requires both planning and preparation. She approaches the day after Thanksgiving with the same zeal and readiness as Hannibal did attacking the Roman Empire. So at her request, I came along for a Saturday of shopping with no pretenses...well...at least knowing I'd get to pick where we ate.
Packed. No parking. Stores thick with people...like ants on a dropped piece of Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut. Crazy. I was neither in my element nor comfort zone.
After being pummeled by more seasoned shoppers in a few different stores, I posted up on a bench outside one of the wife's favorites knowing I'd get a lengthy respite. Again, the sheer amount of people was amazing. I could see across the parking lot a line formed outside the Coach store, which limits the number of people inside at a given time. I was close to completing a mental observation when the lady sitting on the same bench broke my train of thought:
'There's sure a lot of people here.'
TC- 'Yes ma'am, hard to see the recession here.'
'We're here from South Carolina. Just got my tax refund check back, so I came shopping with money from the IRS.'
TC-(chuckling) 'Well, it's actually your money, not the IRS's.'
Now, I know what you're thinking...why'd you have to go there? Folks, it's just who I am, and for that, I'm not apologizing...although at times I probably should.
'Yes, but it's money I was expecting or needing to pay bills and stuff. Kinda like free money.'
TC- 'Yes, but you could get that money sooner, in your paychecks, by adjusting your...'
Another lady interrupted.
'I got more back this year than last year. Good thing Obama got elected.'
TC-' But what does he have to do with...'
'Come to think of it, I got more back too.'
TC-'President Obama has nothing to do with 2008 income taxes. He was elected in...'
'All I know is I got more money back from the IRS than ever before.'
TC-'But it's your money!'
At this point, I knew my line of reason was falling on deaf ears. I allowed a comfortable amount of time to pass before giving my seat up to another lady who had just arrived to join the group.
TC-'You ladies enjoy Tennessee. Now, be sure to spend all your money here before you go back to South Carolina. We're still listed behind you in educational spending...you know...and need the money more here.' I stated trying to come across light-hearted and drawing a polite giggle from each.
As my wife exited a door pushing the stroller with the 13 year old in tow, I steered us in the direction of Harry and David's and met no resistance. We strolled around the sidewalk window shopping and talking at a leisurely pace. As we approached the Coach store, I kicked back into analytical mode.
'Look at the line outside of Coach. I'm not waiting that long to go in there,' said my wife.
'I'd love to look around, but no way I'd stand in line,' piped in the teenager.
Do what? Now, I'm thinking my wife has, at a minimum, a million or so purses or pocketbooks...whatever you call them, and the teenager has more than any 13 year old deserves or has necessity. But, I also wanted to keep my position of choosing to eat at Cracker Barrel...so I remained silent and avoided the argument...for the moment. The friendly confines of Cracker Barrel seemed a more logical choice for this brewing verbal joust.
As we approached the waiting Coach shoppers, the jubilant atmosphere of money spending drastically changed and became one akin to people waiting in line to eat at a soup kitchen. It was...eerie. Heads where down, people looked tired and detached...and yet, most of them were well-dressed, blue-blooded looking folks.
'I can't believe we're waiting in line to shop at a discount, designer handbag store. This is ridiculous. Hope people are happy with Obama now!' I overheard one lady fuming to another in the line.
I remained silent and didn't stop and remark...Harry and David's was just ahead. I really love those chocolate covered Bing cherries.