I was a child when there was Army and Navy Surplus that meant something. My father bought a bomber engine at an RCAF surplus auction in Airdrie, Alberta and ran it in our basement. He also bought lightweight drafting equipment from the RCAF that used to be on the navigator’s flight table. I aways wanted him to bring home the Fraser-Nash gun turret that was on sale as well, but my mother was a spoil-sport…
I mention this as a preface to gently prime you for a fact of life; there is no army and navy surplus any more. The bomber engine was left over from WW2. The army and navy now need all the stuff they have and are frequently engaged in horse trading amongst themselves to gather enough of it together in one place to operate on. They don’t have any spares to sell.
What is sold in the surplus stores is cheap imports from Pakistan, India, and worse places. If it can be made of bad cotton or brass – if it can be made crudely but with a certain brutal flair – if it can be sold as an aid to camping, or fishing, or genocide – the stores will get a sea container of it in and sell it. Whichever category it fits into and whatever it is, you can find one common thread – it will be overpriced.
Don’t avoid the surplus stores because of this. Go into them, by all means. Education is always expensive and shopping there is no exception. Set yourself a price limit that is painful but not horrifying, and go spend to that number. Who knows – you may need the fake ammunition box or the Pakistani exploding alcohol stove – or the Confederate flag or the 70 cm folding knife – for some legitimate purpose.
Just don’t ask for Fraser-Nash turrets…
If you are over 50, your tee shirt shop is called Target or Big W. Your colour is white or black and your size is immaterial – just get it big. No-one is looking and no-one cares. You can wear the thing inside your flannel shirt in the winter and be comfortable.
If you are younger, your tee shirt is a statement and where you buy it is important. The people who sell it to you want you to be happy – happy to advertise their shop or politics to others and happy to take your $ 50 for it. Go-on – make yourself poor and spread a little happiness.
You’ll find a surprisingly large number of stores willing to enter into this game – they’ll be up, down, and side-market venues and the staff will look happier than you do. No wonder – other people have been in before you and emptied their wallets and purses into the till and the staff know this.
If you wish to reflect on the fact that the only people who used to wear tee shirt were the old bastards up the top of the page…and that the shirt was a form of underwear…you may wonder how it came to be the defining garment of whatever generation you now occupy. This happened because they were originally cheap cotton things and people bought them for a purpose. Then the makers discovered that you could screen print Che Guevara on them and sell them to chardonnay socialists for $ 50. And away it, and you, went. In your case without your $ 50.
Looks down. Notes what is on the feet at the present. Shudders…
There is a cheap shoe store in each of our local shopping centres – and the centres are not down-market venues. They host grocery stores, cinemas, large retail outlets, and some boutique stores, They’re not the ritziest in the town, but they’re also not the slums.
Needing new sandals ( I wear through leather and artificial-leather sandals pretty smartly. If I don’t hole them, I give them such a bacterial overload that you cannot bear to have them in the clothes closet…) I determined to spend less and try these shops. The experiment is ongoing, but the flip-flop rubber thong sandals are giving value for money so far. They are a dangerous thing to wear if you are unsteady on your feet – the sandals turn under the foot and jerk you sideways. Next version will be the enclosed sandal version and we’ll see whether that works.
The feature I most appreciate in these shops – all selling Chinese-made goods – is that they just rack them up on the shelves and let you get on with it to make your own mind up. The goods are set out in sizes and you can see the same style in several fittings by just walking down the racks. You choose a size section and look for yourself. There are seats to plop onto when you want to try something on. Wear socks and just sift through the range.
I do not decry sales knowledgable sales staff – I was one of them once myself – and for goods that have a decided technical turn like computers, electronics, and helicopters I want all the time and attention I can get. I’ll pay for it if it steers me in the right direction. But I don’t need someone to hover over my feet.