Blame it on the chlorine. Typically, I admit not being a frequent Kmart shopper. But two things propelled me into the San Mateo outlet last Friday after work — which on an unrelated note shows how exciting my weekend evenings have become.
The first was the search for cheap chemicals to keep the spa from turning into a jetted bacterial cesspool. The amount of granules and liquids and test strips required for this endeavor is enough to make anybody rue not paying attention in high school chemistry and occasionally curse paying for all the clarifiers and sanitizers and what have you required.
Kmart, honestly, might not be where I turn for footwear and fashion but household supplies and mascara work the same no matter the name on the price tag.
The second motivator, which hinged on the first, was the man dancing on the corner outside the store twirling around a large sign proclaiming Kmart was having a going-out-of-business sale. The gentleman caught my attention first with his energy. He’s obviously well-experienced, probably having perfected the act touting mattress blowout sales and seasonal tax preparation services.
The “everything now 30 percent off” declaration had been amended. The 30 was visibly amended to 40 percent. One-third was one thing. That wasn’t much more than a good Sunday coupon discount. But 40? Still not rock bottom but 40 percent of cheap is still much better than 40 percent of expensive and assumedly the company once offering blue light specials would be more economical than its Target and Home Depot cohorts.
But venturing into a fire sale requires a delicate calculation. Go too soon after the store announces its upcoming closure and save little more than tax. Go too late and everything good is gone. Sure, the few items still taking up shelf space, along with those shelves and brackets themselves, will be slashed to nothing but nothing is exactly what shoppers will find.
And in regards to my sought-after chlorine, nothing is what I got. C’est la vie.
While I came up empty, the others scavenging through the aisles apparently had better luck. One man had a box full of market umbrellas. What he needed with seven umbrellas — I counted — I’ll never know but he obviously felt the price was right. The same could be said for the family hauling out boxes of treadmill equipment although they looked like most of the exercise came from hauling the gear to their waiting car.
Some of the items seemed still too expensive for a going-out-of-business sale. I’d apparently come too soon to get a stellar deal on beach towels and dog dental chews. Others nearly lured me in with their cut-rate prices. Duct tape? I do need purple patterned duct tape — don’t I? There was only two left, next to a single lonely package of stick-on wall hangers, but somehow I resisted.
The rows of Disney-themed outdoor solar lights looked fairly untouched which is more than I can say about the aisles of toiletries and cosmetics. Imagine photos of post-bombing Gaza. You get the picture.
Shopping is always a bit of a sporting event. Holiday season and business closure just step it up a notch, requiring a pair of good shoes, a hefty dose of patience and the ability to size up another shopper eying that bottle of nail polish you want. There are no friends when a dollar is at stake and a combat mentality never hurts. If you want polite commerce, stay at home and order online.
A cashier ringing up my bucket citronella candle said there is another month until the store closes its doors for good. Her rolled eyes and slight grimace showed she wasn’t really looking forward to the weeks of increasingly lower prices to come.
Yet, there’s no way to stave off the future whether that be the day when there’s nothing left to sell but a half-broken tiki torch and a display model Dutch oven or the day the property’s replacement project breaks ground. One day, long after my candle is long gone and I’ve stocked up on water chemicals elsewhere, Kmart will be nothing but a distant memory. And as for the mixed-use Station Park Green taking its place? I guess time will show us what’s in store.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. Follow Michelle on Twitter @michellemdurand What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: email@example.com.