Back To School Supplies
“Going back to school.” those words ring a bell, don’t they? For kids, it’s the death knell of the end of the carefree days of video games, sleeping late and, well, sleeping late and video games just about covers it. For parents, it’s a bittersweet time. You get a break from the kids with nothing-to-do syndrome but you know your world is about to hit another gear as you struggle to get kids up in the morning, get them home in the afternoon and check and double check homework, agendas and wait for the almost nightly call from the automated school phone system to tell you about something the kids forgot to mention. With back-to-school comes the annual pilgrimage to the store for supplies. You know, the basics of paper and pencils, but also the not so basics of bank bags, gallon freezer bags and colored construction paper in packs. And I'm not talking about those in the pull out tablets because some teacher somewhere doesn’t like those. So you’ve got to shop. We’ve got to shop, too, so here are Bruce's five choices for back to school shopping.
As far as shopping goes, this is the holy grail of low prices and great selection. It is also (remember I am a man) the last place I would care to shop. I am just not built to handle the stress and strain of a Wal-Mart shopping experience. I will tell you the prices they offer on school supplies are about the best you can find. Every savvy shopper knows that Wal-Mart is THE place for what you need. They have aisles and aisles of paper, pens, even paper plates and blunt nose scissors. Those aisles are also crowed with thousands of other shoppers who are standing right where you need to get. It drives me crazy! Now that is just a “me” thing. If you are a savvy shopper, the Wal-Mart might be your best bet. But to be honest, the crowds make my blood pressure rise to unsafe levels. When it comes to price and helpful employees, I give Wal-Mart an “A”, but I don’t think I am ready for the Ivy League of Saving Money.
A lot of people will dispute that there is any difference at all between Target and Wal-Mart. For me, the difference is noticeable. Target seems to be where all the U.L. co-eds shop for their back-to-school needs which (remember I am a man) makes Target a more aesthetically pleasing place for me to shop. Target, like Wal-Mart, has a great selection, and their prices are certainly made for the budget conscious, but there is something about the scenery that makes the drudgery of back to school shopping a little less painful. I would give Target an “A” as well for their selection and service and what appears to be less congested aisles. Target is also a major supporter of St. Jude hospital which puts them very close to my heart on a personal level. I would also give Target an “A+” for their breath taking, perky and way-out-of-my-league clientele.
To be truthful, this is where I have actually done most of my back to school shopping the past couple of years. The reason is simple. Office Depot is close to my house and they don’t have all the distractions of Target which means my wife will actually allow me to shop there without supervision. Office Depot prices appear to be a little higher on certain items but they make up for it with what I perceive to be varying degrees of quality. In other words, you can spend a little more and get better merchandise if you choose or they do have items that are strictly for the budget minded. I know my kids are really tough on notebooks and binders so I like to spend a little more on the front end rather than buying replacement items several times during the school year. For the Spartan atmosphere of having what you need in an easy-to-find format but higher prices, I give Office Depot a “B+”. I would have given them an “A” but they sponsor Tony Stewart in NASCAR, and he is just too much of a hot head for me. He would spend a lot of time in detention and I don’t think that kind of behavior should be rewarded. I know I am strange but,remember, I am a man.
You wouldn’t think drugstores would be on this list but for me they are pretty handy when it comes to back-to-school shopping. The trick with the drugstores is you have watch for the circulars or check the on-line deals. You probably wouldn’t want to do all of your back to school shopping at these stores, but they will undercut even Wal-Mart on specific items from time to time if it gets you in the store. The coupon-clipping, super-sleuth shopper will find a bargain in these stores. The other benefit of these stores is obviously the drugstores think they are Starbucks and should be on every corner of every major road. They are also open extended hours and they sell headache medicine for when you find out from your little darling student about the recreation of Ancient Greece project that is due tomorrow. The fact that I can find Jonas Brothers binders, ball point pens and Preparation H because my kid’s lack of attention has made me pucker in a private place (remember I am a man), I give the drugstores a solid “B” on my back-to-school shopping report card. The prices could be better but the lack of crowds, adequate choices and access to controlled substances with a Dr.’s prescription make the drugstores a pretty nice blip on my radar.
If you believe in the saying “fish where the fish are” then you would probably like both of these stores. This is where the teachers shop. I figure if a place has the supplies for the people who teach the lessons, I bet they will have the supplies for those that are supposed to learn the lessons. I have even heard a rumor that one of these fine places will actually gather the items on your school-approved list and put them together for you in a single package. In other words, you tell them” I need supplies for this grade at this school,” they roam the aisles and fill the basket and all you do is show up and pay. I think this is a shopping idea that must have been handed down from Heaven (remember I am a man). No bending over looking for glue sticks, no wondering if these are the correct notebooks, no guesswork. Just show up and pay. You may pay a little more for the supplies than you would at the aforementioned locales but, if your budget allows, you could consider it a convenience fee. I might consider it a “save my sanity” fee! For the simple reason that at least one of these stores offers this service, I give them “A++” and Valedictorian status. This is how shopping for back to school should be.