Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back-to-school

As a public service, I'm re-running this from last August for those of you who missed it the first time around. It's certainly relevant.


Dr. Grumpy's Guide to Life, Chapter 2: Shopping for school supplies

Okay, so this is the 2nd edition of my helpful newsletter (If you missed the 1st one on surviving your child's birthday party, click here).

Today's issue will focus on what I discovered to be a horribly traumatic life-altering experience: Back-to-School week at OfficeStaplesMaxDepot. There's one right across the street from my office, so I go there regularly for supplies. It's quiet, the employees are generally helpful, and I know my way around it pretty well.

I naively thought this would be easy.

So on to the lesson:

1. Do NOT volunteer for this job (flip a coin, or arm wrestle, or have a duel to decide instead).

Silly me. When Mrs. Grumpy was wondering when she'd have time to get the school supplies, I volunteered. I figured "How hard can it be? Hell, it's just some pencils and a bottle of glue". DUMBASS!!! The list is HUGE, and features items from the mundane (No. 2 pencils), to the specific (Expo dry erase markers, wide tip, in blue, green, yellow, and black) to the odd (1 Pringles can with lid, original flavor, empty). It took me 2 freakin' hours!

2. Be prepared. Normally there are 5-10 other quiet business-type people in there. NOT THIS WEEK! Holy Crap! An African street bazaar is an orderly affair compared to this! Deranged parents running on caffeine! Kids running amuck! Store clerks running for their lives! And all the crazed parents are trying to read off a list, push a cart, yell at kids, text, and scream into a cell phone at the same time. Bring a water bottle, food, a map, a cattle prod, and a flashlight. A card with your blood type, hospital preference, and next of kin is also a good idea.

3. Do not leave your cart unattended. People will steal your shit out of it. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP! I had my cart 2/3 full with the crap on my list, when I left it at the end of an aisle to go find notebooks (spiral, wide-ruled, 100 pages each, single subject, 1 red, 1 blue, 1 green). When I returned 3 minutes later about half the stuff I'd already put in it was GONE! I watched a few minutes later as it happened to others. Apparently, when you walk away from your cart, people think it means they can raid it for supplies they haven't had a chance to pick up yet. "Hey, this guy has those index cards (2 sizes, lined and unlined, 100 each) that my kid needs. Cool. I'll scratch that off my list".

If another parent asks you what school your kid goes to, or who their teacher is, DO NOT ANSWER. Ignore them. Pretend you're deaf, or that you don't speak English. They are not making conversation. They are casing your cart, and if they find out your kid is in the same class as their kid, they'll wait until you aren't looking to take your stuff (or just switch carts).

Best part was when I went to ask an employee for help finding something (Flair Correction Pens, in 4 colors). When I got back to my cart the box of 12 ultra-fine tip Sharpies I left in it had been opened, and someone had taken one of them. They'd even doodled on the shopping list I left in my cart to make sure they were taking a pen that worked.

Oddly, you can leave valuables in your cart. Your wallet, purse, and gold jewelry will be perfectly safe if left unattended, but the $2.69 box of high-lighters (12 markers, large tip, in 3 colors) will vanish.

My recommendation: bring a child to guard your cart, preferably one with an iron bladder and who's old enough to use a Taser or firearm if needed. If your kids don't meet this requirement, stop by Home Depot and hire one of the day laborers who hangs out in front looking for work.

4. Do not look for certain numbers of things. The people who make these lists have no idea how things are sold, so it lists things as "1 Expo dry erase marker, chisel-tip, red). Great. They don't sell red ones individually, just in boxes of 4. Or the Flair Correction Pens don't come in only 4 colors, but they do come in 8. Just buy it. If you aren't certain what item the teacher wants, just buy everything in sight and return the rejects later.

Alternatively, if the teacher only wants 1 of an item, such as, say, an ultra-fine tip Sharpie (which only come in boxes of 12), you can always look for an unattended cart with a box of them in it, and take one. If paper is handy, try doodling on it to make sure you are stealing one that works.

5. Hold your place in the check-out line AT ALL COSTS. Reserve it as soon as you walk in the store BEFORE shopping. Use a child (preferably your own) if possible. Other options include day laborers from Home Depot, mannequins, dogs, and aggressive Venus Fly Traps.

6. When in doubt, ask the bleary-eyed, terrified employees for help. If nothing else, it's fun to watch them try to convince you that they don't speak English as they run outside for a cigarette.

Good luck!

22 comments:

Doris said...

Ah yes, I was right.

You still bear the scars...

Who is doing the school supply shopping this year?

>:p

Chris said...

I cannot agree with this post more. I haven't shopped for supplies yet, but I was walking through a drug store last night and saw the exact package of thin point, low odor Expo dry-erase markers that we needed, on sale for 1.99 (marked down for 4.99). I got so crazed I bought 4 packs. I don't know why. Something just came over me...........

The Mother said...

If you had followed my advice, you wouldn't be in this mess.

Barb said...

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!"

C said...

Midnight, the 24 hour Walmart, an Americano from Dutch Bros. smooth sailing. Come on over to the left Coast, I'll show you how it's done. You can even get a Diet Coke before you shop.

Stephanie said...

I had to do this at two different stores over the weekend. School doesn't start for us for two more weeks and still some of the shelves were bare. There were just two pink erasers left in the entire Target -- and my list, of course, said four.

Anonymous said...

I don't have kids and I just have to ask why you can't order all of this stuff off of the website and have it shipped to your house?

Anonymous said...

It's called 'Treasure Hunt' for mummies and daddies.

Bulrush said...

Why are schools so specific about which brand of dry erase marker is used? Do they use cheap discount whiteboards?

And what's the deal with all those markers and Sharpie's? Does the teacher or school own stock in the company? Markers should never be in the hands below 9th grade, they stain clothing.

JoAnna said...

In AZ, all school supplies are optional. It's state law that the schools provide all necessary supplies.

Anonymous said...

At my kids school we can order all the school supplies in June, saves a lot of hassle!

lbparker said...

So where is all the money from our school taxes going, if not for supplies? Oh, wait. . .

POOHPA said...

Buy the school prepack bundle.This was funny as hell.

Suny said...

Why do kids need dry erase markers at all? How many kids are up at the whiteboard at any one time?
Let the teacher do all the writing on the board with his/her own markers!

For drawing/colouring just use felts from the dollar store (90% of the list can be found there)

Anonymous said...

My sister just spend about $300 per kid and one is just going to pre-school and the other 1st grade. She's a single mom too and she was considering returning some of the supplies and telling the teacher she can't afford to contribute to the communal stock of school supplies. I thought school supplies were for your kids only - but she tells me that the supplies are for everyone in the class/school. Really were are those tax dollars going towards...

Rothase said...

Ours are mostly for the whole class to share, 16 glue sticks, three boxes of kleenex, hand sanitizer, wipes, expo markers (fine and wide tip), Ticonderoga pencils (had to be that brand, so I had to go to 2 stores to find them), two roll of paper towels, all the markers had to be Crayola brand... I spent about $200 for two kids, kindergarten and 1st grade. My 1st grader did get her own two notebooks- with Buzz and Woody from Toy Story on them. I think when I was a kid the girls all had Strawberry Shortcake, or maybe Scooby Doo, and Star Wars was fashionable for boys. That would be the original Star Wars, btw. Not that freaky stuff with Lego creatures running about with light sabers. I tried to order all the stuff from my office supply guy at work, but he said I would end up paying a lot more for it. Next year, I think I am going to suck it up and have Staples deliver.

Chris said...

Bulrush, I have no idea why they specify what brands, but they had to be the Expo LOW ODOR dry erase markers. Also, on the bottom of our supply list it actually says, "Because of allergy issues, please purchase the brands specified." We're not buying any FOOD items - what, are some kids allergic to pencils? They probably shouldn't be leaving their house then. We don't have the pre-packaged supply thing either - don't I wish we had that!

Anonymous said...

We preordered in June from our PTO. The package gets sent directly to the kid's classroom. No mad rush for us!

Threeundertwo said...

Ha Ha Ha. I can't drive due to recent hip surgery so I sent my husband this year for our 3 kids. It was such sadistic fun watching his complete meltdown when he came home. Although now we're out of scotch.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like hell. We get out class order list before school breaks up and hand it straight to the sales person at the nearest stationary shop who fills it and packs it with the childs name and class. We pick it up a week or two before school begins the new year. No muss, no fuss. Just hand over the cash and rest easy.

Anonymous said...

Last year my 4 year old was entering Junior Kindergarten (in Canada). I spent $30 at the dollar store, I think $12 for his lunch box at walmart, and used a backpack he already had. $42 total. You can usually find name brands (like Sharpies and Fiskars) at the dollar store.

Anna

Anonymous said...

There's an easy way to resolve this back to school shopping business. Since the store is right across the street from your office, you could ask your secretary/receptionist to order it out of a catalogue for you, and have it delivered. You could use your business account and give yourself the invoice. No line ups, and no worries about other crazy parents stealing items from your cart!

 
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