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99 Cent Store, Day One: The Ick Factor

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Homeschool Mom, embarking on her 99 Cent Only Store experiment, attempts to get over the "ick factor."

99 Cent Store Day one

Homeschool Mom: Before shopping, I thought I would do a little research on the 99 Cent Only Store. On the website, I was told the store envisions itself as a deep-discount store for people it refers to as "price-sensitive consumers," and a fun treasure-hunt experience for the "value conscious consumer." I translate "price-sensitive" to mean those who have no choice other than to shop cheap, and those who are "value conscious" as just cheap.
This week I am going to be a price-sensitive person and see how my family would do if the 99 Cent store were our only food shopping choice.

Also on the website, they have a famous photograph taken by Andreas Gursky in 1999 at the Hollywood, C.A., 99 Cent Only Store, which has been displayed in the New York Museum of Modern Art as well as in Paris and London. The photo shows row upon row of items stuffed onto shelves. The photo recently sold for $3,346,456. In 2008, all 281 stores grossed 1.2 billion dollars. Who knew there was so much cash to be made from crap?

And there is quite a bit of crap, I must say. It's not a pretty place, the 99 Cent Only Store. I think a big hurdle I will have to get over this week is that compared to some of the swank food chains, with their mood lighting and artful displays, shopping at the 99 Cent store is like grocery shopping at the Greyhound bus station. As I pushed my sticky, purple and green cart into the store, past the jaundiced alcoholic asking for spare change, I was sorely missing those courtesy wipes that they have at the entrance to most supermarkets.

99 Cent Store Day one

I must admit I was hesitant to make any purchases, so I strolled through the aisles awed by the variety of ways you can apparently preserve shellfish. There were cans of smoked mussels, clams, scallops, and even something called "imitation abalone." I actually had chills up and down my spine as I imagined taking a bite of any one of them. Luckily, there were more familiar items like Sloppy Joe Sauce, and canned beans and veggies, etc. There was quite a bit of produce, and except for a cloud of fruit flies over some moldy oranges, it looked like most of it was quite good. There were also dairy and deli displays, and upon reading some labels for bread and crackers, I found that a few brands were actually trans fat-free and good for you.

My spirits lifted, although I still walked out of the store with only a quart of white vinegar I need to boil my kids' medical equipment in. I needed to go home, prepare, strategize, sanitize myself, and perhaps visit another 99 Cent Only Store in a different neighborhood before attempting to actually buy groceries. This was going to be a little more difficult than I had thought.

next: Single Mom Sells Body on eBay
26 comments so far | Post a comment now
Julie May 22, 2009, 3:04 PM

Sorry, I agree with the others. This mom is not a mom I can relate to. While I do not specifically shop at the 99cent store for a majority of anything, I do shop there from time to time. I make 18k a year with 4 kids. I guess I can say thank you snobby mom for the food stamps that allows us to eat better foods than the 99cent store.
But yeah, pretty snobby.

Roxy June 30, 2009, 12:51 PM

I think this made perfect sense. For all of you critics - remember, she has kids with health issues, and as a mom that can relate, it makes you cringe easier - because you are more aware of what your kids can and cannot eat, and you learn to skim over foods that are not ok at a store you are familiar with. Going to a new store can be daunting, especially if there is a lot of food that is on the no-no list. As far as sticky carts etc, again, her kids are extra sensitive to this stuff, so it makes her more aware of it. KUDOS to you for hanging in there and not walking back out!

Anonymous January 10, 2010, 3:59 PM

What a snob! Ick to you!!

Mother of 3 February 8, 2010, 12:29 PM

My God are you serious!!!, I am completly disgusted with People who believe they’re too good for the 99 cent store, and to imply that only “Poor” people HAVE to shop there is sad, I make a quite decent amount of money and I am a Weekly visitor to the 99cent and Dollar Tree stores, I use coupons and even shop Swap Meets for food, it’s what budget Savy people do, I’d much rather buy a box of fruit O’s than fruit Loops any day if I save $2.50 a box!! I believe this nose snubbing of saving is WHY people are loseing their homes and families are torn apart by posessions, it’s sad….. ohh well, I guess We “value concious” shoppers will continue to go on with life happily with out Credit card bills and over due morgage payments while the other “stickey cart” fearing shoppers buy themselfs into another Depression.

JaclynFrazier22 May 21, 2010, 12:12 AM

I received 1 st when I was very young and that helped my family a lot. However, I require the short term loan again.

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