DC Diary: Prowling with a bargain hunter

April 18, 2000
Filene’s Basement
1133 Connecticut Ave.
3:25 p.m.

When I was a child, I used to always love when my mother told me it was time to save some money. I’m not a miserly soul, it’s just with my mom and me, saving money meant we either were going to make our rounds at the mall sale racks or hit one of the discount stores in the area. It didn’t take long before I became adept at walking into the house, the weight of many bags of clothing weighing down my seven-year-old frame, and triumphantly yelling to my Dad, Come here Daddy! Come see how much money Mommy and me saved!

Knowing all-too-well my obsession with designer clothes and my penchant for penny-pinching, my best friend, Hatchet features editor extraordinaire, called me and said she had the perfect jaunt for me – a new Filene’s Basement, a virtual Mecca of funky duds at rock-bottom prices, had just opened up on Connecticut Avenue April 13.

I headed out a couple of days later with visions of Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren dancing in my head. As I stepped through the green and gold-rimmed glass doors and walked down the stairs, my eyes were immediately drawn to the piles of purses and bags to my left. Hovering above the shelves of purses in all different colors (including my personal favorite – pink) was a sign: A bargain can make your day, it read.

Feeling like I was on the game show Double Dare, I hunted through the piles of Esprit, Donna Karan, Kenneth Cole and other designer-name bags until I found the perfect bag from Esprit, with the cutest little pink and green flowers adorning the top border. At $14.99, with a regular price of $32, I knew this handbag had to be mine.

Already on a shopping-high from securing my first bargain, I whizzed past the Coach and Prada bags behind glass, past the men’s department, and down the escalators to women’s clothing and shoes and housewares. The purse department had just been a warm-up. The real shopping was about to begin. I did a quick walk-through first, planning my shopping strategy. There were BCBG dresses for $39.99! Dolce and Gabbana dresses, which normally retail for $700, for $169. Kenneth Cole loafers and Nine West heels occupied shelves in the shoe department and Liz Claiborne twinsets and Donna Karan suits hung neatly from hangers throughout the bottom floor.

After a couple more walk-throughs, a huge pile of clothing had amassed on my arm, drawing stares from fellow shoppers. After trying on the clothes and whittling down my selections to a few chosen pieces, I did one more walk-through (it’s important in stores like this to scour the racks a couple of times – with this much stuff, even experienced shoppers sometimes miss adorable pieces). Then I saw it – a silk twinset in the perfect shade of, you guessed it, pink.

As I contemplated this potential new addition to my already over-stuffed closet, I saw another little sign amid the rows of clothing. Don’t hesitate, it said. That was all the encouragement I needed. I put back some of my other selections (this clotheshorse does have a budget, after all) and headed to the check-out, with a small detour through housewares to pick up a ceramic glass covered with pastel butterflies. As Tonya, a friendly cashier, rang me up, she marveled at my selections.

I didn’t see that – that pink – that’s beautiful, she exclaimed, folding my cardigan. And that purse – that’s perfect!

I walked out of the store carrying my bag with the words I just got a bargain, written across it, feeling rather proud of myself. I had spent about $75, but when I totaled the difference between the suggested price and the actual price that I paid, I had saved $79.03! I know Mommy and Daddy would certainly be proud.

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