Sunday, April 14, 2013

Confessions of a Male Shopaholic

Have you ever played a game where everyone was asked to write down his/her response to a question, such as "What is a little-known fact about you?" or "What is one of your pet peeves?", and, as each answer was read, the people had to guess who among them gave that response? Sometime during 2002 or 2003, I did just that; the question was, "What is one of your bad habits?"  I have several, but I wrote down, "Eating too much," because it was the only negative trait of mine that no one else there would have guessed.  Looking back at it now, one thing surprises me: Another member of that group wrote down, "Buying things I don't need," and her best friend thought that was my bad habit instead.
It seems, though, that said young lady--who might very well be reading this--was right on the money.  For most of my childhood and teenage years, whenever I was at any place that sold goods, I would see something there that I wanted, and either intended to buy it myself or, in my younger years, would beg my mom to get it for me.  Though I now have the maturity to walk into a store and not buy anything, I still tend to buy or otherwise obtain things I don't need.  I've found legal free music downloads online that I put onto my iPod(s), only to be offended by what I was hearing as soon as I started listening to it.  Even at yard sales, thrift stores, and similar places, I have found books, DVDs, VHS tapes, CDs, and other items--usually entertainment-related--for which I really didn't have much need.
That right there is part of the whole "garage sale" mentality.  As an article I once read in AARP Magazine--yes, I know!--said, "Stores are for things you know you want.  Yard sales are for things you didn't know you wanted."  Many times, I go to garage sales, thrift stores, library sales, used bookstores, or similar places and find items I wasn't expecting to, sometimes ones that I didn't even know existed.  If I looked, I'm sure I could find most of the same items on eBay or Amazon's Marketplace; however, the surprise is part of the fun of such places.
Buying items secondhand has actually been the start of many of my fascinations, some of which are still present today.  Most of you reading this probably know that I like Garfield, and have a large collection of his comics in book form, right? What you may not know is that, about two decades ago, my mom buying me the first Garfield Fat Cat Three Pack from a yard sale started my collection.  Star Wars is pretty much the same way; though I liked it after seeing The Phantom Menace in 1999, I really got into it in 2005, when I read the wonderful Expanded Universe novel I, Jedi after purchasing it at a garage sale.  There were other similar discoveries; one was finding the novelization of Alex and Stephen Kendrick's (Fireproof, Courageous) first movie, Flywheel, at a local used bookstore.  My mom and I both read it and liked it so much that we made a special request for the movie at our local library.  Suffice it to say: Yard sales, used bookstores, and similar places have kept me stocked with entertainment over the years.
There have been times where I have gotten killer bargains.  Just last year, I paid about forty bucks for a scanner/fax machine/copier/printer that still works quite well to this day.  Around the same time, I was able to find an audio NIV Bible, in like new condition, for a mere four bones, when the "list price" for it was close to a hundred dollars.  MovieStop once had the brand-new movie October Baby on the clearance rack for $3.99; you bet I got it! The two lots I recently purchased from eBay--one of Christian fiction books, the other of Christian rock/alternative CDs--were great deals; when I did the math, I knew that I was paying less that two dollars per book or CD.  It's times like those that make shopping fun.
Of course, there have also been opposite experiences.  One time, my mom bought a tape of Barney and Friends for the kids in her daycare, only to discover that there was no film in the cassette.  What made matters worse was that the tape was sans box, and the lady who was selling it rudely refused to negotiate on the price.  Another time, my mom bought me a computer game, only to get home and find there was no disk in the box.  More recently, I bought a wireless router without knowing that it didn't have an adapter, or purchased a DVD/CD that turned out to be just an empty case.  Usually, people are willing to refund your money when that happens; however, sometimes you have no idea where you bought it.
Let me be very serious on this final note: As a Christian, one of the things I try to avoid is idolatry.  If you asked me what that was, I would tell you that it is putting anything or anyone before God.  In years past, I thought nothing of doing that; my obsessions ruled my life--and were even more important than my friends and family--but that was just the way I liked it.  I've since matured past that, and realized that real-life relationships/friendships are more important than what only exists on television or a computer screen, but idolatry is a struggle for all of us.  It's especially the case when it comes to material things; Jesus' parable in Luke 12:16-21 tells of a man who stored up things only for himself.  Just like that fictional rich man, I have so much entertainment that I could simply "eat, drink, and be merry," but that would be selfish and sinful.  Though it's great to have a hobby, even one such as bargain hunting, I don't want to let it rule me or take over my life.
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