Bales of Socks

I could understand it if I was shopping at Costco or Cheaper By The Truck Load or Lots & Lots, but the same thing happens at Sears and J.C. Penney.

I go in looking for a pair of black socks. Just need one pair, not a bale. But by the bale is the only way they sell socks or underwear anymore. Bales with six pair or eight pair or ten pair or twelve pair.

Even before my feet stopped growing when I was a kid, I didn’t wear six pair of socks in a given school year. We either stretched them or my big toe made a breakthrough in its search for comfort. When all our efforts were for nothing, my mom could go to the store and buy one pair of socks to get me through the year. Of course, this was before clothes dryers. No clothes dryer ever ate any of my socks growing up back in the 50s. I could always find the missing mate somewhere between the house and the clothes line.

So, I go up to the salesclerk at the counter. “Pardon me. Could I purchase just one pair of these?”

“Sorry, sir, but we only sell socks by the bale. Small bales, medium bales, large bales, and supersized bales.”

“But I only need one, and look at this bale. It isn’t bound by plastic packaging like most of your bales. All it has is two one-inch strips of paper binding all six pairs together. I can slip one pair out without breaking the binding, and then you can sell them one pair at a time. Or you can compress the binding and sell a five-pair bale. Or a three-pair. Or a two-pair.”

“Sorry, sir, I can’t do that.”

“Are you sure? Let’s divide the cost of this entire bale by six, figure out what one pair would cost, and then I’ll give you twice that amount. Think of the profit.”

“Sorry, sir, I can’t do that. Would you like to talk to my supervisor?”

“You bet.” The supervisor comes over and I tell him about the extra profit his department could make if he sold the bale of socks by the pair.

“But why would you want just a pair? Buy the whole bale and you’ll have sock security.”

“At my age, I’m not sure I’ll live long enough to wear them all. Wouldn’t you like to double your profit per pair?”

“That would be nice,” he said, “but no one other than you would buy just a pair.”

“Betcha they would. Get on the loudspeaker and tell your shoppers that you are selling black socks by the pair. You’ll sell all six.”

It took me awhile to talk him into it, but he finally announced the sale of socks by the pair. So many people came to the sales counter that not only did he sell the entire bale at twice the bale cost, but he opened another bale and sold all the pairs in it too.

“Am I a marketing genius or what?” I said. He still wasn’t convinced.

Everywhere I shop they want to sell me packages of two or more. Even at the drug store they want to sell me two bottles of whatever I’m looking for bound together by such thick plastic that it takes metal sheers to get a bottle out.

The only product I have difficulty buying in bulk at the drug store is baby aspirin. (This is because they know that many seniors are on a baby aspirin regimen for their heart. We’re at their mercy.) At an exorbitant price, they sell you three tiny bottles baled together in cardboard, 30 to a bottle.

The other day, after years of buying these thimblefuls of baby aspirin, I found a bottle at the grocery store with 500 in it! Almost a year and a half’s supply. I would have bought two – given that I doubt I’ll find such a bottle again – but  at my age I don’t want to run the risk of leaving so many unused.



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