When I was a teenager, I used to – well, mock is too strong a word – gently rib my dad for the fact that he was, as I saw it, obsessed with Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) offers from supermarkets. It was a matter of great amusement to me that he would stop off at the supermarket pretty much whenever he passed it, and emerge with as much toothpaste, toilet roll and soap as he could reasonably carry. In that way that teenagers have, my amusement was tinged with embarrassment, since I assumed that EVERYONE was LOOKING AT HIM because he was making fractionally non-standard purchases and therefore, by extension, EVERYONE was LOOKING AT ME. (In the world of the teenager – well, the teenage me, anyway – being LOOKED AT by PEOPLE was the worst thing that could possibly happen.) Of course I’m a good deal older now and realise that, if you’re not actually walking round the supermarket carrying an open can of petrol and a box of matches and muttering about how it’s time they paid for what they did, no-one will even give you a second glance in a supermarket. But that hasn’t been the only change in those years – I’ve also acquired my dad’s approach to BOGOFs, or something very like it.
So as I sit here typing this I know that, squirreled away, I have enough toothpaste to last me until the summer, and enough deodorant to maintain perfectly fresh armpits should the deodorant supply-chain unaccountably fail for the next 12 months. I’m not over-burdened with toilet roll, but only because I’m coming towards the end of a supply I built up months ago; it gave me great pleasure, as I staggered home under the weight of a surfeit of toilet roll, to think to myself “Well, that’s the last I’ll have to buy until the spring”. But the pleasure that gave me has faded into absolute insignificance compared to the exultation I have experienced in connection with liquid soap.
I realise this may very well be the first time the words ‘exultation’ and ‘liquid soap’ have been connected in this way, so I perhaps owe you an explanation. You see, I have long suspected that there is some kind of pattern in the occurrence of BOGOFs and that, if I could only deduce the formula governing them, I would be able to make sure that I never paid full price for the non-perishable items I buy from supermarkets. I’ve never taken it quite so far as maintaining a spreadsheet with details of when and how different products come on and off special offer, but I remain convinced that there’s something cyclical going on.
Anyway, 6 months ago I noticed that the liquid soap I usually buy was available on BOGOF, and set about laying in a supply. I didn’t exactly plan how much I would buy – it came down to availability in the end – but by the time the offer was withdrawn, I had bought enough liquid soap to last me 6 months. (If you’re wondering, by the way, yes I can predict it that accurately; doesn’t everyone keep a mental note of their average consumption of soap and similar items? Oh, right, just me again…)
As someone following this riveting account with an avid attention to detail you will have already appreciated that I laid in the 6 month supply 6 months ago, and so found myself, a day or two ago, visiting the liquid soap shelves for the first time in half a year – where I found that the liquid soap was again available on a BOGOF. This was kind of like the holy grail for me. I felt like marching up and down the aisle announcing in a loud, clear voice: “Behold! I am the King of BOGOF!”. (But I didn’t, of course, because if I had EVERYONE would have been LOOKING AT ME.)
What gave me my brief moment of exultation, of course, was the thought that I had successfully outwitted the supermarket and the soap manufacturer. These kinds of deals involve both of them making a loss on the item that’s on special offer, but they do it as a way of enticing people into trying things that they might not usually buy. It’s worth their while because the increased revenue when the item sells at full price offsets their losses during the special offer period.
That only works, of course, if people try something out when it’s on special offer but then buy it again when it goes back to full price, so by laying in precisely the right amount to meet my needs between the two offer periods I had effectively managed to trick the retailer and manufacturer into supplying me at a net loss. (Even better, because I would have bought the same amount of soap whether or not it was on special offer, their loss-making behaviour won’t even have boosted their sales-by-volume or market share.) At a minimum, they will have supplied me at a loss for at least a year – I’m currently in the process of building up another 6 month supply – but, if I’m right about there being an established pattern, the next BOGOF period will coincide with my next need to buy soap, and I will have found the key to the permanent supply of half-price hand-washing supplies. In which case it will bear saying again – “Behold! I am the King of BOGOF!”
Apologies, by the way, for the long gap in posts, and the slightly bizarre nature of this one. I’ve been a bit all over the place, mentally speaking, but I think I’m probably emerging from that now, although there are some real-world things I have to deal with that might still blow me off course. I won’t go into details, except to note that back at the new year I identified starting my dental treatment in the spring as one of my goals for 2012, tomorrow is the first official day of spring, and against all the odds it seems like I might actually manage to stick to that – the appointment’s made, anyway. (I know I said new glasses were going to come first, but I realised that the slight similarity between dentist and optician appointments was enough for the latter to trigger quite a large part of my phobic response to the former, so it actually makes sense to tackle the dental stuff first because, once I have, getting my eyes tested will be a doddle.) Once the real-world related anxiety begins to taper off a little, I should be in a position to start boring you with my usual witless observations on matters of slightly more substance, but for now you’re stuck with this kind of lighter-than-light nonsense, I’m afraid. I find it therapeutic to write silly nonsense, you see; it distracts me, and reminds me that not everything is going to be doom-laden and awful.
Right – I’m going to stop rambling and go away now.