Sears, where America used to shop

It later gave me an odd case of melancholy, that first representation of fiscal adulthood.

The sad, but unsurprising, news that the Sears at Colonie Center in Albany County, NY would be closing in September 2017 made me sadder than I would have thought, given the fact that I can’t remember the last time I entered the building. Certainly, it was before Sears leased out part of its footprint to the Whole Foods chain in 2011 because I’ve never been to Whole Foods.

After I graduated from college in 1977, I had difficulty paying back my student loans, some low-paying jobs and a stretch of unemployment facilitating that. As a result, I didn’t get my first charge card until 1982. And that first card was from Sears.

I bought EVERYTHING from Sears. The first item I got was a clock-radio; it cost $12, I think. Somehow, it suffered some external damage- something melted the case – but it still worked. When I got married in 1999, my spouse insisted we toss it out, and I did, but it later gave me an odd case of melancholy, that first representation of fiscal adulthood.

Still, there were plenty other items that ended up in my various apartments: a television set that I had for over 20 years; a microwave or two; my first VCR; at least two bicycles; Craftman tools, of course; and countless other necessities, big and small. Most of my clothes came from there. I could find anything in that place better than most salespeople.

In fact, I even got a Christmas tree, on December 24, 1991, which I hauled home on a CDTA bus. I didn’t ask, and the driver said nothing.

Sidebar: Final JEOPARDY! November 10, 1998: Native New Englander seen here, modeling for his company’s catalog sometime before WWI. Two people said, Sears. I knew that was not possible; Sears was founded in Chicago, as I well knew. (The correct response was “Who was L.L. Bean?”, which I got.)

And since I was a good customer, Sears offered me the opportunity to get one of the first charge cards from this new entity that was going to try to compete with MasterCard and VISA. It was called Discover, and back in 1986, it wasn’t accepted in too many places besides Sears, though FantaCo, the comic book/mail order store I worked at was an early acceptor.

But eventually, that Sears store started cutting back some categories, moving things around as though people wouldn’t notice what was missing. The last time I know for sure that I went in there was around 2003, when I bought a power lawnmower I eventually returned – a rarity for me anywhere – because it kept clogging up.

And now, Sears nationwide is in serious trouble. Some analyst I read suggested that, given the Sears catalog’s once-dominant place in the American economy and psyche, the company was in the best position to evolve into what Amazon, in fact, did become, the monster of online retail.

Now I don’t even bother to read the weekly ads Sears sends me. And the latest closures also include the store in my home county, Broome (Johnson City, NY).

Cheaper pizza

The Daughter is doing order of operations at school.

General problem 2I went to the local pizzeria on a recent Saturday night. The cost was $10.50; I gave the cashier a $20 bill and a $1 bill. But he gave me back the dollar bill, and then gave me change for the $20, which was $9.50.

As it turned out, they were out of five-dollar bills, so he was going to give me nine one-dollar bills and 50 cents. Seeing this, the owner yelled, “Just charge him [me] ten bucks.” The clerk says, “But I’ve already closed the register.” The owner overrides the register to reopen it, puts back the $9.50 and gives me a $10 bill.

Of course, I gave the clerk $21 in the first place so he would not have to give me a bunch of ones. If you’ve ever been in retail, you know that you don’t want to give away ones if you can help it, and certainly not nine of them. I knew that, the owner knew that, the clerk, not so much.
For some reason, I’m reminded by a story from long ago, where a guy I knew wanted to buy milk and a newspaper. At the time the milk was 99 cents and the newspaper, 35 cents. But the register wasn’t working properly, and couldn’t give the total, though it could give change. The problem is that the clerk couldn’t figure out the change from $2, because he didn’t know the total of the purchase.

The guy tried to explain: “99 cents is a penny less than a dollar, so it’s $1.34. These are non-taxable, so it’s $2 minus $1.34 is 66 cents.” This was too complicated.

I worry that when the computers all go down, no one will know how to add and subtract, never mind do multiplication and division.
gas_prices I was watching the NBC Nightly News and saw this story: Gas Prices Drop to Lowest Level in Nearly Four Years, using the picture. I had to write to them.

“The average price drop is NOT 30% [as Brian Williams said], it’s 30 CENTS, as the graphic showed, from $3.34 to $3.04,” I noted. If it had been 30%, the drop would be about $1.
The Daughter is doing the order of operations at school. At a website quaintly called Math is Fun, it reminded me that the order in which one does math problems is:
Parentheses first
Exponents (i.e. Powers and Square Roots, etc.)
Multiplication and Division (left-to-right)
Addition and Subtraction (left-to-right)

I’ll admit to forgetting where the exponents fit, exactly.

So what is the answer to the item posted above?