Like most of you our family is feeling the squeeze of these tough economic times. That squeeze became the size of an eye in a needle recently due to a string of unfortunate events that occurred as my work schedule wound down for the year. You see, I’m a full-time professional artist. I travel to art festivals to display my work about 2 dozen weekends of the year. The rest of the time I’m a stay-at-home-dad caring for our gorgeous preteen daughter, Jessie, and our beautiful exceptional (special needs) son, Ben. My lovely wife Joan is the big breadwinner of the household.
Like I said a string of bad luck had left us scratching our heads wondering how we were going to make ends meet these next few months, much less how we were going to include Christmas for loved ones in our budget. At least part of our answer came in the form of an e-mail early last week. As Al Michael’s once asked watching the US hockey team win a gold medal, “Do you believe in miracles?” Why yes we do!
Our family received a $300 gift certificate from BlogHer and JCPenney. All we have to do is tell you folks about our shopping experience. And before you read about it let me share some good news for you: BlogHer and JCPenney are giving away a $300 gift card each week for the next five weeks! That's right. You and your family could end up having a wonderful shopping date at JCPenney as well!
Given that JCPenney is one of our usual destinations during the holidays we felt like we hit the lottery! Seriously! Since we also received a very generous coupon (available to all JCPenney shoppers) to use during VIP Customer hours, choosing to shop this past Sunday afternoon was a no-brainer. We loaded the kids in the van and headed for our local JCPenney’s located at the Haywood Mall in Greenville, South Carolina.
JCPenney is one of five anchor stores at the Haywood Mall. As I mentioned it was already one of our favorite places to shop for a variety of reasons. It is one of only two anchor stores that has covered handicapped parking, which is a huge factor for us. Generally we find good discounts on great prices every time we shop there. And during the holidays, JCPenney always has a wonderful collection of unique and, more importantly, affordable gift ideas for those loved ones that are difficult to shop for. We would not be disappointed on this trip.
We had three goals to accomplish. First I desperately needed clothes! Because of the physical nature of my job (you just wouldn’t believe how quickly an artist can turn an article of clothing into a cleaning rag) I was down to one pair of jeans. Because winter is my off-season, I’m constantly painting to build inventory. Inevitably acrylic paint shows up on just about every shirt in the closet.
Secondly we wanted to fill out some of the Christmas wishes on the kid’s lists. Toys and electronics are not a forte of JCPenney these days but we were hoping to at least find a few things to slide under the tree for Ben and Jessie. And finally we were hoping to find a gift each for a niece and nephew we will be seeing on Christmas day. So do you think we could accomplish our goals for $300? Joan, the family bookkeeper and number cruncher by profession didn’t think it was possible. While I was hopeful Jessie was positive. Ben? He wanted to sleep on it.
We made a grand tour of the entire store to begin with, stopping to admire Holiday Décor possibilities. Despite the horrid cold Ben was suffering from, we got our warmest response from him as he took in the lights, ornaments, and decorations. Although tempting, we had more specific purchases to seek out.
The wide aisles available to maneuver about the store are another great reason to shop at JCPenney. That includes pushing a wheelchair between displays in each of the departments we visited. We cannot say the same for their competitors; many times we’ve shopped at one of the other anchor stores and knocked clothing from a display. We typically get the evil eye. On Sunday the place was packed with shoppers, no doubt seeking the same great pricing on merchandise that we were finding. We had absolutely no problems getting around with a wheelchair.
Eventually we made our rounds and selected our merchandise. Despite Joan’s worry that we were very much over our $300 for the moment we had at least achieved each of our three goals. My dear wife really wanted to put some of the merchandise back. But with the moral support of Jessie (and the prospect of getting a digital camcorder under The Tree which was found in that very cool section of the store with unique gift ideas) I wanted to see how close we would get toward our gift card. I’ll be honest. I thought we’d gone over between $50 to $75. Joan was convinced it was $100 or more. Jessie thought something miraculous was happening. Ben? He was still sleeping on it.
We piled our loot onto the checkout counter, every so often having to pull something from the arms of my wife who feared one of those moments of digging through her pocket book for spare change. Meanwhile our checkout associate, Sameea, was enjoying the participation in this odd version of The Price is Right. Jessie yanked the final pair of jeans from behind Joan’s back just as Sameea scanned our coupon. Joan closed her eyes. Sameea rang up the total. Ben continued to snore. Jessie looked at the cash register screen and smiled. $297.49! I think we have us a miracle.
After we got home we went over our receipt to find the source of the true savings for a typical customer. The total retail price of everything we purchased before taxes was $537.94. The items included only one JCPenney brand item. All of the rest were name brands like Levi, Lee, St. Johns Bay, Arizona, and American Eagle. Our coupon netted us a total of $32.80 in savings but the meat and potatoes so to speak was JCPenney’s sales prices. If you subtract our pretax total (adding back the coupon amount) from the retail price that figure came out to a whopping $224.29 in savings! That represents a discount of 42 percent off the retail total! Add back the coupon discount and that percentage rises to 48 percent – nearly half off of everything we purchased!
This is what Joan had to say: “We had a great day at JCPenney! When we first arrived I was worried because of the size of the crowd in the store. Because of our son’s condition, it's the little things make a big difference to me, things like the size of displays and maneuverability in the aisles. I get so frustrated trying to shop with Ben in his wheelchair. I can't make informed decisions about buying when I can’t move around to inspect the merchandise. Well as usual I was very impressed with JCPenney. Not only was I able to maneuver Ben's chair to most any place I needed to go, the displays were all very neat and orderly. There were sales associates in every area that were knowledgeable about their products and were constantly straightening the merchandise. I was in shopping heaven. I also had an opportunity to have my entire family shopping at one time and there was no unnecessary added stress. To make everything even better there was a fabulous sale! The children’s clothing was adorable and available at great prices! They had styles for everyone, some hip, some cute, some very basic. And they always have a selection of sports team attire, for children up to adults. These always make great gift ideas. What I love the very best about JCPenny is their specialty gift ideas. They have great games, gadgets and electronics all at really good prices. These are items you don't see anywhere else. When I walk through their store I will always see an item that would make a great gift for a loved one, and today was no different. JCPenney is definitely a destination I recommend for your holiday shopping!”
While it is no Miracle on 34th Street or The Miracle on Ice, we certainly appreciate JCPenney and BlogHer playing the role of Santa for us so early in this holiday season. We can’t promise that you’ll find a miracle inside your JCPenney store but we can guarantee you’ll find great quality at a great price. Happy Holiday shopping from A Work of Art!