The Old Man Secret Shopping Club

by Margo Prentice

There is a weird cult of old men who belong to secret groups of, “retired grocery shopper guys.” They have meetings in malls.  In warm weather they meet at designated bus stops where they sit on the benches. The topics on their meeting agendas involve coupons, the best deals and where the sales are. They compare prices and are very competitive; trying to outdo each other with the amounts of money they can save.

My husband has an envelope of coupons stuffed in his back pant pocket. He carries flyers with him and circles the items he is considering buying. If ham is on sale at more than one store, it is outlined in red in different flyers. The store that has best price is where he goes to shop.

Like many retired older men, many decide to take over the grocery shopping. This is not an unusual or new phenomenon. A group of older men was sitting having coffee at the Mall. My husband told me he met these guys when he saw them looking at the food flyers at a big round table. He asked what they were doing. They told him and invited him to join them. He joined in and from that first meeting there was no looking back.

There is a secret ritual of coupon poker; I have only watched from a distant and heard a little. They bid like five card stud, only with coupons. “I’ll have two coupons and they pick from the pile.” The coupons are slide carefully across the table to the bidder. Then the bidding begins. I bid two Safeway orange juice specials; I’ll raise you, three Thrifty store beef specials. The best coupon poker player ends up with a table of coupons. He is allowed to trade them at a later time.

They have maps showing the best and fastest routes to the stores on their lists.  It is extremely important that the “OMSSC” (Old Man’s Secret Shopping Club), gets to the store that has the best price as quickly as needed to get to a sale item while the supplies last. It is a slowed down type of feeding frenzy.

They have a telephone list and phone each other to notify members where and when to meet. The business of serious bargain hunting starts at these meetings; they drink coffee, scan through flyers and discuss sales. My husband says they are getting t-shirts made with, “OMSSC”on them.

I learned early in my marriage never to tell my husband that I like something. Honesty hasn’t been the best policy for me. It all started when I mentioned how much I liked Peek Freen cookies, the ones with the jam in the centre. “Yum, I sure love these cookies, dear!”

His dedicated mission is to buy these treats when they are on sale. He will buy four boxes at a time. This has been going on for years and I can hardly stand them anymore. When I open my cupboard there is a whole row of Peak Freens on my top shelf. Storage had become a problem.

He tells me, I will save enough money for a holiday each year.” He does save but not enough for a holiday, maybe a visit and a good dinner in Surrey.

It is just too much of a good thing. I do have a strategy though, every week or so I donate boxes of Peek Freen cookies the food bank bag. He hardly notices they are gone. Maybe I should be honest with him and tell him I don’t like them anymore. I just don’t want to upset the ‘apple cart’ of his dedicated sale shopping. I wouldn’t want him to lose face with his secret club buddies either.

I like having chocolate bars, he buys on sale. I do like having a plentiful supply of delicious food items that I am not tired of.

My lack of honesty, has added girth to my waist and a taste for the good things.  I will just leave well enough alone and let my husband do the shopping. He’ll never have to worry, he can retain his membership in the, “Old Man’s Secret Shopping Club.” It offers companionship. He gives him something to do. He belongs to a group united in a purpose.  And thank God I never have to push another grocery cart again.


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