I am a bargain shopper and this philosophy extends to the books I buy. I used to frequent Amazon, but now that I have kids and limited funds, I tend to buy all of my books second-hand for no more than about $4. Mostly, I just borrow them from the library.
When the Chatterbox tells me that her school is holding a book fair, her enthusiasm is palpable. A week ago, her kindergarten class had been taken to view the books that would go on sale in an auditorium at her school. I get a flyer about the book fair with colorful illustrations and tempting blurbs about the educational value of buying your children books. I even get a note from the teacher reminding us to visit; the principal leaves a message on the phone. By the time the day of the fair arrives I feel like it would be a crime against humanity not to go. It will make my child happy to visit the book fair; not going would mar her childhood.
The high of shopping inhibits my judgement
We trundle over to the auditorium after school, where a tempting array of books have been set out on bookshelves. The Chatterbox runs to a book she’d obviously scoped out already and hands it to me – but I’m not satisfied with just one. This is my first-ever school book fair, and I feel like I should buy a small selection. The proceeds (or some percentage) will go to the school, so I feel good about my purchases.
We choose two more small books ($4 each) and then I feel guilty that I haven’t picked out anything for my two-year-old. I spot the perfect book as I approach the cash register. It’s a book about monkeys reading in bed – and the Raging Bull loves monkeys almost more than she loves candy. Almost.
I grab the book and hand it over for payment, never once glancing at the price. How much can a children’s book cost? It doesn’t even occur to me to look. I was having my shopping high and I was feeling good. This high lasted about three seconds, until I hear the amount being charged to my card.
Back in the car I look at the price on the books, and I realize that the Raging Bull’s 10-page monkey book has cost me $17 plus tax. I am in shock. I look at it again in disbelief – yep, it’s $17, more in Canada. I don’t think I have ever paid $17 for an adult book, let alone a child’s book.
A tough customer
That evening I show the book to the Raging Bull, who I am hoping will hug it tightly and make it her prized possession. This will go some way to justifying the cost. The Bull grabs it from me, roughly flips through two pages and then throws it to the ground and tries to stomp on it. I have to pull her off. After her bath I ask if she would like to read the monkey book. ‘No, no monkeys. I want Cat in the Hat,’ she orders. I try to persuade her to consider the monkey book, but once she has set her mind on something, it would take a trained UN diplomat to try to talk her out of it.
I give up and decide that I will try again tomorrow, but I am determined to drop the monkeys into the conversation as much as possible. My parental approach is to brainwash her into loving the book by bombarding her with subliminal messages. In other circles, this would be called advertising. Meanwhile, I am still trying to come to terms with the feeling that I’ve been ripped off. The only one who feels like a monkey around here is me.