Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Countdown to Christmas

You know, you can get a lot of cool stuff at the hardware store. My favorite hardware store is Menards. First of all, Menards has a completely ridiculous name. Who the heck is Menard? (And whoever he is, I hope he is really handy with powertools, because he may have to use them to defend himself.)

I also like the store because it is a complete mess. I can never find what the heck I'm looking for when I got there, and the 12-year-olds that work in the store can't seem to find anything either. Unlike the lost and empty feeling you get at Lowe's and the other big box hardware stores, at Menard's the isles are littered with displays, boxes of odds and ends, piles of clutter no one has bothered to put away. Half the shelves are loaded to the breakage point, the other half are picked over and hanging empty and forlorn. It reminds me of the crowded, dusty hardware stores of yore, the ones with plywood floors and the smell of sawdust in the air.

The clutter at Menards may seem like a problem, but wandering around Menards, I always running into must-have household items. Stuff like insulating plastic window covers, the "Blackout Buddy" emergency radio, nightlights, 'Goo-Gone' stain remover, and really strong glue. You just can't be a homeowner without this kind of stuff. If I go to Menard's with a list of things to pick up, my shopping basket is always twice as full as it should be when I get to the checkout stand. Clearly, the clutter is an important part of Menard's marketing strategy.

On a weekend trip to the store, as I was browsing a bin of $5.95 fleece blankets, an idea occurred to me. This could make a nice Christmas gift. Then, inspiration struck. I'm going to do all my Christmas shopping at Menard's this year. Why not? The people on my gift list will get practical, low-priced gifts they may actually use after the holiday passes.

I'm a fan of the practical holiday gift. Socks are my favorite present, next to books. My Dad is a pro for giving practical gifts. Most years, he is responsible for keeping up my supply of toothbrushes and mouthwash. He gave me a very handy lint roller that I still use. One year, after I graduated from high school, he presented me a great big bag of little hotel soaps he'd collected while on business trips. I didn't need to buy a bar of soap for years.

The Menards Holiday Challenge is not without it's limits. I'm the aunt that always gives the nieces and nephews books for holidays. Unless Menard's starts stocking Dr. Suess books, I'm going to head to other stores for books for the kids. I just can't let the kids down...

Everyone else on my holiday list, consider yourself warned. You may receive a laser level in your stocking, or a 3 piece pruning set, or a "Draft Dodger" pad to nestle along the bottom of a door to keep out the winter chill. Or maybe a nice pair of gardening gloves. Wouldn't you rather get that then another vanilla-scented candle?

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