DY: In Just a Few Words (#34)
I like to think of myself as being a generous person. Through the years, I have been fortunate to visit many places and I have often brought gifts for family members when I returned.
In 1985, I was sent to London on behalf of the State of Ohio which, at that time, was very interested in telling the story of why Ohio is such a good place to do business. In fact, that is still a story Ohio tells.
It was the Holiday Season, and I managed to find a little time in my important schedule to slip into the world-famous Harrods Department Store in London. Harrods is the 180 degree opposite of online shopping. Spread over seven floors in a gigantic 1,000,000+ square-foot building, more than 300 different departments offer a range of products from A-Z and back again. It is every bit as much a tourist attraction as it is a store.
At Harrods, I came upon a leased department under the brand name Salvatore Ferragamo. It was there that I fell in love with a magnificent scarf that I just had to buy as a Christmas gift for my daughter, Tracy. As I recall, the purchase price was 135 British pounds. That’s pretty pricey, except I calculated that American dollars were about 1-for-2 British pounds. So, I felt pretty good that the actual charge on my Mastercard would only be about $67 and change. I bought the scarf, left Harrod’s with a smile on my face and went back to my more important mission on behalf of the citizens of Ohio. It was only when my Mastercard bill arrived that I discovered my big mistake. Instead of cutting 135 British pounds in half to equal American dollars, I should have doubled them. Thus it was that my daughter received a $270 scarf that Christmas with instructions to never wear it, but to frame it as a fine piece of art.
A close cousin of that story comes from my first trip to Japan in 1984. I came upon a district in Tokyo known as Akihabara. It is the center of the universe for consumer electronics. Floor after floor, store after store of nothing but geeky stuff I don’t understand but which I know is important to the way the world works. I revisited Akihabara in 2013 and the only thing that had changed was that the electronics were far advanced and the product offerings much more sophisticated than in 1984. If you want to bring home a gift and have people think you are really a geeky dad, do your shopping at Akihabara.
It’s important for kids to think their parents are really with it, that they have the coolest mom or dad in town. I know my kids still feel that way as they struggle to have their own offspring know how lucky they are to have hip parents who play their music and video games. With that in mind, how could I leave Tokyo and Akihabara without a gift for Denny?
What should I get for that fine young man? I settled on a boombox, a large, clumsy thing long gone from our lexicon and store shelves, but a must have for every kid in the mid-1980s. Boombox was the perfect name as that thing sure was loud. And I was a cool dad, right?
About a week after I got home, I needed an Akihabara fix. I ventured over to a local discount store called Uncle Bill’s to see what electronics were on their shelves. Lo and behold there was an exact duplicate of what I had purchased for Denny. And the price tag was several dollars less than I had paid in Japan. What a discovery! I had schlepped that obnoxious boombox through airports just to find out I could have purchased the exact same item for less just a few blocks from my house.
The lesson to be learned from these two long-remembered experiences is that father doesn’t always know best. In fact, in my case, I think I need adult supervision if I am going into a store.
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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