I learned about bargain shopping at Filene's Basement the day before I got married. I had been living in Boston a year and was daunted by the two messy below street level floors beneath the otherwise unexceptional, respectable Filene's Department store. But my about-to-be groom needed a tie. We went to The Basement. A serpent's nest of silk ties were in a bin. He recognized a respected label on many. They were something ridiculous like $1.50 each. He bought a dozen. I had never seen anyone shop like that. If he had bought two or even three, that would have made perfect sense. I pondered that purchase and, obviously haven't forgotten 50 years later.
We moved far away but occasionally when we were in his Massachusetts hometown we made a foray to Filene's Basement to see if they had anything special. They always did. I began to love the hunt for a wonderful bargain. A designer dress or coat, an incredible pair of shoes. No other store was like it. I was not familiar with the stores that were similar in New York City. Quite a few years later for some reason I no longer remember, I decided to make the 300 mile drive from our home in upstate New York to Boston with my teenage daughters for a shopping spree at Filene's Basement. We had a budget, we wanted to see how much we could get that we would love. In the afternoon we carried our shopping bags to the car and drove to the edge of the city where we got a motel for the night because I didn't want to drive all the way back in one day. We dumped our treasures out on the bed, got a pencil and pad from the desk and began reading "Original price." "Today's price." We did the math. Wow-wee! What a heady feeling of excitement! We felt like we'd robbed Tiffany's.
By the time I moved to NYC alone, Filene's Basement had followed many other businesses in expansion. They had a stand alone store. It was not very different from most other off price stores. I did not return to the original Filene's Basement in Boston. But I had learned to comparison shop. I had learned it's not necessary to pay full price unless you also think the newest fashion is necessary. For me, for my lifestyle, the latest fashion was not and never had been that important. But I still have a much worn red raincoat I finally found in a Filene's Basement and a few sweaters as well. I have a warm place in my heart for what I learned about bargain shopping. So do my daughters. I don't believe any of us have ever bought a dozen of anything all at once, however. Well, maybe underwear and socks.
Like so many other businesses Filene's has gone belly up. I'm sad for them. At this stage in my life I find my best bargains at what I sometimes call "My favorite boutique." A big, well organized, clean Goodwill store in our town.
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