For those of you who expect dog news — and only dog news — on this website, I apologize, but I thought I’d share this tale of how I, as a savvy consumer, got nearly an entire set of free kitchen knives for $1,678.
It was through a “game” (those are sarcastic quotes) called Kitchen Kaboodle. So much fun! (That’s a sarcastic exclamation point.)
In Kitchen Kaboodle shoppers at my grocery store — Lowes — were awarded stamps for their purchases that they could later redeem for kitchen knives.
Having no sharp kitchen knives, never being any good at sharpening them and always looking to save a buck, I jumped right in.
Lowes is a North Carolina-based grocery chain, not to be confused with the home improvement chain that uses an apostrophe in its name. Lowes grocery stores consider themselves a “community” (more sarcastic quotes). They reinvented themselves a year or so ago, revamping their outlets to look more like country stores, with lots of cracker barrels. But it was an upscaled kind of down-home feel, with higher prices, built-in coffee shops, never-ending wine selections, cooking classes and such.
They named the cash register lines after local roads, and clearly trained their employees to exude a cult-like howdy neighbor ambience. Employees are (with rare exception) that oozy kind of friendly you find in the south and never are convinced is sincere (even though it sometimes is).
Announcements over the public address system now begin, “Attention Lowes Community …” We’re no longer “shoppers” but instead we are friends … member of an extended family that reunites every week or so when our milk, bread or coffee run out.
That’s assuming the stamps survived the trip home. They are so small — about the size of a dime — they often didn’t.
I generally tossed the green and white stamps into one of my green and white plastic Lowe’s grocery bags, where they become all but invisible. Sometimes, after returning home and putting the groceries away, I have fished through 12 empty bags in search of them. Sometimes I found them later, adhered to my bologna in the refrigerator. Sometimes I never found them.
Given the game is probably most popular among older folks, Lowes could have made the stamps a little bigger. In addition to having trouble seeing them, and remembering where we put them, peeling them off the strips and putting them in the book can be challenging to those whose fingers have lost some of their dexterity.
(I would suggest they made it harder on purpose, but that is no way to speak about one’s community.)
As a child, after my mother convinced me how much fun it was, I would lick them (that couldn’t have been healthy) and stick them in the books until my body was totally saliva free.
In the 1960s, collecting the stamps was highly popular among otherwise bored suburban housewives. S&H claimed it issued three times more stamps than the U.S. Postal Service. Its reward catalog was the largest publication in the country.
It was a sticky way for a family to bond, and it wasn’t uncommon to find a stray green stamp stuck to your clothes or homework.
So maybe it was green stamp nostalgia that made me want to play Kitchen Kaboodle. More likely it was my love for getting things for free.
The kitchen knife set consisted of the following: Knife block, cutting board, sharpener, shears, steak knives and seven other knives.
It quickly became clear that — however hard I were to spend — I was not going to get the whole set.
As the deadline for collecting stamps approached (Feb. 12), I’d review how many stamps I had and lower my expectations, ruling out the cutting board, the shears, the sharpener, the steak knives and some of the others I didn’t see myself using much.
Bread knife? Bread already comes sliced, and I have an old and never-used one, anyway.
Slicing knife, for carving meats? It is rare that I, living alone, cook a big hunk of meat that needs slicing. I deemed it non-vital.
Santoku knife, with a scalloped blade? I have no idea what that is for, so it was easy to mark it off my list.
I didn’t foresee a need for the Chinese cleaver. But I had to have it.
The most expensive of the knives offered, at 80 stamps, it’s an impressive looking piece of cutlery that would allow me to hack through bones, and signify to visitors that I know my way around the kitchen.
In truth, I’m not a real sophisticated chef. I don’t make things like Peking duck. I could, I suppose, use the Chinese cleaver to cut up Chinese things, such as bok choy, but I don’t make bok choy.
In fact, I can’t remember ever having a need to cleave.
Still I wanted it, and I had to have the knife block, too, because it had a big slot into which the cleaver neatly fits.
As stamp collecting time ran out, I made one last trip to the store, buying things I didn’t need at all, buying expensive brands instead of generic ones, looking around for something I could buy and later cleave. (I settled on green beans.)
Back home, I pasted and tallied things up — two full books of stamps, and five more, or 165 stamps.
I weighed my alternatives and made my final list. The knife block was 15 stamps plus an additional $15. I would get the chef’s knife, for 60 stamps, and the utility and paring knives, at 30 stamps apiece.
That left me with 30 stamps — not enough for the Chinese cleaver, unless I forked over an additional $13.00.
With $28 of cash money, and 165 stamps (gained from $1,650 in purchases over about four months), I sought redemption and, after only a little bit of confusion with all the math that had to be done at the cash register, achieved it.
Back home, I proudly inserted my new knives into the appropriate slots of my new knife block, where they sat for a week before one was required to cut an onion, at which point I nicked one of my fingers.
That led me back to the Lowes Community for some Band-Aids. After that, I decided I may hold off on using the Chinese cleaver — at least until Lowes adds a community emergency room.