It seems unreasonable – or perhaps just a minor and understandable oversight given the challenges of extracting oneself from the muck and the mire you were born in, particularly if you have the ill fortune to still live knee deep in the stuff – that I’ve explored so little of Edmonton’s culture,i such as it may be, and I grant that it ain’t much. Maybe that’s why there are so few Contravex articles on the day-to-day experience of living my hometown and current place of residence ? What’s there to say ?
Living as I do in a sort of parallel universe, what with the Internet and all, and interacting with meatspace only selectively as I do – lest my soul be ripped out through by eyes and ears by the mini-americanised perversions of jarringly lit advertisements and inculcations to spend your bottom dollar on something, anything really – every now and again I come across some new local discoveries that are quite simply too astounding and too fascinating not to share, telling as they are of the anthropological state of affairs in this arctic recess of the Americas, this over-populated pioneer town on the frontier of Canada’s oil country.
Which brings us to today. While at Southgate Mall this afternoon, I poked my nose in Dollarama, an outlet of the national chain of dollar stores that, unsurprisingly given the rocky state of the natural resource-based economy, are doing a really rather brisk trade at the moment.ii I was in search of coin rolls, ready to finally sort the little bag of change that was collecting dust at the bottom of my closet from some years ago, back before I moved to this current residence in fact, and it was with this objective and this objective alone that I went shopping. Naturally, a writer and a traveler can’t just ‘turn off’ their eye for the arcane, so I did a little more digging into the curio on offer at the store. What I discovered may shock you, it may delight you, but it definitely won’t bore you. Without further ado :
1. Vacuum-packed corn on the cob (pair)
This Made In Thailandiii product was part of the 10-20% of the store’s stock that was made exclusively, or at the very least packaged exclusively, for Dollarama, the remaining 80-90% being overstock items from other retailers or overproduced items straight from the manufacturers themselves.iv
The package is abundantly clear in its advertising that the cobs are ‘NON-GMO,’ so perhaps the buyers couldn’t find USG corn that fit this description ? I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Also, the package promoted its health benefits with the labels ‘NO SUGAR ADDED’ and ‘NO PRESERVATIVES.’ Hey, why can’t beggars be choosers ? Two cobs for $2 and you’ll have until April 2016 to enjoy some fresh-packed corn. Yippee !
Tetra Pakkedv ‘CATMILK’ ™. So this must come from cats, right ? Or else they’d call it ‘MILK DESIGNED SPECIALLY FOR CATS’ or just plain ‘MILK,’ no ? It’s not like the milk at the grocery store, the stuff that comes from over-h0rm0ned cows is labelled as ‘HUMANMILK,’ y’know ?
Just as strangely, the ingredient list on the side of the carton failed to mention that the milk was specifically from cats, and instead noted that the 200 mL package contained ‘MILK, WATER, NONFAT MILK, MALT EXTRACT, TRISODIUM PHOSPHATE, VEGETABLE OIL, GUAR GUM, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, LACTASE, TAURINE, CARRAGEENAN, SODIUM CASEINATE, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, DEXTROSE, SALT.’
How much would you have to hate your poor cat to feed it milk with corn syrup in it ?
3. Double-sided spring-loaded dustpan
Doesn’t it make your skin crawl, and perhaps even your blood boil ever so slightly when you’ve just finished sweeping the floors, your house is finally starting to feel clean again, and you go to empty the dustpan in the garbage can and, as Murphy’s Law pretty much ensures, you miss the can terribly, spilling half the dust, hair, crumbs, and other associated debris right back only the floor you just finished cleaning ? Well, for only $3 this problem can be a thing of the past ! Pity your forefathers who never knew of such innovations and levels of convenience because today you’re saying hello to the double-sided spring-loaded dustpan ! Dust goes in one end, it’s funneled down into the base of the pan, you hover the heel of the pan over the garbage can, slowly releasing the back door with the handy dandy trigger, and every last drop of junk is received exactly where it should be ! What could be easier !
All sarcasm aside, even though I actually needed a dustpan, I didn’t buy this one because I didn’t trust that the back door would stay sealed for very long as the whole thing felt about as sturdy as a disposable plastic cup and the spring was weaker than an old woman’s grip. The hunt continues.
4. Smart man’s smartwatch
No, this isn’t the “poor man’s” smartwatch any more than a Bic Cristal is a “poor man’s” pen.vi Sure, a Mont Blanc is fancier and spendier, but smarter ? Ha. Haha. Hahahahaha. There’s nothing intelligent about buying Louis Vuitton degrees from Harvard. But you already knew that. And if you didn’t, you’ve some reading to catch up on.
This watch right here is not only every bit as phabulous as an Apple Watch, but this one can never be hacked and it’s only $3 ! Take that, gold-plated turdotron.
So that’s pretty much it. There’s something to be said for digging where you shit. Or something like that.
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- Sure, I’ve reviewed some plays, discussed some local politics, and trolled some local media publications, but I think you’ll agree that the perspective garnered from a single shopping experience is so much more telling of the day-to-day minutiae and, if there’s any to be had, the colour of a place. [↩]
- Based in Montreal, Dollarama has 955 corporate-owned stores across the country. They’re publicly traded under the ticker symbol ‘DOL’ on the TSX. [↩]
- Thailand ! THAI ! LAND !!! As if the USG wasn’t drowning in pools of lab-modified corn so deep that they had to make the addition of corn-based ethanol to automotive gasoline ~mandatory~ in several states, quite in spite of the fact that ethanol’s less efficient to burn and that the energetic inputs to corn are so vast as to make the greasy black oilsands of Alberta look like fresh-cut farmer’s market daisies. Pity the cornbelters. Poor fellers. [↩]
- Making too little of something is rarely a catastrophic business strategy, but the incentives for growth ad infinitum are such that larger fiat businesses, say those with >500 employees, often find that they need to make predictions about the direction of the market so as to effectively allocate their resources. So let’s say that you’re the CEO of The Corn Company and you’re expecting that consumers will be demanding more Product A than usual next month, so you ramp up production of Product A in preparation. While you’re right in your market predictions more often than not, the next month turns into this month and the consumers you were expecting just aren’t there. Now, they might have chosen a competitor’s product as an alternative, but they might also have chosen Product B from your company, for which perhaps you haven’t made enough of.
Either way, you now have an excess of Product A on your hands. If we say that Product A is a perishable good that can’t be broken down again and reused – so more like corn on the cob and less like steel screws – you’re the CEO of the Corn Company, not the Steel Screw Company, and now you need to find a buyer, any buyer really, and essentially at any price. While pan screws can be melted back down and made into button screws, your corn on the cob will rot in your warehouse if you don’t rid yourself of it.
Luckily, Dollarama comes along and offers to take it off your hands for the cost of shipping. While this might seem like a raw deal to you at first, certainly compared to what you think you should’ve be able to sell the corn for had the market acted the way you’d predicted, clearing space in your warehouse for something other than rotten mais is your best option here.
In summa : business is about your best option, not about woulds, coulds, and shoulds, and it’s this that dollar stores take advantage of in their role as the buyer of last resort. [↩]
- Did you know that Tetra Pak was founded in Sweden and is currently headquartered in Switzerland ? Well, now you do. And now you can choose whether to blame the Nordics or the
NeutralsNarcissists for the unrecyclable beasts. [↩]
- I’ll happily choose the Cristal over more expensive writing instruments. The thing writes like a dream, particularly when it’s new and the rollerball hasn’t started bleeding yet. Because they always bleed in the end…
And you might be interested to learn that one Jerry Seinfeld is also a fan of this basic Bic, just as he and I share an affinity for yellow legal pad, a writing surface that brought much comedic delight to the cute girls I was lab partners with in undergrad physics, much to my long-term benefit. [↩]