Fiction || Plethora & Wholesale Too (Herbert H. Hoffman)
“Did you find everything?” the efficient young man at the cash register inquired as I pushed my shopping cart through. “Not only that,” I said. “I found everything”
If you have never shopped in a wholesale coop you will not understand. A friend of ours recently made the big transition. He became a wholesale shopper. It was on a relatively quiet Wednesday morning and the personable manager of our local cooperative took him in tow and gave him a tour.
“I notice you are wearing white athletic socks. Socks are one of our specialties. Very popular item, highest quality. These socks are engineered for either foot, left or right, which simplifies laundry folding. Also an advantage should you, God forbid, have to have one foot in a cast. The socks are packed six pairs to a pack for $9.99, or just a little more than 80 cents a sock”, the good man informed our friend, helpfully.
“But I actually came only for…” our friend attempted to respond but was powerless in the face of the man’s enthusiasm.
“Yes, of course”, the guide continued. “We also carry children’s wear. At this time we feature a neat little-man’s fire-fighter coat in three sizes: baby, toddler, and small. The coat has pre-singed sleeves and exudes a convincingly lifelike smell of smoke. I don’t know the price off hand, I would have to check but I assure you they are not expensive, when you consider.”
“But I actually came only…”
“Of course, of course. No these are not socks, they are wash cloths. They are very fine but we sell them by the gross.” He paused a moment to let the joke sink in. “Towels likewise,” he continued. “And while we are on the topic of hygiene, do not forget that we are best known for our toilet paper. I mean, 30 rolls for 21.99? Just six bits each time you, ah, restock the dispenser. It’s almost fun to be generous on these terms. No doubt you have things to hang up in your closet”, he continued without taking a breath, “and if you are like me you never have enough clothes hangers. Rejoice. Those days are over. We have hangers in packets of 35 for just 7.99, or a quarter each. Small price to pay for a properly stored prized garment.” He did have to take a breath at this point.
“But I actually…”
“True, true. It is so important to communicate these days. I bet you still have a landline phone with three handheld units? We can do you one better. Over here, our new Panatronic has a basic unit with 5 (five) handhelds. Talk about multitasking. A bargain at $129.99. And lest you drown in the waste paper that the mailman delivers every day we suggest this new crisscross shredder for 99.99. It has a new non-stop feature. You must be careful with that one. Be sure to read the directions. It is not like your old one that you had to shake or it would not start. This baby starts when you need it but it will not stop once it runs. Be sure you know where you have plugged it in so you can pull the cord if needed. And keep your tie out of the way.”
“You are right. Let us step across to aisle 3250. Yes, it is a very big store. That is why our floor staff uses Segways to move around. You will be surprised at the variety of alcoholic beverages we offer. You may remember the days when one bought beer by the six pack. Those days are over. Today, we sell nothing smaller than twenty-four packs, and the beer comes from the four corners of the world, typically at about a dollar a bottle. You cannot buy water that cheap. Hard liquor, particularly whisky, sells very well which is no surprise at 22 dollars for the 1.5 liter bottle. How sweet life is when you parcel this out into ten generous shots at $2.20 each! As Charles Dickens said, drunk for a penny, stone drunk for a dime. Ha, Ha. Just kidding.”
“I don’t really…”
“You are right, of course, I don’t either. But we also have sweet things for the ladies. We sell a fine lemon liqueur at a reasonable price. It comes from a distillery that started up in Los Angeles when prohibition ended and is still in business. Yes, you heard that right: ginger lemon liqueur. That is the first thing they could think of in California the day prohibition ended.”
“Wine, however, is also something we take serious. Quality and flavor are much on our mind. That is why we do not shy away from offering really good vintages. Our Bottega Hastala Vista 1978, for example, goes for $74.99 a bottle, a bargain if you know your wine. Regular liquor stores sell it for as much as $75.00!”
“I really came just…”
“I know. A man needs to eat. Food is another offering we are known for. Take hamburger patties for your next outdoor party. We have the best. They are packed twenty-five to a tray. If you have a couple of teenagers you may have to buy two trays. New York steak goes for $17.99. We wrap them up five steaks to a packet. Eat like you mean it, as they say. Bread is still a staple, all considered. We offer the finest. All our breads are packed at least two loaves to a package. Bake your own? No hay problema. Flour comes in fifty pound bags at $11.99. The healthiest breakfast food you can buy anywhere are rolled oats. Ours come in 10 pound boxes at $7.89. Coffee? We don’t even stock cans smaller than 48 ounces. It will last you a long time at one tablespoon per cup. I myself like it a bit stronger. Do you take milk? We sell it in gallon jugs, two to a pack. If you need it only for your coffee I can guarantee that you will live longer than it stays fresh. We sell butter for your bread as well. It is sold as two-pound bricks, two to a package. Peanut butter, being such a general favorite, is sold only in three pound jars, two to a pack. Almond butter is an option we offer, should you be allergic to goobers.”
“I actually… I mean…”
“No, no. Bread and meat is not all we expect you to eat. Inspect our fish counter, by all means. We have a wide selection of fresh and frozen fish, also fresh frozen and formerly fresh and frozen, many of them fresh from the farm. Some are formerly wild and then fresh-frozen, or even just plain, really wild fish (barracuda, usually, but they are dead, no danger in touching). I apologize for the terminology, but ever since the FDA has started employing retired fishermen it seems that the descriptive terminology gets bigger with every telling. And cheeses. Do we have cheeses? There are 300 kinds in France. We stock a good many of them, plus cheeses from Switzerland, Denmark, and Holland, as well as Swiss cheese from Norway, French cheese from Denmark, and German cheese made in Wisconsin. No, none from China. As yet. We hold the line in that department. All our cheeses are authentic as proven by the original labels. You should see how many shoppers crowd around the sample table when the lady doles out samples of our French Comté, the staple from the French Jura. As a matter of fact, there are sample tables all throughout the premises. It is believed that the sample tables are the reason why so many people join this coop in the first place. Where else can you feast for free, not only on cheese, but also on pizza, freshly baked before your eyes, crackers with jam, sausages, raisin bread, ice cream, chocolates, health food novelties, and what seems to be toothpaste. Wash it all down with cranberry juice and smoothies, made fresh for you so we can demonstrate the Wondergrinder that sells for only $48.99 after rebate. Believe me, only spendthrifts would pay for lunch in our restaurant section, unless they really prefer sitting down to eat.”
“Really, I just…”
“All right. Let us not forget that besides providing lunch one must also provide for the cleanup. We carry every conceivable brand of detergents and soaps as well as brooms, rags, disinfectant sprays, air fresheners, smelling salts, wipes, tissues, dishwasher paraphernalia, water softeners, plastic bags, and cleansers. And we will be able to supply you with AA batteries provided you can use 84 of them at the same time. Sorry, no four packs. No doubt you have a computer; if not, we stock a variety of laptops. Some even come with operating systems. At any rate, you will probably like to know that we also have printer paper. I already mentioned the shredder. The two things go together. Most people waste the first two printouts of everything they write, don’t you think? Cell phones are so popular. We always attract a crowd in front of that section. People tend to get hysterical if they don’t have the latest. They need it Monday but new models come out only every Tuesday and Friday. Life is tough for consumers. Now, if you follow me over here, we have a complete display of TV sets. Wide screens, narrow screens, two dimensional and 3D as well. Sorry, no four dimensional screen displays. They are not out yet, I believe. Speaking of entertainment, on occasion we even sell grand pianos. No, I am not kidding. The schools may have dropped all music programs but we are determined to salvage what is left of culture, no matter how old fashioned. Oh, and have I mentioned that we can measure your eyesight and supply corrective lenses? Also that we have a full service pharmacy and a hearing aid clinic. As soon as we find the space we will add a wellness and family planning center. We don’t have a dental clinic yet but we sell an electric toothbrush with spare scrub heads. It is a very good deal at 88 dollars, depending of course on how many teeth you have left. Anyway, here we are, Sir. Oh, by the way this piece of furniture over there is our very latest offering for the home. We call it the Super Sink-right-down-in-it Lounge sofa. It seats three or four, depending on hip measurements.”
“Oh thank you, thank you. Let me sit down. I cannot stand any longer. My head swims. Can I have a Tylenol?”
“I am sorry, Sir, but that would be against our wholesale-only contract. Simply stated, we operate on the Bert Lahr principle which states that you can’t eat just one. We cannot dispense ‘a’ Tylenol, only our standard half year supply bottle of 365 tablets which you will find in aisle…. Sir? Sir? Hey, Jim, give me a hand, will you? This gentleman just passed out on me. Acute hyperpleresis merchandisi , I think. You know how it is. New coop member, day one.” 
First Published: CultureCult Magazine, Issue One: October 2015