Pashminagate, or how I got $79 of craft supplies for free.

I love suburbia. I love how much bigger our apartment is than a city apartment. I love watching young families, I love that the park opposite has a baseball diamond, I love going for walks in the woods, driving to the grocery store and strip malls, I love having the city within easy access without the associated noise and rubbish. I unashamedly love suburbia. This is the tale of the most suburban thing I have ever done.

If I were to compile a list of my top 10 things about America, I think Michaels craft store would make the cut. I first went to Michaels in October 2012, on the day I got my new car. We went to Michaels and bought a Disney Princess coloring book and Martha Stewart glitter glue, and then we went to IHop for lunch. That’s the American Dream right there.

For English readers, Michaels is like Hobby Craft but much cheaper, and much more variety. Plus, and frankly this will be hard for Brits to believe, there are always coupons. Every week there is a coupon on their website for either 40%, or 50% off one regular priced item, or 25% off your entire purchase. I recently discovered they will also take coupons from rival craft stores too. I regularly commandeer the services of my boyfriend so that we can double coupon, and have even sent him there on his own and directed him around the store on the phone. He was not the only male doing this at the time, another boyfriend was doing a similar service. And as the link below demonstrates, male Michaels widows are not uncommon.

Michaels and I are like old friends now. We’ve been through all seasons and all after-season sales together. I’ve spent many an hour in the store, getting frustrated at just how many things there are I want to buy, and lamented that it is simply not fair that so many pretty papers exist. So when my local store started to rearrange the entire store layout I was not pleased. In fact I was so annoyed that I looked online to find out what was going on, and whether anyone else shared my frustrations. No one else on the internet seemed as perturbed as me. However, I did find out that the rearrangement was part of a massive store rebrand, and the store would be officially reopening that weekend. The online flyer promised crazy reductions for one hour at opening, with gift cards and prizes being given away.

And so I found myself at a ribbon cutting ceremony for my local craft store. As I pulled up to the parking lot, I could see a balloon arch around the store door, a podium, and some customers milling around outside. I wandered over and joined in with the other suburbanites making small talk with Michaels bigwigs shipped in from head office. We stood in the wind and listened intently as a Michaels employee declared the store open, the mic booming erratically as he talked. And then they started handing out $10 gift cards to the first 100 people going to the store. It felt like birthday and Christmas all in one. I raced to the scrapbook section to pick up the $19.99 paper pads reduced to $5 for one hour, I picked up a Project Life kit 70% off, a photo storage box for $1.20 instead of $7. Oh happy day!

It was while perusing the embellishment aisle that the idea first came to me. It was a sunny day, but being early May in Boston it could still be cold. Therefore when I left the house I had thrown a pink pashmina into my bag. When standing in the wind at the ribbon cutting ceremony I had wrapped myself up in the shawl, and thus my entirely blue outfit underneath was not visible. It dawned on me that if I removed said pashmina I would look like a new customer, and would theoretically be able to get another free gift card. And thus a plan formulated, I would check out of the store (paying with my gift card of course), go to the car and put my purchases away. Go to the dollar store next door, untie my hair from its bun, remove my pashmina and return to Michaels a new patron.

It worked. I think it helped that I bought a broom in the dollar store and thus the Michaels store workers were so distracted with my struggles to hold the broom that they never noticed I had already been in the store already, and handed over a gift card with a smile and friendly greeting. And so I purchased yet more seriously reduced scrapbook paper, and got $79 worth of merchandise for free! I felt a little guilty, I probably should have felt more guilty. But truth be told I was so pleased with myself that the guilt didn’t really kick in.

I went home and called my boyfriend, having pre-warned him by text that I would shortly be phoning him with couponing news and he must be impressed. He played his part very well, but to be honest I don’t think he has ever really recovered from laughing at the fact that I went to a ribbon cutting ceremony like it was a normal thing to do. He tells me I should automatically get citizenship now for being more American than most Americans. I punctuated the rest of my day with frequent trips to my craft corner to look at my new, free, pretty paper. I love suburbia.