I know that there are those who love large cities and huge department stores. I'm not one of them. Shopping is not my favorite thing to do anyway, and large stores just make the experience even more traumatic.
Years ago, there was a small family-owned department store that we used to frequent in a neighboring small town. They had very nice clothes for reasonable prices, and it was a relaxing place to shop. One weekend each summer they would erect a large tent in their parking lot and have a tent sale.
During one such sale, Doug was in the market for a new suit; and we were browsing through the choices under the tent. It's hard to get Doug to buy clothes for himself. He says things like, "I have enough shirts." So I was pleased to see him admiring one of the suits. He took it off the rack and turned it every which way, admiring the color, the fabric, the cut, etc. But he just couldn't bring himself to take the plunge and go to the cash register with it. (Have I mentioned that Doug's self-proclaimed nickname is TW...for Tightwad?)
We continued browsing through the racks until Doug eventually found another suit that he decided to try on. When he took that suit into the store to try it on in one of the dressing rooms, I ran back to the rack where the first suit was that he had been admiring. I grabbed the suit off the rack and ran inside the store to the cash register. I handed it to the cashier, hastily explaining that I wanted to buy it as a surprise for my husband, who was in the dressing room. Fearing that Doug would come out of the dressing room at any moment, I told her I would stop in later in the week to pay for it. I'm not even sure I had time to give her my name, but she tucked the suit out of sight and trusted me to return with payment the following week.
When Doug emerged from the dressing room, he said he liked the suit he had tried on but that he thought he liked the first one better and would like to try on that one. We went back to the rack where the first suit had been and, lo and behold, it was gone. Believing that someone had beaten him to it, he wound up buying the second suit.
This little store also provided alterations, so measurements were taken and an appointment was made to pick up the suit after the alterations had been completed.
That next week, I went back to the store, paid for the surprise suit, and asked them to alter that suit using the same measurements they had taken with the other one.
I decided to make the suit a Christmas surprise for Doug that year. Over the five or six months between the tent sale and Christmas, Doug mentioned several times how much he regretted not buying that suit when he had the chance. Every time he would say something about "the one that got away" I would tingle with the anticipation of surprising him with it on Christmas.
When Christmas came, the surprise was complete. He recognized the suit immediately upon unwrapping it and couldn't believe I had pulled it off, complete with alterations. And, lest you think he was pretending, there's not a deceitful bone in that boy's body.
But the point of this post is that something like this just couldn't have happened in anything other than a small-town, family-owned store. They didn't know me from Adam, but they happily conspired with me to surprise my husband.
It's hard for little stores like that to survive in this day of large chain stores, and this store was no exception. It fell victim to the competition and closed several years ago. But, thanks to the episode with the Christmas suit, they'll always occupy a place of fondness in my heart.