Foreign lands where the dollar still rules

The parking lots of the big discount stores have been getting more and more crowded since the economy went over Niagara Falls without a barrel. The people who used to shop at the high-end stores in the mall have suddenly decided that nothing could be more amusing than to start shopping with the regular folks down at the Wal-Mart and Target. Not that they need to, mind you. It’s just so much darn fun! They even make a game of it, pronouncing them both in the French way – Wal-Mahr and Tarzhay – as if they were on some wonderful vacation to an exotic foreign land where the natives wear colorful, polyester clothes and take their children shopping instead of leaving them at home with the nanny. You can almost hear them at tonight’s cocktail party.

“We just got back from Poorland, and I can’t wait to show you the pictures when they come back. The shopping is wonderful, everything is so delightfully cheap. This scarf was only $6. Can you believe that? I’m afraid to think what it would have cost in our country. I’d never been in a Wal-Mahr before, and I thought there would be open sewers running down the aisles, but it’s not like that at all. It’s like visiting a developing country without having to get on a plane. And with much better toilets. Who knew? They even have greeters. Why doesn’t Saks have a greeter? Maybe a male model or something.

“I’d always heard stories about Poorland, but I never thought I would actually get to go there. It’s not like here, of course. There are practically no foreign cars in the parking lot, and some cars are two to three years old. And I don’t think some of them have ever seen a copy of “Italian Vogue” or “Vanity Fair” in their whole lives, but the place is full of affordable trinkets and little goodies that you just can’t get in our country. A lot of the natives have exotic tattoos and body piercings, but they are remarkably shy about being photographed. I finally had to offer one fellow $10 before he would let Bob take a picture of us together. Then everyone in the place suddenly wanted to have their picture taken.

“And most of the people there speak English. You don’t even have to learn how to say “please” and “thank you” in Poorese. In fact, they use many of the same words we do. And they use the same money and no one even asked to see our passports. I don’t even think a lot of them knew we weren’t from there. We really should go there more often! I had no idea how much fun it is to be poor!

“Next, I’m having my travel agent arrange a trip to a big-box store. Won’t that be exciting? Even if we don’t need a big box, I may buy one just to say I was there. I’m actually thinking of renting a unit in a trailer park for a week or two and making a vacation of it.”

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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