Good deals don’t always cost you

Back in the olden days grocery stores used to pass out trading stamps. S&H Green Stamps were the most famous, but I remember Gold Bond stamps, too.

I can’t recollect for sure, but I think they gave out one stamp for every 10 cents we spent. Probably my fellow “elder” readers will remember. Wednesday was “double stamp day,” so we went to the grocery store that day instead of Saturday if we could. We got little books of about 20 or 30 pages, and at home we licked the stamps and stuck them in, filling the pages and keeping track of how many pages were left to go. The good part was we had to buy groceries anyway, so it wasn’t like we were wasting money.

We had catalogs listing sale items priced by number of books, which was fine. Country people were used to ordering stuff from catalogs because the cow towns we shopped in didn’t have many stores. We spent lots of time with those catalogs, dreaming and planning.

I remember buying sheets for my kids’ beds in about 1974 with green stamps. I think they cost about 10 1/2 books. I haven’t seen any trading stamps for at least 20 years. I miss them.

When my husband and I were in college, we had no money. One day we saw an advertisement in the newspaper that said: “Call for a vacuum cleaner demonstration, and receive two books of green stamps.” That was exactly how much we needed to get a coffee pot — the snazzy kind that perked.

So we called the guy and he showed up the next evening. It took him 10 minutes to haul in all the various parts of his wonderful vacuum cleaner — little hoses that did any number of things if you put certain little parts on the ends of them — brushes, pointy ends and other shapes I couldn’t imagine ever using.

He was loaded with manly (he thought) perfume and charm (ditto). He had dark, Elvis Presley-style sideburns, and he wore citified white britches.

He began by insisting we show him our old vacuum, so we did. It was way past old enough to vote and made a funny noise when it ran. Also, it only picked up the big stuff. After we demonstrated “our” vacuum, his eyes gleamed. I swear I could see dollar signs in them.

We just smiled, and moved furniture around so he could show us how it worked on ALL our living room carpet. He even cleaned our couch and curtains. When he finished, he asked triumphantly, “Could your old fellow ever get things this clean?” We, of course, agreed it couldn’t.

He got out his little order blank, produced a pen with a flourish and smiled expectantly.

I said, “We already knew our vacuum wasn’t any good. We’ll take the green stamps now, please.”

The salesman was not a happy man. But he handed over the stamps, and we got our coffee pot. Plus our living room sparkled like green grass after a rain.

Best deal we ever made.