It was after work on Monday and I had a few hours of freetime before swim practice so I did what any triathlete would do in November with freetime – I went shopping.
This was not just any shopping. This was lotion shopping, one of the best kinds of shopping. And where better to take my lotion shopping business than to Bath & Body Works.
On the outside, the store seems harmless enough. A simple exterior with big red letters on top. Inside, it’s a rather small store filled with rather small bottles of fragrant lotion all lined up in pretty order on neat little shelves. A scent for every single person with every single taste. The fruity, the flowery, the seasonal, the nutty. In other words, if you’ve smelled it and you like it they’ve probably got it bottled up and for sale.
Again, it all seems harmless enough until you pick up a bottle and read that it costs anywhere from 8 to 22 dollars – for lotion with no magical or mystical properties about it. Just a tub of cream. But still something beckons me to spend the money to buy a tub. About 5 times a month.
Though I’ve been trying to cut down on shopping since my recent bout with balaclavas and then the Pearl Izumi cycling tights plus the polar fleece running tights I had to have last week, I went to the lotion store thinking how much trouble could you get yourself into with lotion?
Plenty, I tell you. Plenty. Give me enough time and I’ll buy a basket full of lotions worth as much as the most complete of Pearl Izumi get-ups, including the fleece-lined jacket, vest, and tights.
And therein lies the problem. You see, I do not need any more lotion. I have a whole army of bottles in my bathroom in all different sizes and scents. Most were from their stock-up sale earlier this summer where I stocked up on anything nutty, spicy, creamy, and sweet. And the result was a giant, Santa-sized shopping bag of shampoo, lotion, and body butter. I’m still working through the bottles. It might take years to get through them. No one needs that much lotion. Not even a reptile. Not even my husband who has skin so scaly in the winter time that he spends all night long involuntarily scratching his legs up and down. Not that it keeps me awake at night or anything. Not that I’m bitter.
Looking back, I see that this sick addiction to lotion started last winter. Spend enough time in the pool and you find yourself slowly evolving in a reptile, desperate for something that will keep your skin smooth regardless of price or availability. So I headed into Bath & Body Works pleased to find the common cure for itchy, chlorinated skin – Brazil Nut Butter at a mere $12 a tub. That’s a lot of money for lotion, but damn it smelled great and it was thick like smooth, creamy butter. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m quite partial to anything Brazilian – whether it’s Brazilian meat, Brazilian triathletes, or Brazilian cowboys, so the addiction to Brazil Nut lotion wasn’t really a stretch. And then earlier this fall, I discovered that they had discontinued this lotion. Which left me forlorn, lost, and in absolute disbelief so much that I visited three different Bath & Body Works within one day, including a “flagship store”. I have no idea what that means but it seems important for redeeming certain coupons so I thought they would for sure have a flagship tub of body butter like Brazil Nut but to my dismay that ship did not set sail. I scratched and scaled myself for about a week until I found something else that took it’s place. That was not a good week for my skin nor my reputation at the flagship store.
It goes beyond Brazil Nuts and sneaks dangerously into the flavors of cinnamon, pumpkin, coconuts and cream. My weakness was revealed this fall when Bath & Body Works introduced the Pumpkin Pie Paradise scent. I bought a sample ($3, worth the risk) and I was hooked. Yes, it did what it promised. It sent me straight to pumpkin pie paradise and I wanted to stay. Could something really smell that good? Could something make shower time feel so sinful and filling? Yes. And if the world runs short on water after this fall, it’s not my fault. Blame Bath & Body Works for leaving me standing in the shower sniffing my arm and looking for Cool Whip. It smelled so good I thought it could also work as a snack (a dangerous thing during Ironman training because every time I got clean, which might have been 2 – 3 times a day, it reminded me of how hungry I was for things BAD like pumpkin pie, and pumpkin cake, and pumpkin pudding cake, and pumpkin bread).
But with all of my lotion-induced obsessions, I have to plead helplessness and victimization. About every other week, Bath & Body Works sends me a coupon. I am victim of the coupon. And I have come to realize that the coupon is just a trick. You’re not saving money. You’re spending money, money that you probably otherwise would have saved if you hadn’t have gotten the damn coupon in the first place. I wonder how they got my address and how they knew the coupon would work with me (it might have something to do with my Express credit card – another story all together).
So there it was, evil lotion trickery, in the form of coupons promising a free item with any purchase over $12.50 or saving $10 for every $30 spent. $10 off? Why that’s a free bottle of lotion, a bottle of shower gel, lip gloss, a candle, foot cream, a tiny tube of shea butter, a face mask, body spray, anti-bacterial hand gel. If it’s free, I’ll take it and if it smells good that makes it even better. After a few weeks of these coupons and trips to the store, I realize that the only thing possibly better than free coffee was free lotion. And the only thing better than free lotion was probably lotion that could double, in case of emergency, as a cup of coffee that you could lick right off your arm (which would be very handy in those DBM’s* that I seem to attend every other week at work).
Of course tonight’s trip was preceded by a coupon I had found earlier in the day in my mailbox. It would be shameful to turn down a coupon, like throwing away free coffee, so I made the trip to the store to see what I could find. And this time it was different. Still riding on the bottles that I had from the annual mega big clearance stock-up sale, I didn’t really have any needs. So I was looking for something new. A very difficult thing to do in the lotion store because I have found that while something might smell good in the store, you take it home and it smells like grandma’s closet, or strip club stripper (not quite the same as dime store whore), or rotten bananas that have been sitting under a monkey for way too long.
In fact, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way when I’ve had to part with more than one completely full bottle of lotion because I brought it home and it made me want to do everything short of barfing all over my bathroom floor. You might call these my scents that never were, or made a quick trip to the fragrance graveyard including Sun-Ripened Raspberry (code for sour berries), Warm Vanilla Sugar (code for warm sugared vomit), or PearBerry (code for stale kitchen sponge combined with wet towels).
In recent trips to the store, I found that just when you thought you had found the last of the worst scents they go and create a scent like Crazy Caramel Popcorn. I don’t know about you, but I value my hygiene enough to know better than to smear something that smells like sticky carnival all over my body. Think about it, the smell of a street carnival on a humid summer night. You expect a trailer full of toothless felons and strung out addicts to roll up and help you shower. And then along comes a woman with a beard. Not something I want to try anytime soon.
On my list of scent survivors is a commonality of nuts, spice, and cream, including Lavendar Vanilla, Coconut Lime Verbena, Creamy Coconut, and Pumpkin. Occasionally, I’ll go out on a lotion-lined limb (very slippery, use much caution when trying this) and try a new scent. During the stock-up sale, I took a chance and tried Green Clover and Aloe. I remember standing in the store, sniffing the bottle of shower gel repeatedly when a woman walked up next to me and said that she couldn’t figure out if it smelled good or made her want to gag. And together we decided that it smelled like sweet and fresh cut lawn. That doesn’t sound too enticing but trust me, when you put it on you got visions of running through a lush green meadow on a mountaintop in Austria, a la Julie Andrews style, singing of how the hills were alive and how you smelled so good.
And so last night, I decided to take a chance again and try something new. Hence I discovered what might now be my latest favorite – Exotic Coconut. Which brings me back to my coupon. I used it to purchase a new tub of Exotic Coconut body butter. I was leary at first; tentative, could it really smell that good? But I took a risk, used the coupon, and walked out of the store with it smeared on my hand. And as I walked in and out of other stores I kept sniffing my hand and my fingers and my coat and then my hand again. After a few minutes of this, I wanted to chew my hand off because it smelled so good. And I’m sure I freaked out more than one shopper as they ogled me and thought what’s with the girl making out with her own hand?
I brought home my tub of Exotic Coconut and put it in the drawer by the basket filled with too many other bottles of lotion. And I sat there before swim practice, I was torn about which to bring with me for after swim practice. What do I want to walk out of the pool smelling like tonight? Will it be pumpkins or coconuts or vanilla or Brazilian beach? And is there some way to include a Brazilian cowboy on that beach who could rub the exotic coconut lotion on my scaly back? These are the things you think about when you have all the time in the world to not think triathlon and focus on more important things, like lotion, and coupons, and body butter.
And so I brought a long a tub of Pumpkin body butter for after the pool. Actually, it’s not body butter. It is labeled a unitanical. Which isn’t even a real word. And even if it’s a made up word, it’s not a good one. If they had performed a little target market research with me, I honestly would have told them that unitanical sounds like eunuch. And imagine what a tub of eunuch would smell like; rustic and musky with subtle hints of a twig with no berries.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I walked into the shower after swim practice and noticed a small bottle laying on the floor. What is this? I pick it up to see that it is a Bath & Body Works bottle of Cool Citrus Basil shower gel. I look around suspiciously. Had they been listening in on my thoughts? Was this planted there? Is there a camera of hungry marketers waiting intently to see the demographic profile of who picks it up? Is this what happens when you redeem too many coupons in too short of a time? Do they come looking for you to figure out who exactly is willing to spend about $100 a month on lotion and how do we find more just like you? I took another sneaky look around. When I realized the coast was completely clear, I snuck off into the shower with my new bottle and closed the curtain quick. I opened the bottle, took a sniff, and immediately the smell of cool citrus and fresh herbs filled my nose. Fragrant, fresh, subtle. I decided to give it a whirl. And you know what – if the cameras were watching (let’s hope not) I think it was safe to say that I liked it. After the shower, I tossed it in my bag and decided I might consider buying another bottle. Or two.
When I got home, I went to recycle the shopping bag that the evening’s lotion purchase came in and I noticed something in the bottom. There it was looking right up at me - another coupon promising $15 off a purchase of $50 or more. The plot thickens. Was it not bad enough that they followed me to the gym and forced their new scent upon me? Did they have to take it one step further by tempting me to action with a coupon? But it worked. I stood there thinking that certainly I could use some Exotic Coconut spray or Cool Citrus Basil shower gel which would definitely necessitate another trip to Bath & Body Works tomorrow night.
*DBM = death by meeting