Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Do you want to hear about quite possibly the dumbest shopping-related decision I’ve ever made? I will tell you. Last year, around this time, I realized I still didn’t have a new calendar for my kitchen. I poked around, asked a couple of friends, and eventually landed on a whimsical-but-still-borderline-creepy one from Anthropologie.
It cost $26 — reasonable enough. I put it in my cart and went to check out. That’s when I realized that, horror of horrors, I would be expected to PAY for SHIPPING like a GODDAMN CAVE PERSON. $6.95!!!!! Everyone knows that $26 + $6.95 is equal to a semester of college tuition, or a down payment on a yacht. It felt like paying for nothing, and I refused to do it.
No, I would outsmart Anthropologie’s sinister attempts to part me from my hard-earned money: I would add something to my cart to meet the minimum for free shipping. I do this all the time, treating it more like a game or a moral imperative than a series of financial decisions that almost certainly does not save me anything in the long run — a single pair of underwear added to an American Apparel order just shy of the $50 mark, an overwhelming yet identical array of Uniqlo socks that pushes the total past $125.
Amazon Prime, with its lack of minimum, has made me spoiled and soft, expecting everything I add to any online shopping cart to be at my doorstep within days at no extra charge. Let’s not even talk about Seamless. I know I am being played on all sides! I just can’t seem to stop! Captalism!!!
I do not remember now what that particular Anthro minimum was — $50? $75? $100? And the reason I do not remember is because my chosen supplementary item was not a small accessory, nor a necessary staple, but a ridiculous, inconvenient, and above all expensive garment I had never thought of owning before and have not, as of this writing, worn since: a black lace corset.
It cost $74 and I bought it almost without thinking. I have no idea what came over me. I guess I wanted to be the sort of person who owned a black lace corset AND a twee-as-heck wall calendar? Maybe it was that post-holiday rush of self-improvement, that new-year-new-me mania that causes otherwise reasonable folks to drop hundreds of dollars in pursuit of a self that’s just a little bit shinier, a tad sexier, a touch more fully formed. Maybe (definitely) it was just really fucking pretty.
Whatever the reason, the box arrived, and I put the calendar on the wall, and I put the corset in the drawer next to the normal, boring, laceless bras, where it remains practically untouched to this day.
Here is the kicker: When I went back to my Anthropologie order history just now to confirm the prices, my account notes that I did pay for shipping. Maybe it was waived; maybe my memory is going, along with my bank balance. Maybe I wanted an excuse to want the corset, no matter how truly ridiculous, and so the story I told myself was that I was just playing my usual game. And maybe there’s a reason it’s still in that drawer, that it’s survived all the purging and Kondo-ing I put myself through this past year, in those same attempts to arrive at my ideal self.
Maybe 2017 is the year when I finally find a way to wear it. And if I need to meet a minimum, I can always buy the matching underwear.