No, I do not kid.
The 99¢ Only store put Valentine’s Day merchandise out in some of their southern California stores last week!
Note the snowflakes and Santa’s hats on the right of the endcap [industry term]. And in the background is an entire display of candy canes. Because, eh, how do I put this delicately? Christmas is still weeks away!
Is this the most extreme example of Valentine’s Day Creep ever?
Apparently, I am the most extreme example of Valentine’s Day Creep ever, since I was politely and tactfully advised by a store manager – who caught me excitedly snapping shots of the above display – that I am not allowed to take photos of their merchandise.
I guess he thought I was one of them freaky conversation heart enthusiasts. Hubba hubba!
“BAD NEWS, Commissioner Gordon! The Penguin’s on the loose!”
“Fire up the Bat-Signal!”
“We can’t, sir! It burned out last night and we’re waiting on a replacement bulb!”
“Okay, you two, follow me up to the rooftop and get ready to blow like you’ve never blown before!”
Well, it’s someone’s job to turn each one over and look.
On towards our next holiday, Thanksgiving, and all the little things we need to start thinking about for that.
You know, like who’s going to carve the owl this year.
HERE’S a funny riddle I came up with today while shopping at Dollar Tree!
Ready? It goes like this:
What does Mike Oldfield hang his clothes on?
Give up? Here’s the answer!
Feel free to tell it to others, but if you want it for inclusion in like a riddle book or something you’re writing, I have a form you need to fill out.
HALLOWEEN is just around the corner according to my local 99¢ Only store! They’ve got their Halloween aisle all ready for consumer dishevelment!
To be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed by the selection, but it looks like it had just gone up within the last coupla days, so maybe there’s more merchandise to come. Those great fabric masks I mentioned last year would surely be the next big thing? Thus far, nowhere in sight!
The glow-in-the-dark skeleton gloves made famous either by my site last year or Barry Weiss on “Storage Wars”?
There ain’t none this year!
But here are some of the more interesting items they did have…
Apparently, at least one manufacturer thinks that Baz Luhrman’s recent adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” is going to inspire some outfits this October 31st. Like you, I detest Halloween costumes that aren’t scary or gory in some way, so the only acceptable Gatsby-inspired use of this would be to dress as Myrtle Wilson after the fatal car crash. Ooh, spoiler alert!
(By the way, they also had Lincoln-esque top hats. Add a bullet hole or two, spatter with fake blood, and they lend themselves magnificently to a macabre take on our 16th president, thank you very much, John Wilkes Whosis!)
These spider web candy dishes were pretty clever. They also came in putrid purple and ghastly green. Like you, I’d have no use for the colorful ones, but the black one is great! (That said, wouldn’t it make more sense to cast them in white plastic?)
Halloween Fun Tip #1: Invert the bowl and attach a thin pole to the middle and you’ve got a delightful little mini-parasol that Lily Munster herself would be proud to carry around.
Halloween Fun Tip #2: Tape them over ceiling light fixtures for some spooky ambiance. At least until the thin plastic starts melting and catches fire, burning your house to the ground in the middle of your party. But you and the others who don’t get out will have left a marvelous Halloween legacy for neighborhood kids to whisper about for generations!
Halloween Fun Tip #3: Just use them as the candy dishes they’re intended to be, as I’m probably already in trouble with notoriously litigious Universal Studios for even daring to type ‘Lily Munster’ without paying a steep licensing fee. And let’s not even get started with the liability issues I’ve left myself wide open for telling you to attach these things to hot lights.
Check out these plastic beakers – they’re just the thing to fill up with some water and dry ice for a creepy mad scientist’s lab display. The opening is a bit small so you may have to suck on any larger pieces of dry ice for a few minutes to melt ’em down a bit before they’ll fit into the beakers. Or, alternatively, as my attorney suggests, don’t do that.
Double-wall tumblers have been What’s Bueno at the 99¢ Only store for at least a year now – yours truly even picked up a green bamboo-like one for, yes, 99¢ Only a few months back. Two of these Halloween ones are great, but as to the one in the middle: Was it really wise to print “Zombie Blood” in red? If it turns out you are drinking zombie blood, no one will be able to read your cup!
And on that note, it just wouldn’t be 2013 if we didn’t have some sort of merchandisal intersection of two of the currently most tired and overused pop culture trends: zombies and “Keep Calm” posters. And, by Godfrey, here it is:
Marvelous. Now we’re officially done with both, right? Right?!
Cheap plastic body parts shrink-wrapped onto styrofoam meat trays with funny labels were around last year as well, but they’re still worth noting. However, I don’t really understand why they even bother carrying them – they’re all but indistinguishable from the real “meat” you’ll find in the 99¢ Only Store’s frozen foods case in texture, taste and nutritional value! Oh, come on now, I kid! The fake meat’s actually safe to ingest.
This eerie plastic bag is printed with an ominous warning about suffocating babies. Hilariously macabre! Oh, also I guess there’s a plastic blood-filled heart inside.
You’ve been wanting to go as Ray Liotta from the dinner scene in “Hannibal” for a dozen years. At long last, now you can! And when you’re done, pop this little beauty off your noggin and you’re ready to re-discover the joys of Jell-O.
And finally: there’s something delightful about these cheap latex masks that look like they’re right out of the 1960s. And what’s even scarier – the chef’s hats – or toques [industry term] – next to ’em!
Forget Dracula, the devil, a mummy or Frankenstein’s monster – you really want to scare the bejeezus out of everyone this year, dress up as virtually any contestant from a Food Network cooking show! I mean, have you seen some of those people?! And they let them work with food!
Speaking of food – and by extension holidays associated with food – by this time tomorrow they’ll have cleared the Halloween crap out of here and rechristened it the Thanksgiving aisle!
Be sure to come back then for my reviews of this year’s selection of snap-in-half turkey platters, leaf-shaped window gel clings stickers your kids will mistake for gummy candy and hideous glitter-covered resin cornucopias!
And sadly, it is our beloved Dollar Tree!
If you’re like me, and I reckon you are, you love nothing more than finding a great deal at a local yard, garage, or – as we called ’em where I grew up – tag sale. Who doesn’t love rooting through someone else’s garbage? No one, that’s who!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to yard sales and found a first edition of “The Birds of America” (signed by John James Audubon – and he also drew a little cartoon owl) or a pair of brand new, never-worn Bruno Magli ‘Ruhof’ hip-wader fishing boots ($1,449.50 online at the discount shoe-ery!) or the original shooting script to Citizen Kane with hand-printed notations by Orson “What Is A Gonk?” Welles himself, where he’s crossed out – in his own hand – the sled’s original name (“Melvin”) and hastily scribbled in a last minute change to something else, though I forget what.
I’ve found all those things and more, sure, and I’ve passed on every goddamn one of them!
Why? you ask.
Because the morons selling them put these god-forsaken stickers on them!
And they’re absolutely impossible to get off!
Anyway, it was a difficult decision, but on behalf of bargain-lovers everywhere, I did what had to be done to stop the spread of this scourge at its source.
You’re welcome, fellow yard sale enthusiasts!
Oh, and don’t worry, it was quick and painless. Unlike explaining to a Dollar Tree manager why I was photographing myself grinding a package of stickers into the carpet.
LIKE YOU, I collect tiki mugs and related exoticabilia.
Unlike you, I’ve done so for ages. I’m not some Ionakana-Come-Lately who just started a few years ago when it became wildly trendy. No, I began collecting tiki stuff a little before that, when it was just reasonably trendy.
But soon after it was wildly trendy and everyone and his kaikua’ana was into tiki stuff, it therefore became decidedly less trendy, and then, eventually, not trendy at all.
…And that’s when the dollar stores got in on it. Well, mostly.
Yet to this day, people like me (and, yes, okay, to a lesser extent, you) were as much into tiki stuff as we’d ever been (since we got into it originally, that is). We march to the beat of a different pahu, you and I – we care not for fads, for trends, for what may or may not currently be “hep.”
So you’re saying, “Ted,” you’re saying, “That’s great! Trendy or not, this dollar store tiki merchandise you’re about to show us – why, it’s just more great tikibilia for us hardcore tiki enthusiasts to enjoy, right?”
You’d think that, sure, but you’d be wrong.
And here’s why: Above is a very small cross-section of my tiki collection. Oh, just a few things I quickly threw together that I had lying around here. I’ve got boxes of this stuff, sure. Doubles of a lot of stuff, and doubles on top of doubles. Yeah got a pretty awesome collection. Yehhhp…
Now look at the tiki crap the dollar stores peddle:
The difference, as any hupo can see? My stuff – the good stuff – isn’t colorful.
That’s not to say you must banish color from your little homemade polynesian paradise. No sir! That’s not what I’m saying at all!
However, the bright hues shouldn’t come from your tikis but rather your little paper umbrellas, your leis, your aloha shirts, your Japanese glass fishing buoys, the gushing blood when you slash open your finger cutting up pineapple slices for garnish, and so on. That’s where the color comes from, pal – but your tikis…? They need to be dark and drab. Look, I’ve got green tikis, blue tikis, red tikis, sure – but they’re in somber, muted shades!
They’re not these dayglo moai-nstrosities!
Another thing: your tikis shouldn’t be happy! These are vengeful gods, people! They need to be angry, or at the very least solemn! Most of the dollar store tiki accoutrements feature moronically giddy, smiling faces that look like they’ve just smoked a great big úmeki of Maui Wowie while listening to Iz Kamakawiwho’sis mangle “Somewhere Over the Wonderful World.”
But the dollar stores don’t get it all wrong. In fact, our good friends over at 99¢ Only nailed it with these waste baskets:
Sure, they had them available in lime green, neon pink and bright blue, but as long as they offered them as well in sensible dugout canoe brown, you won’t hear me complaining!
Dollar Tree, too, surprised me recently with this very tiki-bar-specific accessory:
The requisite fishnet hung from the rafters – an oft-forgotten but mandatory item without which no authentic tiki bar is complete!
Lest you think my exotica expectations from dollar stores are a little unreasonable, know this: They started it. Specifically Dollar Tree. About ten years ago they offered – for a buck a piece! – these amazing guys:
A buck a piece these were!
And they’re not teeny-tiny tikis, either–they’re between 6″ and 7″ tall each. (There were a couple others, too, that I’m just too lazy to pull off the shelf and photograph.) So looking at these – you realize, at least for a while, right when tiki stuff was at its most popular – Dollar Tree got it!
But somehow in the years since then, they lost it, and now would-be tiki-philes who don’t know any better are buying this stuff and throwing parties – unholy, dangerous parties, no doubt infuriating Kū-kaili-moku, the Hawaiian god of war. Much like Rainbow Brite’s arch-enemy Murky Dismal, he hates colors! Probably!
Me, I’m taking no chances. Oh, sure, I’ll buy a set of their three hideous bug-eyed shot glasses for a buck.
But they must undergo a very sacred, never-before-photographed ritual before they’re given a place of honor on the altar that is my tiki bar!
Sacred! Oh so sacred!
Summer’s over, kids!
According to Dollar Tree as of Monday, July 8, it’s officially Back to School time!
Hurry in and get your pencils and notebooks, gang! Do it now!
This time next week it’ll be a Christmas display!
In a rare (but not unprecedented) show of bipartisanship that will not doom our country, this week
Yes, both 99¢ Only Store and its sworn enemy Dollar Tree have put aside their hate and contempt for one another to reach across the cluttered, messy aisle to one another in an effort to mutually offer you, the discount store consumer, not this week’s “What’s Bueno!” item, singular, but a panoply of “What’s Bueno!” items, plural!
And what are they? Freezer pops!
This couldn’t happen at a better time, either – we’re right smack in the middle of this summer’s first miserable heat wave here in the miserable Los Angeles area, so if you live around here, pal, you’re going to need ’em.
Today’s freezer pop enthusiast has a much wider variety to choose from than when you and I were kids. Back then we had Fla-Vor-Ice and Otter Pops and, brother, that was it! That was it!
And while they’re still available (as you’ll see), today, those parched of throat and desiccated of uvula can also reach for over a dozen other brands, for just a buck a box, including such delights as these here Kool Pops.
Licensed by Kool-Aid owner Kraft, these artifically flavored freezer pops are made with Real Fruit Juice from concentrate, so it’s a snack you can feel good about, eating one after another after another after another. Oh, no one stops at one.
They even make a tropical version, which I refused to try because like you, I hate banana-flavored anything. And yet, I like real bananas. Truly, I am an enigma.
Here are our old friends Otter Pops, just like you remember them, complete with crudely-drawn mascots, who have been part of Otter Pops for much longer than crudely-drawn characters have been trendy.
A $1.00 rebate on a box of Otter Pops that cost a dollar?! Astounding! Even more astounding is that there are people who will find it worth their time to cut out the UPC and the form from the box and fill that out, include a copy of their store receipt with price circled, put that all in an envelope, and affix a 46¢ stamp to it and send it off to Otter Pops to get a check for a dollar in the mail in six to eight weeks.
Also available are these 100% fruit juice Otter Pops. Despite the box warning me that they contained no high fructose corn syrup, I bought them anyway and they were quite refreshing.
For years, Otter Pops had mail-in offers for merchandise on their box backs. Some time ago, I sent away for a Louie Bloo Raspberry beach towel. When it arrived, I was disappointed that it was far too small for a gangly manchild such as myself to actually lay out on at the municipal pool. Inexplicably, it was as though it was designed for a child. What the hell?!
Here’s the international equivalent of our proud American freezer pops. They’re called Bolis Icesticks and they’re made in Mexico. The plastic they’re encased in is quite a bit thicker than any of the other pops. You don’t snip off the end with a pair of scissors, either: they’re segmented in two, and you snap them in the middle. The package notes that “BOLIS ICESTICKS are a convenient, inexpensive refreshment.” Inexpensive, sure. But I don’t know about convenient – you don’t need scissors to get ’em open, but snapping them in half leaves you with two separate sections and they can be messy.
Tampico knows its customers! The “number one selling citrus punch brand” in the US (according to its website) chooses to package its freezer pops the same way they do it south of the border, down Mexico way, in those snappable tubes, like Bolis (above). Like you, I can’t imagine why!
Sunny D Orange Citrus freezer pops. All one flavor, gang. No purple stuff here.
Wyler’s Authentic Italian Ices come in four flavors. To me, the only “authentic” Italian ice comes in a paper cup with a peel off lid and you eat it with a wooden spoon, and the only flavor is lemon.
And here’s Slush Puppie Slush Bars. Some trivia for you, courtesy Wikipedia: [Slush Puppie’s] original owners, Will Radcliff and his sister Phyllis, came up with the name while sitting on their front porch in Cincinnati, Ohio. The unique spelling of “puppie” was added to bring attention to both the name and the product. I think you’ll agree they succeeded.
Made with 100% Apple Juice, these Mott’s Freezer Bars come in four delicious flavors – Apple, Apple Strawberry, Apple White Grape and Fruit Punch – which I think we can assume has a delicious apple undertone to it.
Fla-Vor-Ice Fudge Pops are made with Real Hershey’s Cocoa. I like my fudgicles (or Fudgesicles, as they’re known east of the Allegheny) on a stick, dammit. When it comes to freezer pops, it’s advisable to stick with fruit flavors.
…Eh, that said, there’s also these freeze & eat Soda Pops. They come in A&W Root Beer, Crush Strawberry, Dr. Pepper and Crush Grape flavors. Well, those are mostly fruit flavors. Fruit and root flavors. And Dr. Pepper.
Sunkist has gotten into the act, too, with these so-called freezer “bars” as they call them – again, made with real fruit juice from concentrate and no high fructose corn syrup. This country runs on high fructose corn syrup – you better believe it, brother – but I reckon a little change of pace won’t kill us. Special thanks to eagle-eyed reader and 99¢ Only Store shopper Chris in the Sacramento area for sending this in. Your official I’m A Pal of Ted beach towel is in the mail. (Child size.)
Hawaiian Punch Freezer Bars feature four extreme flavors but best of all, the box has Punchy snowboarding down a frosty Hawaiian mountain. Totally awesome! Today’s 3-D rendered Hawaiian Punch mascot is a character with attitude. He’s edgy; he’s in your face!
These guys are your bargain basement freezer pops. Fun Pops are filled with inconsistent levels of colored fluid that seems to vary wildly from pop to pop, and come packaged in cheap a net bag. Yet you get twelve of these and they’re 2 ounces each (well, if they were all filled uniformly) which is more than most of the other varieties. So it seems to me you could do a lot worse than Fun Pops.
According to the label, each bag “may or may not contain: Grape, Orange, Blue Punch, Pina Colada, Banana, Lemon-Lime, Peach, Watermelon, Cherry, Mango, Green Apple & Strawberry.” Still, I passed on these because with my luck, I’d have gotten a bag with like three disgusting banana pops and no peach.
It’s not just me, right? There’s nothing worse than artificial banana flavoring, right?
Mike and Ike: The candy you never buy is now available in freezer pop form that you might buy!
Jolly Rancher has gotten into the act, too, and while they only offer two flavors, they do taste a lot like their hard candy counterparts.
Angry Birds freezer bars feature tangy flavors matching the colors of the red bird, the yellow bird, a pig, and the blue bird. As a bonus, each box has an Angry Birds bookmark that kids can cut out and use – a nostalgic throwback to a time when kids still read books and weren’t spending their free time playing heavily-licensed games on their smartphones.
All of these freezer pops are fine, I reckon, but now we’re down to my top two:
These Snapple Sorbet bars come in colored sleeves, but the innards are white as the driven snow. They’re really good.
But these lip-puckering sour WarHeads freezer pops are my hands-down favorite – and now yours too.
Interestingly, nearly all of these varieties of freezer pops are manufactured or licensed by The Jel Sert Company (or “Big Freezer Pop” as consumer watchdogs know them, probably), the folks who started it all back in 1969 with Fla-Vor-Ice.
And yes, Fla-Vor-Ice is among the brands available at the 99¢ Only Store and Dollar Tree.
They’ve got a Tropical Flavors pack, too. But you’ll want to stay away from that.
I think you’ll know why.