In 2003, I was living in New York City, working a retail job where I made around $13 an hour. (That’s a $26,000 salary equivalent.) My rent was $675, which meant that I was spending 50% of my take home pay just to live and keep the lights on.
It wasn’t quite “result misery”, as Wilkins Micawber might have put it, but let’s face it, it was kind of dire.
This was a time in my life where the quality of the food I ate wasn’t nearly as important to me as the price. Even if I had cared, I wouldn’t have been able to care; I just didn’t have the money. A typical meal I ate was reheated frozen chicken nuggets on toast with ketchup.
Oh, those were the days.
As you can imagine, I was looking for food deals anywhere I could find them. This is not an easy thing in NYC, I might add. I recall buying three days worth of groceries at a local Gristede’s on a previous visit there, and it cost $65. In 2003 dollars. Ouch.
The dollar store
One day, while on a walk nearby my new place of employment, I spotted a large store called “Jack’s 99 Cents”. It was a dollar store, or rather a dollar superstore.
Jack’s 99 Cents. It’s still there, and appears to be thriving.
Now, let me admit my privilege here. I had never been into a dollar store before. A place I worked at in college was replaced by a dollar store, but they weren’t a part of my orbit.
But now, in my first, non-dorm-room experience living away from home, the dollar store immediately called to me. I could buy things for a dollar! I could buy food for a dollar!