By Mordechai Schmutter29

You know when you buy something for a good price, and you’re so proud of it that you start showing off to people who are not directly affected by it? They do not care. They don’t care that you saved a couple of your dollars that they will never see on an item they will never use. Yes, they do have some level of v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha, but you’re coming in beaming, and they think you have great news to share, but this affects their lives even less than if you have a baby.

Look, I’m super-happy if my friend has a baby, but let’s be honest: That doesn’t actually mean more friends for me. But I’m still genuinely happy for him. He will be shepping nachas from this baby for years to come, iy’H. Whereas this item you just bought gave you one little bit of nachas, right when you bought it, and it’s over.

And yet you make this a conversation topic, and they have to get through it, because you have to talk about this, for therapeutic reasons.

You’re like, “You won’t believe what I got!” And you show them this item that they will probably never see again in their lives, but you expect them to genuinely care about it for that one moment.

“Guess how much this thing normally is!”

Even you don’t know how much this thing normally is; you just know what the sticker says. Yet they have to guess a number, and they have no idea, and they did not know before they came in today that there was going to be a test.

“What is the suggested retail price for this item?”

The chances that they’ll guess it right when it can be any number between free and a bajillion dollars does not make this a fun game.

“How many guesses do I get?”

Sometimes you let them play Higher/Lower, but it’s not better.





“Whew, this is fun! 250?”

It’s not even like if they’re right, you give them the item. And then they get to go to other people and say, “Guess how much this normally is!”

So they guess a number, and they’re wrong, or on the slim chance they guess it right, you are not at all impressed because you’re just waiting to tell them the rest of your story. And then they’re hoping the conversation is over, and you’re like, “Now guess how much I got it for!”

And they sigh, like, “OK, we gotta do this again.” The game wasn’t bad enough the first time; you’re making them play through it twice.

“Um … less?” This is a horrible game if you got it for more.

They’re not going to guess more than the original price.

“A thousand dollars!”

“No, less than the asking price. Why did you think I was smiling?”

“Because you were remembering the look on the merchant’s face when you bargained him up.”

And then at the end of the story, you’re like, “And that’s how much I paid!” And you’re so happy. And they’re pretending to be happy for you, but they don’t know how happy they could be without overdoing it. Should they break into song? Grab your hands and start dancing? Because it really does not matter to them that you saved 35 bucks.

At most, they’re going to ask, “Oh, where’s the sale? I want to go too!” And you’ll say, “Sorry, it’s over,” or, “I got the last one.”

Then why are you telling me any of this?

This is not even a story they can later tell their other friends. (“So my friend bought a sweater the other day… Guess how much it normally costs!”) They can’t even come over to you later and say, “Hey, remember that 35 dollars you saved? It happens to be I’m a little short on cash for something today. Guess how much I need!”

I wonder if criminals subject their friends to this:

“Guess how much this is normally! Wrong! Ten thousand dollars! Now guess how much I got it for!”

“Zero. The answer is always zero.”



They have to have something to talk about in prison.

But for example, I went to a Judaica closeout sale in my shul the other day, and the prices were really good, so as I do, the first thing I did was walk around for a long time going, “What do I need? I can’t remember what I need.” And also fending off people asking if I worked there.

“I’ll give you a hint: Everyone who works here is not wearing a coat.”

I should really just respond, “No, do you work here?”

“I … I asked you first.”

So I walked around thinking, “What do I need? I know I need something.” I do the same thing when I go to Amazing Savings. For months, every time we need something, we say, “We should get it at Amazing Savings the next time we’re there.” And then we get to Amazing Savings, and go, “I don’t know… Toys?” And my wife says, “No.” And then we pick up some foil pans. Sometimes we wander aimlessly around the kitchen aisle and then we leave.

“It’s probably something in the kitchen aisle.”

And then we come home and remember.

I also do the same thing when the Man with the Truck comes to town. (A lot of men have trucks, but you know exactly who I’m talking about.) I walk around thinking, “What do I need? What do I need? Casio watches? Enormous bibs?” And then I buy a yarmulke. I have five new yarmulkes in my drawer at home. I figure they don’t go bad. And that way, I have something to change into if I accidentally wear my yarmulke to go play paintball.

I never know what I need offhand, and I walk around each of these venues hoping something will remind me, like I do in the supermarket, even though that really only works for food items and is largely based on cravings.

“Is anyone I know getting married? Bar mitzvah? Do I have any idea what they want anyway?”

But what I actually bought was an oil menorah for one of my kids.

So anyway, guess how much this menorah that I bought normally is!

I can describe it for you, if you want, but I can assure you that you’ll still be wrong.

Got a number? Now guess how much I paid for it!

Wrong! Ha! You’re 0 for 2. Isn’t that fun?

For some people, telling others what they paid is about showing off their haggling skills. They walk up to a seller and say, “How much is this?”


“I’ll give you $3 for it.”

“Then why did you ask?!”

“Um… In case you’d say $2? Then I’d feel stupid.”

I’m not even sure where one would haggle in this country. I know Israelis are good at haggling, so this must be what every conversation is like in Israel. But in America, the closest we get is a yard sale. Not that haggling at a yard sale is a huge accomplishment, because you kind of have the seller over a barrel:

“Let’s put it this way: I didn’t even know I wanted this item until five minutes ago. Whereas you’ve been trying to get rid of this for so long, it’s giving you shalom bayis issues.”

Personally, I cannot haggle to save my life. I’m too eager to please. Also, the people I’m haggling with just saw me pass this item 25 times. So when I get something for a good price, it is a big deal. It’s worth announcing it from the rooftops.

Also, bragging seems pretty silly, because at some point you realize that the amount of money you saved on one small item makes such an insignificant difference in your life and overall expenses. It’s like if you had a flood in your basement, and someone handed you a free bucket. And now you’re going over to people and bragging about the free bucket.

And you think, “All my expenses are still a lot, despite the $35. I need some more validation here.” So now the whole satisfaction that you can still wring out from that $35—which was long gone before you even got home—is bringing up that story again and again to new people.

And not just anyone. Sometimes the person you’re telling it to can kill the entire thing. OK, so for example, the menorah I bought normally costs $225 dollars. I paid $15. (I promise I’m only telling you this for illustrative purposes.) So my wife and I come home, and my wife says to our teenage daughter, “Guess how much this menorah usually is!” And my daughter says, “I don’t know.” She has zero frame of reference for the price of menorahs. So I said, “Here, look at the sticker underneath.” It said $225. And I said, “Now guess how much we paid for it!” And she said, “Two dollars and 25 cents.” And I said, “You ruined my story.” And she said, “Sorry, I didn’t know what you wanted from me.”

You’d think telling your kids would be more satisfying. They actually do directly benefit from money you saved; yet, if you come home to your kids and say, “Guess how much money I saved!” they’ll say, “Great! Can we have that money?”

“No; it’s for everybody.”

“You’re splitting it between all the kids?”

“Sort of … It’s going toward the water bill!” n

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send questions, comments, or ideas to Read more of Mordechai Schmutter’s articles at


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