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The High Price of Buyer's Remorse


I t's kind of like your first crush, when you fall instantly in love and then decide a couple of weeks later that your object of desire has an irritating laugh.

There you are, blissfully on vacation in some faraway paradise, and you see an article of clothing that everyone seems to be wearing and that strikes you as so utterly right for the moment that you decide you've got to have one of your own at all costs.

So you buy it. And wear it once. And take it home. And look at it a couple of weeks later and get hit between the eyes with the most devastating case of buyer's remorse you've ever had.

HE: Hats are my downfall. Because hats can be kind of festive, you feel good when you're wearing them on vacation, but most of them just don't seem to work at home. I have two tweed caps, one bought on vacation in Scotland, another on a trip to Ireland, and though I loved wearing them all over those two countries--particularly while golfing and horseback riding, where they look really cool--I think I've worn both of them exactly once here in the U.S. of A. They look good, and they're perfect for crashing around in peat bogs, but here in SoCal they're just too damn hot.

I think I've finally learned my lesson, though. Three years ago I was in Russia and decided I had to have a fur hat. It turned into an obsession. I actually considered getting one made out of silver fox fur (and taking out a second mortgage to do it). Then one day a voice from the sky said, "You're a moron. You live in Southern California. What are you going to do, wear a Russian fur hat to a Dodgers game? Get a lacquer box instead."

SHE: Everything is my downfall. Put me in a foreign locale, and the third thing I do is go shopping. (First, I unpack. Then, I check out the immediate area.) It's my way of soaking up the culture. I stay clear of chain stores, make it a point to visit local artisans and seamstresses.

So, already I've set myself up for purchases that end up in the back of a closet or bottom drawer. Take the pricey Panama I bought in Santa Fe last summer. I paid a fortune for it, wore it a couple of times in New Mexico and haven't donned it since. It looked groovy there, with my boots, linen pantsuit and turquoise jewelry. Here? Overkill.

HE: I don't know what it is about me and cold-weather clothes, but I tend to go on vacation in the winter, to cold places, and these duds exert a powerful pull on me. I bought an Aran wool sweater in England back in 1974, and I think I've worn it here at home about half a dozen times. It's beautiful, it's bulletproof, but it can make you sweat if you're sitting on a cake of dry ice.

On a trip to London a few Decembers ago, I noticed that everyone was wearing these spiffy knee-length navy wool overcoats made by an outfit called Crombie. What the heck, I thought, I'll get one. Then, still shivering, I remembered that the pipe rack in my closet probably wouldn't even support a coat that heavy. It also cost several hundred bucks. Saved again.

SHE: How do I waste money on vacation shopping trips? Let me count the ways: There are those four glittery face veils I picked up in Cairo (I used them later at a Halloween party); the handmade leather vest I bought in Texas (wore it to a Western party once ); the stiletto-heeled pumps I flipped over in Florence (gave them away--they killed my back); and the logo T-shirts I buy everywhere. I've found a great use for the shirts: first, they're summer PJs, then . . . dust cloths.

HE: Is there such a thing as non-buyer's remorse? If there is, I had it in spades several years ago on a trip to Switzerland. I went on a day trip to Zermatt to see the Matterhorn and wandered into a sporting goods store.

Inside was the world's greatest ski sweater: light green with red bands around each sleeve with white crosses in the middle of the bands. It was the Swiss ski team's official sweater. The sleeve bands represented the Swiss flag. It cost about $75, which was murderously expensive on a student's shoestring budget.

I agonized over that thing all day and finally got on the train without it. I still have pangs of regret about that one.

SHE: Wish I could get my hands on some of that remorse. I never seem to pass anything up. This time, I tell myself before a trip, I'll concentrate on the area's landscape, museums, parks, people. Forget clothing and accessories. The suitcase is packed. Period.

But after one day--sometimes a few hours--I'm poking around in a little shop operated by locals who thrive on the tourist trade. And I buy something--something I may wear only a few times. So what if it ends up in a the guest-room closet? For a wonderful little while, we had an exotic time together.

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