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Here's a tip: Seek a cheaper cuppa joe

Reading my newspaper's tipping guide on Monday, I was relieved that I'm not the worst tipper walking around.

But I was struck by the many services on the list that I do not use. I walk my own dog, don't get massages and rarely visit a hair salon. Big surprise, right?

But there is a point, one that others have made while discussing how consumers are trying to economize. What about people who are already, say, frugal?

We all know families who live without cable, never eat out and shop at thrift stores. A co-worker brown-bagged lunch faithfully to send his three kids to Catholic school. What do these people do when their retirement fund takes a 40 percent hit?

While I have no magic answer, I can share with you that, while driving through west Tampa last Sunday in search of a cheap sofa, I stumbled upon a $1.50 vanilla cappuccino at 7-Eleven. It must have been a mistake, right? But it was rung up correctly and tasted halfway decent.

Little wonder that Starbucks posted a 97 percent earnings drop last quarter. I'll be back to 7-Eleven, and to the Macy's Liquidator at Hillsborough and Armenia.

• • •

On the subject of shopping: What will become of Westfield Brandon mall, long a destination for New Tampa shoppers, now that Shops at Wiregrass is open? When you've Christmas-shopped outdoors in flip-flops, is there any turning back?

And this is a tangent, but how much longer will retailers make their clerks ask a gazillion annoying questions to their paying customers? "Do you have our special rewards card? Do you want a special rewards card? Do you want to save 20 percent? Do you want to donate a dollar to charity? Do you want to buy a book for charity?''

You would think, with people standing in line with money in their hands …

• • •

Beware, cut-through drivers, of the newest generation of traffic calming in Carrollwood Village. Two lanes become one, and this time they have real bicycle lanes with little pictures of bicycles and everything. The last set were not really bicycle lanes, unless the rider was Mary-Kate Olsen, It was more of an attempt to narrow the vehicle lanes and get people to slow down. Do what you want to, Hillsborough County. I'm still cutting through to avoid Dale Mabry Highway.

• • •

Back to the questions about the Brandon mall: It's all good, says senior general manager Laurie Goldman. Traffic was brisk on Thanksgiving weekend, as it was throughout the retail world, with shoppers enjoying a bonanza of early discounts.

"A lot of people were out there shopping for themselves,'' said Goldman, predicting that "they'll come back to get those gifts."

Call her an optimist, but Goldman does not expect to lose many customers to Wiregrass, even though a handful of the same merchants have opened stores there.

"We have a very loyal community base in Brandon,'' she said. "People have seen the mall grow up, and it's a tradition to shop here.''

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 269-5307 or sokol@sptimes.com.

Here's a tip: Seek a cheaper cuppa joe 12/04/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:49am]

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