Nothing beats a hot deal.

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2006

Nothing beats a &uot;hot deal.&uot;

The type of &uot;hot deal&uot; I am referring has nothing to do with stolen merchandise.

A &uot;hot deal&uot; is an extreme bargain and once you find it, you better grab it. The vultures are circling and the clock is ticking.

The phrase &uot;hot deal&uot; comes from my father, no stranger to finding bargains. The sheer joy he derives from finding a bargain is a sight to behold.

My dad can spot a &uot;hot deal&uot; from a mile away and likes to use several phrases when describing bargains. &uot;Half of half,&uot; which I think means 75 percent less than the original price, is one of his favorites. Sure he might already have a closet full of sport coats and wind-breakers he only wears once a year, but it was &uot;half of half.&uot; Who can resist that?

The memories of shopping for a new pair of shoes as a kid and my dad getting distracted by the &uot;close out&uot; rack replays in mind whenever I enter a mall.

&uot;Are you sure you can’t wear a size nine,&uot; he might ask with amazing subtlety. &uot;What about these cleats for football?&uot;

&uot;No dad, those are baseball cleats,&uot; I replied with frustration.

When the decision was finally made on which pair I wanted, I would see my dad take the salesperson to the side and begin a quiet discussion with him. To most people this might seem unusual, but I learned quickly what was happening. The talented bargain hunter was angling for one last attempt to save a few bucks, often persuading the salesperson to cut the price.

&uot;It never hurts to ask,&uot; he has told me many times over the years.

My dad never met a stranger and loves to talk to new people (even if they don’t speak English), so asking someone to reduce the price of a pair of athletic shoes doesn’t faze him, in fact he loves it.

Unfortunately, his shy and easily embarrassed son was mortified as the deal making went down and looked desperately for something to hide behind. My sister often complained vocally, but my dad responded with the &uot;born during the depths of the Depression&uot; story and our protests were immediately extinguished for fear of hearing the long version of the story.

Almost everyone loves a deal, the rare exception being people who feel bargain hunting is beneath them (but those people have never really worked a day in their life).

Calling someone a &uot;penny pincher&uot; or &uot;tight&uot; might be an insult to most people, but not to a Campbell. Campbell’s wear those titles like badges of honor.

In today’s world, bargaining is different. Most prices are usually set in stone, especially if you are shopping at a big retailer.

Luckily there are many cultures around the world, especially in lesser developed countries, where bargaining is expected and merchants are insulted if you don’t test their negotiating skills. Saving a few bucks is one thing, but the entertainment value of haggling over a wool sweater with a descendent from the Inca Empire in a dusty South American town is priceless.

Now that I am older, hopefully wiser and hardened by the realities of supporting myself, I appreciate my Dad’s never-ending attempts to find bargains. I admire his commitment to saving a little money whenever he can and have a good laugh whenever I witness his skills. He never said no to my sister or me when we really wanted something and would make any sacrifice to help us if we needed financial assistance.

The ultimate tribute to my dad’s bargain hunting is the great pleasure I now take in finding a &uot;hot deal.&uot; Searching the internet far and wide for the cheapest flight or least expensive MP3 player sounds a little different than old-fashioned bargain hunting, but a deal is a deal.

Pardon me while I gloat over the $100 I just saved.