Where's the pot? Straining for an elusive bargain

The ad for Kohl's department store in my Saturday morning newspaper reported the astounding news that Kohl's had the pasta pot on sale. Not an ordinary pasta pot, but the pasta pot "as seen on TV," with the holes in the lockable lid, the mini-me companion pot and free cheese grater.

I waved the ad insert at my husband. We had gone on pasta pot missions before, only to return empty-handed. The previous weekend, Wal-Mart had run an ad insert in the Sunday newspaper something they ordinarily never do because everybody knows they have everyday low prices and it featured the pasta pot! We ambled over that same day, but apparently shoppers had swarmed the store even before church and bought out every pasta pot in stock.

A clerk, breaking the bad news to me, had nothing but disdain for the pasta pot fanatics. "You know, all you have to do is drill some holes in your own pot!" he sniffed. After contemplating a person so desperate for a pasta pot that she would drill holes in one of her own pots, I reminded him that was hardly the selling point. There was also the lockable lid, the mini-me companion pot, and free cheese grater.

Over at Kohl's, I searched every aisle of the kitchen section, as well as every aisle of every section, looking for a pasta pot display. I could tell I was not alone. There were parades of shoppers with all the telltale markers of pasta pot seekers. For one thing, they looked more like Wal-Mart shoppers than Kohl's customers, and they didn't look at any other merchandise. They wandered, wide-eyed and searching, as if seeking a sign from on high. They had children and elderly relatives trailing behind for support, prepared to fight to the death in the event of a battle for the last pasta pot.

But not only were there no pasta pots, I couldn't even find an empty shelf or a sign indicating there had ever been a pasta pot in Kohl's.

It's a conspiracy, I told my husband back at the house. They lure you to the store with the promise of a pasta pot that doesn't exist, hoping that once you're there you'll buy something else. I almost fell for it, too. I had a candleholder shaped like a pineapple in my hand, but I put it back because I'm not going to let Kohl's win.

My husband wanted to give the stores the benefit of the doubt. "You have to get there early," he advised. "You have to get up before the light and look at the ads in the paper, and then be there as soon as the doors open."

But I don't want a pasta pot that bad. I don't even need a pasta pot, considering I'm currently on a low-carb diet. There's just this wild excitement, this daring challenge, in finding a "as seen on TV" product in a local store and saving the shipping and handling, regardless of whether you actually need the product.

If I really needed a pasta pot, I could have ordered it from the TV, or even one of the junk catalogs I get in the mail like Walter Drake or Harriet Carter. Harriet even put it on the cover of her last catalog. But that's not the point. The point is to hunt one down and bag it. A pasta pot scores a gold medal in the current local shopping Olympics.

So the next morning, when the Walgreen's ad insert in the Sunday paper claimed they not only had the pasta pot, but every other "as seen on TV" gadget in recent memory, we were on it! We dashed out before the church crowd and hit two different Walgreen's. But alas, again we came out empty-handed both times. True, they had many "as seen on TV" things, but not only no pasta pots, but no empty shelf space where the pasta pots might have been had they actually ever been there.

"It's a conspiracy!" I shouted as we circled one Walgreen's after another. "It's merchandising shenanigans. They're as elusive as Iraq's weapons of mass destruction." Even the eyewitness account of pot-sightings from the Wal-Mart clerk was now in doubt. Any person who could seriously advise drilling holes in your own pot could very well lie about the existence of a in-stock pots.

The Target store had made no false promises about having pasta pots in any of their ads, and when my husband and I wordlessly gravitated to the housewares section, I knew we were thinking the same thing. Maybe Target was unaware of the pasta pot phenomenon and would just have them, unadvertised and quietly in stock. After all, they often had "as seen on TV" items. We bought our patented Gator Grip socket wrench there.

And Target did, indeed, have a pasta pot, but not the one "as seen on TV." It was a genuine, actually-from-Italy pasta pot. The box had Italian writing on it. It was a better quality pot, more elegantly designed, but still with holes in a lockable lid. Since it cost twice as much as the "as seen on TV" pot, it would surely be a better pot, right? Not a hunk of TV junk. The real thing. From Italy!

"This would be better, wouldn't it?" I asked my husband forlornly. But we both knew the truth, and I put the pot back on the shelf and walked out of the store. We really didn't need a pasta pot. And there's no fun, no adrenalin high in buying something you don't need unless... unless... unless?

Unless it's the actual, genuine, "as seen on TV" pasta pot with the mini-me companion pot and free cheese grater. I can't explain it any better than that.