Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mt. Olive Pepper Rings Jimmy Fund Shopping

a nice cryptic title. No, it has nothing to do with George Bernard Golf Club Leans To One Side. Well, almost nothing.

See, there's this charity called The Jimmy Fund. If you're from Boston, I don't have to explain anything about it. It's been associated with the Red Sox for well over 50 years and is a beloved local institution. However, if you're from, say, Walla Walla, you might not know what it is. I'll explain.

The Jimmy Fund raises money to combat childhood cancer and to conduct research into cures. It is called The "Jimmy" Fund in honor of one of the earlier patients at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the overseer of the charity. Stories of the love former patients have for the people associated with the clinic, and the charity, are numerous, as are the advances made in fighting the diseases. They do great work. It has long been one of my favorite charities.

The Boston Red Sox have raised many millions of dollars for The Jimmy Fund. In Boston, you cannot mention one without thinking of the other.

Ted Williams devoted thousands of hours to the cause, almost all of that time - under his direct orders - with no cameras around, any publicity for himself. He allowed his face and voice to be used in ads raising funds for the kids, but his hundreds and hundreds of visits with cancer-stricken children were his private business and he refused to capitalize on them for personal glory in any way. That is, of course, one of the reasons Ted Williams was a true hero.

For many years, Tom Yawkey - the now-deceased owner of the Red Sox - allowed no advertising at Fenway Park except for a lone billboard for The Jimmy Fund that sat atop the right field grandstand. Even now, when advertising revenues are so necessary in the age of free agency and every square inch of available space at the ballpark is rented out to advertisers, the most visible and prime location in the park - the middle of the green monster, the left-field wall - is donated as a space to advertise The Jimmy Fund.

Another way in which monies are raised for The Jimmy Fund? Via a partnership with Stop & Shop supermarkets, there is the Triple Winner Game. It is a lottery of sorts, but every ticket sold is a winner - and not just because by buying one you donate to a great charity. It is, by far, the best bargain in the store. I can't even imagine why every person who comes through the checkout wouldn't buy some of these tickets.

For one dollar, donated to The Jimmy Fund at the checkout counter, you receive a scratch ticket. There are three ways to win a prize through this ticket, thus the "Triple Winner" name. First, there is a chance to win a cash prize. On the right side of the ticket, there are three dollar amounts to scratch. If they all match, you win that dollar amount. Second, on the back of that half of the ticket there is a place to write your name, address, etc., and mail in your losing tickets for a second-chance drawing, in which all prizes not claimed are given away. The best part of the ticket, though, is the left-hand side. It is the "instant win" side.

When you scratch the "instant win" side of your ticket, you are guaranteed to win a prize. These prizes are sometimes cash or gift cards, but the majority of the time grocery items. For your one-dollar donation - all of which goes directly to The Jimmy Fund - you are guaranteed to win at least whatever grocery item shows up on this part of the ticket when you scratch it. And the grocery items are always worth at least the dollar you spent for the ticket. Often, the prize is an item worth much more - four or five dollars.

The tickets are sold at Stop & Shop for about a ten-week period each year. I do the majority of the grocery shopping for us, so when the tickets go on sale I buy a few each week. Usually, I see what my bill totals and then round up to the nearest ten-dollar level. Thus, I end up with an average of four or five tickets a week for the duration of their distribution each year. When I return home, and after we put away the groceries, MY WIFE and I divvy up the scratch tickets. We then see what prizes we've won.

First off, in the spirit of truth in advertising, I'll tell you that we've never won anything from the right-hand side of the ticket, the cash prize side. That's OK. That side of the ticket is just for dreaming and we weren't expecting to win $10,000. If we did, that would be swell, but we buy the tickets to be charitable and to get the grocery goodies.

What we do is save up the many tickets we buy over the ten-week period. We then designate the next Saturday as "Jimmy Fund Shopping Day". For that week, our shopping list contains only those staple items we must have and which are not covered by prizes won on the tickets - things like milk or coffee, perhaps. We then allow ourselves to buy nothing else that week except those things won via the tickets.

It makes for a fun shopping trip, as many of the items are things we'd never regularly buy. For instance, Mt. Olive Pepper Rings. Or, since we don't own a cat, Meow Mix Cat Treats - we'll give those to my Mom, for her cat. And we get some things we usually don't buy because they're not the most healthy things for us, but we figure since it's for charity, we'll be brave and eat them - such as Carando Pillow-Pack Pepperoni, which I'm chewing on even as I type this and damn, it's yummy.

Another fun part of this is that it's like a treasure hunt. Since so many of the items are things we don't regularly buy, we have to search them out on the shelves. Thus, we end up going back-and-forth from aisle to aisle, looking for such cryptic-sounding items as Pepetti Foods All Whites and Mama Rosie's Cavatelle.

(The game is a boon to the manufacturers of the foods and household items given away, of course. Out of the many people who would never buy the products, but who try them because it is a prize, some will continue to be consumers of that product. For instance, last year one of our prizes was Polar Springs Vanilla Seltzer Water. MY WIFE tried it, liked it, and we've been regularly purchasing flavored seltzer ever since.)

So, this Saturday we went to the local Stop & Shop, armed with some forty-five Jimmy Fund Triple Winner Game scratch tickets, and collected our booty. I won't bore you with the entire shopping trip, but I'll give you a few highlights.

The thing you should understand is that, as I mentioned earlier, I do almost all of the weekly shopping. I enjoy it, as long as I don't have to fight any crowds or stand in line too long. Since our Stop & Shop is open 7 days, and 24 hours on six of those days, no problem. I go shopping at 6:30 or 7:00 on Saturday morning and the store is relatively empty.

MY WIFE, unlike many women, doesn't enjoy shopping. Well, for the most part, anyway. I mean, she seems to enjoy clothes shopping but, generally speaking, large stores are not someplace she'd prefer to be. She's usually OK, but on a rare occasion or two she has suffered major panic attacks while in them. So, grocery stores are not her favorite places. Since she rarely enters one, this makes for a very interesting trip whenever she comes along. She sees things she doesn't normally see and stops to wonder and marvel at them.

MY WIFE is not an idiot. However, when she accompanies me to a grocery store, it's not unlike having a ten-year-old with ADD along. I enjoy it, actually. I find it cute and lovely that someone can find so many things to be fascinated with in, for instance, the tea aisle. We spent a good five minutes there while she wondered aloud about such things as white tea, and why it was such a big deal all of a sudden, and oooh, look, Lavender Earl Grey! And Plum Tea? Huh! What do you know about that?

When we hit the cereal aisle, she saw a package of Lucky Charms and said, "Wait a minute. Look at this. Come here." And then she held the box up to my face and regarded me and Lucky The Leprechaun side-by-side, as though I looked just like him.

(This became the recurring joke of the day. We often have one. In this case, she kept picking up various boxes with human or humanoid icons on them, holding them up to my face, and going, "Hmmmmmm..." She finally decided that I most-closely resembled the Scrubbing Bubbles thing, I suppose because he's bald and his bristles look somewhat like my goatee. It takes one hell of a strong ego to survive being told that you look like the Scrubbing Bubbles thing. Luckily, I have one.)

(By the way, just so you'll know she's not an insensitive jerk, MY WIFE invited me to try and find someone on a package that looked like her, too. Knowing that women tend to have many more problems with body image than men, I was sensitive enough to NOT grab a box of Quaker Oats and say, "No, your hair is much darker. Looks like one of your hats, though.")

(Actually, had I thought of it, I would have picked up a box of Powerpuff Girls cereal and pointed at Buttercup.)

(Meanwhile, in another digression, she wondered if there are more male than female advertising icons on packages or vice-versa. Good question. If you know, let us know.)

There are always one or two items we can't find, but we hold those tickets and I cash them in the next week when I have time to devote to a more thorough search for them. For instance, this year I couldn't find those Mt. Olive Pepper Rings. I really wanted them, too. Oh, well, next week, I hope.

Cashing in your Jimmy Fund tickets makes the checkout process slightly long, while the cashier scans all of the tickets. A couple got in line behind us and they had only seven or eight items. We apologized to them and said it might take a little while. They were OK with it, for the first three minutes. Then they picked up their items and moved to another checker. However, the next fellow in line was fascinated by the whole thing.

You see, first the checker scanned all of our groceries and the total was somewhere around $165. She then began passing the tickets over the scanner and the total went down by one, two, three or four dollars with each scan. By the time she was done, our bill was about $70. The guy was amazed and asked how much we saved in total. When I told him it was a bit more than $90, he went, "Wow!" and we knew he had a story to tell his wife when he got home.

Of course, we hope he'll buy many of the tickets himself the next time they're available. As I said, this is the best bargain in the store. It's a painless way to contribute to a great charity. The bottom line, for those of you interested in such things, is that I spent about $45 - all of which goes directly to fighting childhood cancer - and we received over $90 worth of interesting groceries in return. In addition, there was always the possibility of winning an additional big cash prize (the top prize is $10,000 and there are also smaller prizes of $100, $500, etc.) and it's just plain fun to scratch the tickets and find out what esoteric items you'll be eating in the future.

Or right now. A Giant Slim Jim (which is something of a contradiction in terms) was one of our prizes. I haven't had a Slim Jim in about ten years. If I survive, I'll see you tomorrow. If I don't, rest assured that I went out happy.


Anonymous said...

"She sees things she doesn't normally see and stops to wonder and marvel at them." Fascinating; and just what 3rd world nation is she from? :)

Anonymous said...

Smokey thanks you. Looking forward to Thanksgiving and the Mt. Olive Peper Rings!!!

Suldog said...

"Fascinating; and just what 3rd world nation is she from?"