Shopping holiday might be overrated

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2006

I was bound and determined NOT to go shopping this weekend.

Growing up in Ocala, Fla., we&8217;ve had &8220;no sales-tax&8221; weeks for as long as I can remember.

Like many parents in Shelby County, my mom would take advantage and go to Staples for Nike notebook binders and wide-ruled paper and enjoy the benefit of no sales tax.

But when it came to clothes shopping, we steered clear of the Ocala Paddock Mall, and it wasn&8217;t because of the crowds.

Like many shoppers perhaps noticed this weekend, the less than ten percent sales break doesn&8217;t necessarily mean you will find good deals on clothes. For me, it definitely doesn&8217;t justify tackling over-crowded shopping malls.

No, when my parents still bought my clothes and gas was 99 cents a gallon, every sales tax holiday we loaded up for the St. Augustine outlet centers, where we were guaranteed to find actual good-deals on clothing and shoes, plus the tax break.

Unfortunately, my husband informed me on Friday that he needed a new sports coat or blazer for a business trip he was taking Sunday. Saturday, I geared up for the masses, and donning closed-toed shoes, a breathable cotton shirt and a tightly zipped purse, we went to the Galleria.

It wasn&8217;t too bad, but then again it was about 4 p.m. and most of the serious shoppers had already wound down. I decided to give in and check out a favorite store, just to see if MAYBE there were any sales going on. I found nothing but what I expected &045; long lines for both the dressing room and register.

With almost a guarantee for good business, many stores in the Ocala Paddock Mall and Galleria alike offer shoppers few or no sales during tax-free holidays, especially when the stores cater more to a younger, school aged crowd.

I even noticed at Wal-Mart that many prices on tax-free items hadn&8217;t been rolled back.

I&8217;ve heard this holiday compared to day-after-Thanksgiving shopping, but the savings are definitely not the same.

I heard some families spent the night at the Wynfrey Hotel in the Galleria to be among the first to enjoy the &8220;savings.&8221; Would you really end up saving money doing that?

Here&8217;s an idea &045; let&8217;s follow Alabaster&8217;s lead. Instead the state losing a lot of money for little savings for families and BIG profits for stores, keep the sales tax in place for customers and donate that money directly back into schools.

That way, families with children will reap the benefits where it counts the most &045; their child&8217;s education.