No Return Policy: A Broke PA’s Journey though Halloween Shopping


Costume stores have a very interesting business model. Most of the year, these shops are a veritable wasteland of untouched merchandise and indifferent staff. Then, for about a month and change, they sell cheap products at an outrageous markup to the generally accepting public. Ask about a return policy, and you’ll likely be met with an eye roll from the girl who thought it was a good idea to get the bull piercing in the middle of her nose (You can bet they don’t have a good return policy on those either). While the craftier costumer is perfectly content to make his or her own costume out of a little makeup and old clothes (for example, you can pick up some of those paste-on gunshot wounds, roll around in a sewage drain for a while, and be Gaddafi for a night!), most people have no problem dropping top dollar for second-rate props that wouldn’t cut it in most high school productions of “The Nightmare before Christmas”.

Every year, I find it harder and harder to find a costume that I A) am willing to spend an entire evening wearing, and B) am willing to drop a considerable amount of change to own. Last year, I decided that I was not going to dress up. Then, after some extensive nagging from my friends not to be “that guy”, I went to a costume shop two days before Halloween. Remember when I alluded to one of these places being a wasteland in the off-season? Try going on October 29th. 

“Do you guys have something for Indiana Jones?”
“All out of Indy.”

“What about, a… wizard or something?”
“I wouldn’t count on it.”

“I might have something in the toddlers section.”

I settled on a $30 police officer costume that consisted of a pair of handcuffs and a police badge that read “Special Forces”. The badge didn’t delineate exactly what body of law enforcement I belonged to, but for that much money I’m glad someone was telling me that it was special.

So this year, I think I’m staying home. I’ll spend the evening with Freddy and Michael, maybe pick up some candy corn, and just relax. I’m a bit older, and all I really want this year is a stress-free Halloween. But if I catch enough flack for staying in when everyone else is out, I guess I can pick up a cookie monster mask and a protest sign reading “OCCUPY SESAME STREET!” Even if the mask does cost $20.

Steve Madura is a production assistant for NBC's 1st Look.

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