OK, so we were skeptical.

First, Ocean State Job Lot is just not a name for a store. A temp agency, perhaps. In Rhode Island.

Second, as retail promotions go, its ads are not so inviting: full pages crammed with random products (plastic tarps, cooking spices, pool chemicals) and big red numbers screaming a high percentage off. Makes a shopper more wary than excited.

Third, we’d never heard of the place.

Us, Bag Lady and Shopping Siren, the retail gurus of Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. So how good could the place be?

Good, it turns out. Very, very good.

Located on Route 26 in the old home of Ames in Oxford, Ocean State Job Lot (still a questionable name) sells department store goods at discount store prices. According to the company’s Web site, stores are stocked with manufacturers’ overruns, overstock items and packaging changes, as well as “many areas where our buyers have determined that ‘holes’ exist in the marketplace.”

Um, we’ll put it more simply: Think Christmas Tree Shops meets Marden’s. And grab a cart.

Divided roughly into sections — very roughly — the store offers clothes, toys, food, housewares and items that defy easy categorization (A glue stick with an alien head wearing a cowboy hat. ‘Nuff said.) Prices were excellent. Selection was good, but it was definitely the type of store you wander into, happen to stumble upon an item and squeal with delight, “I need one of these!” or “I always wanted this!” or “Christmas is coming!”

Between us, we grabbed eight future stocking stuffers and two gifts for ourselves. Cardinal rule: Never forget yourself.

• Hotel microplush throw, various colors, $7
Shopping Siren’s sure she’s seen these super soft 50-inch by 60-inch blankets around at local stores for twice as much. Pair with:

• Airwalk flannel lounge pants, men’s and women’s, various sizes, $5
They come in a variety of prints, including feminine pink-with-snowmen and masculine gray-with-a-tiny-skull-at-the-hip. At this price, throw on a pair, grab a throw and curl up with cup of expensive hot chocolate. You know, the double-mocha kind. With milk. Hey, you can afford it now.

• Petnation cat window perch, $10
Shopping Siren’s seen this soft, cushy, windowsill-attachable perch at pet stores for up to $30. Job Lot’s price tag said $14.99. It rang in at $10. Score! But. Box says this perch requires no tools to assemble and cantilever design will not damage walls or window. Which is true. However, it fails to mention the required foot-long strip of industrial-strength adhesive. After reading the directions, Shopping Siren’s put off putting up this perch. Though the free toy that came with it is a big hit.

• Gluguls by Scotch, $1
Glue stick guys with sproingy hair or funny hats. Quick Internet search found their backstory: alien gluesticks stranded on earth, each with its own special power. We have no idea what those special powers could be. We’re a little afraid to ask.

• Pig ears, 70-cents each
Yes, fine, they’re icky and, uh, vivid, but the Dobermans love them more than peanut butter-slathered Snausages. That’s love.

• The Original Bug Zapper, $5
Participate in a Secret Santa at work? Then enjoy: A green, child-sized tennis racket for use swatting and maiming pests. Powered by two AA and laughter.

• Fat Strap bungee cord and hook, $2.49, with in-house Internet coupon $1.50
Oh, Bag Lady adores a coupon! Poke around on Ocean State’s Web site before you go and find a dozen or so easily printed in-house coupons with that week’s specials. Mr. Bag Lady? So getting one of these in his stocking.

• Lion brand fancy fur yarn, 75 cents a ball
We wish we could knit. Baring that, you could always knit for us.

• Polar Bear soda, 6-pack, 90 cents
Flavors like orange, lemon seltzer and diet cranberry. Cranberry contains a “crantioxidant formula” which sounds so totally made up. Maybe let the crantioxidant run around the room at Thanksgiving.

Best find: Cirque du Soleil ballerina doll by Manhattan Toy, $3
She’s got a blond pixie haircut, wires in her arms and legs for supreme pose-ability and a little stand to stay upright. And, right now, she’s selling at Amazon.com for $20.99, plus shipping. Savings we might even don a tutu for.

Think twice: Splats! Cock-a-doodle-doh metal garden decor, $5
It’s a run-over chicken for your garden. Yup, you read it right. A run-over chicken. For your garden. “Ha, ha look at its bulgy eyes and teetering wings,” all your neighbors will say. Or, they’ll report you for lack of taste. Be very wary.

On the road again

Feeling like we needed to stretch our shopping legs a bit, we’ve decided to hit stores outside the Twin Cities for at least the rest of the month. Got a place you’d like to see us shop? Please drop a line.

Bag Lady and Shopping Siren’s true identities are protected by a pair
of stylish, sweater-wearing Doberman pinschers (who would like both pig ears and a window perch, please) and the Customer Service counter at the
Sun Journal. You can reach them at [email protected] or [email protected]

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