Yesterday I was involved in a Herculean Fashion Battle. I was the Samson in Samson V Goliath, I was the Chelsea in the Chelsea V AC Milan, I was the Scratchy in Itchy V Scratchy. What was this unholy clash? It was Jennie V TK Max. Previously I have discussed the hair-raising, nail-biting, loveless, joyless, rollercoaster that is the Pennys Binge (or PB as I shall now refer to it). But nothing could have prepared me for the TK Max experience.

TK Max Death Ray

I was at the tail-end of a modest (almost polite) shopping trip with the Mother in Arklow’s Bridgewater Shopping Centre. It is widely acknowledged that Arklow is not the fashion capital of Ireland, never mind Wicklow, and it was only an ambling, sociable excursion with the prime goal being some eatin’ and some chattin’ on a homeward-bound detour.

That was until the luminous, vibrating TK Max sign bathed us in its holy, reddish glow. After a few conflicted seconds, physically weighing up the bloated shopping bags in our hands and the deflating cash balances in our minds, we greedily ‘nipped’ inside, like the guilty bingers that we were. And what befell our eyes? Nothing. If anyone has ever stepped inside a TK Max you will agree that it is a very anti-climactic moment. It is a gaping, white canyon with bare metal rails abandoned in disregard across the floor. A few half-hearted displays shout about ‘serious bargains’ or ‘xxx-treme discount’, but ultimately it’s like the ravaged skeletons of buildings you see in end-of-the-world films*.

Surprisingly, this is the exact ploy that hooks you. I was overwhelmed by the sheer apathy of the environment and I had made my mind up that I would not be a TK Max customer. I casually strolled up to the ‘Absolute Last Clearance Super Discount Below Cost Price’ rail and started flicking. And then I saw a top for €4. And then another one. And then a DKNY top for €7. And here was a Nike Sports Bra for €3 – and this was only the Casual Top rail. I suddenly spied the Evening Top rail, The Day Dress rail, the Evening Dress Rail, Casual Jackets, Activewear, Jeans, Trousers…it was endless. The system was all making sense – I felt like I had just discovered Pi on a broken abacus. So I grabbed a trolley (I was wondering why they had trollies in TK Max – I thought it was a little undignified…but the penny finally dropped) and started ripping things off hangers and dumping into the trolley. Ooh yes, I’ll have that cropped jacket please. Yes I already have a few cropped jackets, yes it’s white and sequinned, but it’s only €9. I could wear it with the black jumpsuit, with the pink bubble dress, I could wear it on the date on Friday, I could wear it for lunch with the girls tomorrow. And what about this dress? It’s actually hideous, but maybe hideous in a good way? In an ironic way? It is Calvin Klein after all and it’s only €15 and in fact, I could wear it with the cropped white sequinned jacket, so I should probably buy it, just in case I can’t find anything to wear with my white jacket. And a parka – I should probably get a parka. I don’t need one, I don’t particularly want one, but it’s only €40.

And on and on this vicious merry-go-round. Maybe I should get these tracksuit bottoms. I have loads, but you can never have enough right? And what about a cap? A Billabong cap? I don’t wear caps, but it could be good for jogging? And the beach? I mean Billabong is all about the beach and if they have a whole section devoted to caps, I should probably have one. And they have reduced yoga mats and skipping ropes. In fact, they have a whole discounted sports equipment section. I am training to be a personal trainer…maybe I should just buy an entire home-gym now? I mean, look at those savings. It’s almost irresponsible not to buy these resistance bands and ergonomic ladies dumbbells.

In a fit of panic, I start accessing this most incoherent shopping bounty in my trolley and realise that I cannot afford all this. So I try to locate my mother for some straight-talking. And then I spot her. She too, looked drugged, and was brandishing a clutch of skirts, bikinis, underwear and…resistance bands. A yelp doesn’t even begin to cover what came out of my mouth. So with unprecedented strength of mind, I abandoned the trolley and walked straight toward her. ‘ I need out’. I’d like to say she frogmarched me right outta there, but nope, I was left in charge of buying someone a present and told we’d be on our way ‘in a few minutes’. I thought if I had a specific goal it might lessen the evil TK Max grasp. That was not to be the case. This time I drifted back to my mother with an even more extensive array of tops and dresses, and because I had passed the previously unseen underwear section on the way, I was also laden down with an arsenal of briefs. Most entirely unsuitable, but in the spirit of massive discounts, all were considered fair game. Then we started to queue and I spotted the kitchen utensils.

Two hours later we departed TK Max. I had acquired a slightly-too-big sports top (only €4!), a(nother) lace top, a garlic crusher and a fairly innocuous bra. My mother had claimed resistance bands, a nautical dress for the youngest sister, a t-shirt, a bikini (that we debated for ages. Was it really worth €12? Would you buy it if it wasn’t discounted? Is the bikini even necessary? All futile questions. The decision was made once the massive red discount sticker was spotted) and some slightly suspect Tommy Hilfiger swimming shorts for my father. Slightly suspect in that they were a) probably too small, b) looked like boxers, c) were suspiciously similar to a pair my father already owns, and d) above the threshold of what we considered a discount.

This may seem like a harmless bounty, but I must stress that I am BROKE. We had already purchased a few things beforehand and our mission was simply to find food. Two hours later TK Max chewed us up and spat us out. And I had to exert more self control than I ever had in my life. I don’t need a second lace top, a bra, a sports top or a garlic crusher. It was just TK’s way of asserting his dominance in the Extraordinary League of Shopping.

* 28 Days Later comes to mind here. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if they used TK Max as one of their locations…