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Rich: Shopping companions must know the rules
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A woman, over the course of her life, will learn who she can shop with and who she can't.

There are friends who will tell you that everything looks good on you, when it doesn't. There are other friends who will tell that nothing looks good on you, when it does.

There are friends who will want to shop in places too pricey for your pocketbook. There are other friends who will want to shop in places too cheap for your pocketbook.

Choosing shopping buddies is one of the more important tasks in a woman's life.

Now, I am about to add another name to my "Don't Shop With" list. My brother-in-law, Rodney.

It all started when it became clear that my lawn mower, held together for the last year or two with string and wire, had to be replaced.

"Miss Ronda, I know you don't want to do it, but you've got to buy a new mower," Brandon said. "This one has finally given up the ghost."

"Oh Brandon, can't you get another month or two out of it?" I asked.

"No ma'am. It's over this time, once and for all."

I have a list of advisers I turn to when I need help on things with which I have no expertise - which is often. Rodney is my expert on all things mechanical. When it comes to equipment, Rodney knows about it and usually owns it. Remember, he's the one who taught me how to drive his Bobcat. I called him.

"Sadly, I need to buy a lawn mower. I want to get one of those zero turns."

Now, Rodney likes to be needed, which is a good thing because there's no one more needed in our family than Rodney. He's eager to help and has great follow-through skills.

He was feeding cows when I called (you gotta love a farmer who totes a cell phone to the pasture), but he gave me a name and phone number. Rodney called a couple of times to see what I had found out but I had been unable to get in touch with the guy.

"Well, I'm pulling into the tractor place right now," he said. "I'll see what they've got."

Since the place was two miles from my house, I said, "I'll meet you there."

I drove up to find Rodney sitting on a fine-looking lawn mower, fiddling with all of the controls.

"How much is this one?" I asked as I walked up. That's always my first question and since I had already given Rodney my price range, I assumed he was sitting on a mower I could afford.

He shrugged. "I don't have any idea."

First rule in choosing shopping companions: Don't shop with anyone who picks out first without checking price.

Turns out that the mower was $1,000 higher than the high end of my price range. I cut my eyes over at Rodney.

"It's worth it," he said simply.

Rule two: Don't shop with anyone who will talk you into spending more than your budget.

Kabe, who owns the tractor place, came over to talk. Rodney spied a bigger, nicer mower. It was another $1,000 higher.

"Don't you think she'd be happier with this one?" Rodney asked about the pricier one.

Kabe, who I will take shopping with me, shook his head. "No, for what she's got to do, this one'll do the job."

A few minutes later, Rodney, not to be deterred, asked again. "Sure enough, don't you think she should get this one?"

I glared at him but the honest salesman stood his ground. "No, I really don't."

Now, I have a new mower and a revised list of shopping companions. Gee, I sure am going to miss Rodney, though. He may overspend, but he's awfully entertaining.

Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Sign up for her newsletter