PoleMart

Hi, Cheryl

The Sierra Nevada had run out so not much line. Down in the lower right are some genuine postal mail bags that have been there for a while. Maybe a card for you?

South Pole has exactly one store, usually called “The Store” but known sometimes as PoleMart. It’s cash-only — no credit cards — although if someone is coming up short and payday is on the way people spot each other. You know where to find them.

It’s also the Post Office, which is also cash-only. That will be annoying near the end of the season when people are mailing home things they don’t want to cart around as luggage. A lot of people don’t go directly home, and traveling with an extra case of crap is annoying. When we first flew in the hallway was packed with boxes slathered with one-dollar stamps. Over the summer we got a machine that prints tapes of any value, so that will be easier. And when the satellite isn’t up, it doesn’t always work.

The big sellers are not pictured. There are some serious problem drinkers here.

The big sellers are not pictured. There are some serious problem drinkers here.


I think the main items moved through the store are alcoholic. There’s a pretty good supply of wine, beer, and hard liquor. When better-than-average beer shows up, there can be quite a rush on the store. We are now out of Sierra Nevada for the rest of the summer, and that is sadness. It’s also peculiar that all of the hard liquor is $30 a bottle. That’s the same price for Triple Sec and Laphroaig. As would be predicted by economic models, the Laphroaig doesn’t stay on the shelf for long, and I doubt the Triple Sec has been moving. At McMurdo there are two bars and you can’t buy bottles. Here you can buy bottles and there’s no bar.

There's also a very big collection of VHS tapes and probably a bunch of laserdisks buried in some berm somewhere.

There’s also a very big collection of VHS tapes and probably a bunch of laserdisks buried in some berm somewhere.

A box came from McMurdo probably a month ago with a supply of DVDs we didn't have. We didn't have 3 seasons of ALF. There might have been a reason for that, as nobody has yet checked them out. I felt bad for ALF and put him on the screen.

A box came from McMurdo probably a month ago with a supply of DVDs we didn’t have. We didn’t have 3 seasons of ALF. There might have been a reason for that, as nobody has yet checked them out. I felt bad for ALF and put him on the screen.

It’s the video store. Amazon and Netflicks haven’t been able to penetrate the market here, since it would take most of the season to download anything, live streaming would be impossible, and the idea of getting and sending back actual DVDs is laughable. I don’t have trouble finding things to watch, but I try not to watch much and am sometimes successful. But I admit that queued up right now is Gremlins.

I came pretty well stocked. I think I can make it out on my supply of toothpaste. I did have to get nail clippers and ibuprofen.

I came pretty well stocked. I think I can make it out on my supply of toothpaste. I did have to get nail clippers and ibuprofen.

You might not have ever heard of those brands of beer; I hadn't heard of most of them. Some of the shirts are nice, but one in the right size can be elusive.

You might not have ever heard of those brands of beer; I hadn’t heard of most of them. Some of the shirts are nice, but one in the right size can be elusive.

You'll note a lot of empty shelves on the right. I think those are empty of baseball caps and water bottles. Otherwise the usual patches, stickers, zipper pulls, shot glasses, postcards, penguin-themed stuff, and replicas of markers.

You’ll note a lot of empty shelves on the right. I think those are empty of baseball caps and water bottles. Otherwise the usual patches, stickers, zipper pulls, shot glasses, postcards, penguin-themed stuff, and replicas of South Pole markers.

There are also souvenirs and toiletries. We are at the mercy of McMurdo in terms of what we actually get, no matter what we request. I believe earlier in the summer there was a shampoo shortage, which has now been resolved. It’s rumored that the McMurdo store has better South Pole swag than we do.

The store manager is not a full-time job, which seems to have surprised the store manager. He was told after getting here that he’d be working in the galley as well. Michael is the youngest person at South Pole this year, clocking in at 22. He’s also by definition one of the most responsible since he handles the store money, liquor, and cigarettes. It turns out he’s also one of the nicest. Although I don’t think he likes ALF.

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10 responses to “PoleMart

    • I’m not sure what would happen if someone tried to corner the market on cash. It would be pretty unlikely; everyone would have to ask for a lot of cash from each paycheck and not spend it. Someone might notice.

    • There’s no ATM at South Pole, but there are two in McMurdo. I get paid in automatic deposit, but I can ask for cash out as well; I get $125 a week which is more than I need now but was useful when I was buying presents in the store.

  1. Why do they bother with money anyway? People get paid from the company and buy things from the company, why not just have a credit account?

  2. Signing the cash register receipt and clearing the account at the end of the season works well too and no piles of cash around. Dan and Whits used this system. My family lived on an island in the San Juans with only one store (run by nuns) who just ran on this system.

  3. I am not — for better or worse — in any position to make any changes. Clearing receipts would only have to wait for connectivity, not the end of the season, so could probably work just fine.
    But the cash-only system seems to work well enough for most things, and so I expect won’t change soon.

    Who would cheat nuns or Dan or Whit?

    • As always, the camera lies. The camera often lies by what not reporting on what the photographer left out, and that is certainly so in this case.
      Yes, there are snacks. I recall chocolates, gum, Pringles, and pretzels. There was a three-or-so-foot shelf with several levels, so I expect there is more I don’t recall.

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