In these tough economic times for real people who work for a living, 7 cents tax saved on every buck spent for back-to-school merchandise is worth it.
Saturday was the middle day of the 11th annual Sales Tax Holiday. Shoppers who flocked to the Rock Hill Galleria from Chester, York and Indian Land - and the place was busy for sure - knew that already. They worked hard for that money they were going to drop.
"I want value," said Stephanie Roberts from Richburg in Chester County, who had clothes and shoes to get at the J.C. Penney store for son Kobe, 9, and daughter Makayla, 7. Kobe, all boy at age 9, wanted no part of trying on shirts and shoes and generally being dragged around as girls shopped to their hearts delight. But this was a money-saver for his family, so he was "drug around" and he was gonna like it.
"I waited to come this weekend to save that tax money," Stephanie Roberts said.
And that statement, about real people saving tax money, is what makes this tax-free weekend great.
Some states such as Georgia have quit the tax-free weekend because it costs the state tax money that politicians can use for whatever preposterous stuff politicians do. It is the politicians' own fault - and our fault for allowing them to get away with it - that government services such as schools and roads and police and fire protection are tied to sales tax spending.
Real people want bargains. They don't care for one second if the tax-free weekend hurts state coffers, nor should they. Kids must have paper and new pants.
What people can do - but rarely do - is examine which politicians voted to rely so heavily on sales tax revenue, then yell at those politicians and threaten to vote them out.
But instead of yelling, people Saturday did the next best thing: They saved a few bucks.
In the kids' section at "Penney's" - real people call the store Penney's, not J.C. Penney - everybody was hunting a deal. The store had a coupon circular, storewide savings and a platoon of wonderful smiling sales people for the big weekend.
"If I save $25, maybe $30, I feel like I have done good for my family," said Holly Chavis of Rock Hill, who had to get everything from shoes to binders to a book bag for her 6-year-old daughter, Harlie.
Deborah Smith and Scott Smith of Rock Hill had to buy for their two teenagers, Scott and Olivia. Shirts, hoodies, shorts, shoes.
"I spent $254.85, but I saved $263 by looking for deals," said Deborah Smith.
Scott Smith, whose hard work helped pay for those clothes, didn't mind one bit - although like all dads and husbands, he was lugged around Saturday like a ball and chain.
The Smiths saved almost $18 in sales tax - their money to keep.
Lary Walton of Rock Hill, shopping for her granddaughter, Diowin, put it this way after saving $11 in sales tax: "I save as much as I possibly can whenever I can, because money is hard to come by."
Cindy Coley from Indian Land in the Lancaster County panhandle had to get son Joseph, 14, clothes and sports items at Hibbett Sports. She waited for the tax-free holiday to do it.
"A few dollars saved adds up," she said, in the refrain of working parents everywhere except at rich country clubs.
Next in line behind Coley was Kay Murphy, buying shoes for son Christian.
"What I save in taxes on the shoes, the school clothes, I can spend that on the school supplies he needs," Murphy said. "It all adds up."
Sales were so fast and furious on sale-item school supplies at Rock Hill's Target that people had buggy loads of stuff. The store sold almost 10,000 of those black-bound "composition books" that teachers require at 25 cents a pop until all were gone.
"School supplies, tons of clothes, book bags, people have waited for this weekend," said Michael Brown, Target assistant manager. "This weekend helps pump up store sales after a slow couple of months, but clearly consumers waited for it, and it is paying off for them and us."
And there it is. Businesses make money. Consumers save a few bucks.
Politicians such as Gov. Mark Sanford - who is rich, a millionaire, and apparently works as much as a few hours each week as governor - loved the idea of a sales tax taking the place of some income taxes and property taxes. The rich saved money. But the rich do not decide, like the rest of us do every month of our working lives, if our kids get shoes or jeans this week before school, then buy the rest of what we can afford after the next paycheck. The rich juggle social invitations, but they do not juggle bills.
But real people who were out shopping Saturday on tax-free weekend sure do.
If the politicians are feeling the pinch from lost taxes from this weekend, let them fix the tax system, not take away the savings from the rest of us.
Evelyn Moss came over to Rock Hill from York to buy college clothes for her son, Edward. She had shirts, pants, what a new college kid needs. Evelyn Moss spoke for the working people of South Carolina on Saturday as she hunted bargains: "I will save enough in taxes, $20 or $25, to buy myself some clothes," Moss said. "I worked hard for that money."