By Lisa Schumaier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday January 23, 2003
There is one on every street corner in Tucson. They blend in with their surroundings, but like a stalker in a crowd, it is difficult to distinguish the harmless from the hazardous. College students need to clothe themselves · with the truth about thrift stores.
We all have a couch from Value Village or a pearl-snap shirt from Goodwill. You weren't number 21 in the Tucson Bowling League ÷ you got that too-snug tee for fifty cents at the Salvation Army. As treasured as thrift stores are to college students, there is a certain hush-hush on the matter. Is it unseen observation? Or perhaps it is major class discrimination. The discrimination is so subtle it is almost imperceptible. But, like carbon monoxide, it is threatening if not detected. I am not aware of any precedent on the matter, but today is the day. Thrift stores need to be officially discussed. In fact, they need to be subpoenaed. The prior belief that thrift stores are helpful to the poor is a white-collar lie. Yes, these establishments provide those in need with affordable clothes, but in actuality, they are doing more of a disservice.
The classic rock they play in the store is appreciated; there is nothing like some Chicago when sorting through the underwear rack, inspecting for holes or skid marks. Background music is significant, though, because it is reminiscent of high-end fashion boutiques at the mall. These similarities are good, but there needs to be more. Just because you cannot afford to spend half your tip money on something to keep you warm through the Tucson winters should not mean you sacrifice all the other shopping liberties to which non-thrift consumers are entitled. I motion to fuse retail and resale, inventing re-stale. Re-stale will end shopping elitism and store hierarchy associated with class, asserting more respect to the poor.
When you buy a pair of jeans at Urban Outfitters, you are not paying to try them on. The dressing room is an entitlement, just like a restroom at a restaurant. Most thrift stores do not have dressing rooms. Not in the Beverly Hills sense, but in the shower-curtain-tacked-up-in-the-corner sense. I do not need someone standing by with a number to hang on the doorknob, because in this makeshift closet, there is no doorknob. I am not asking for surrounding mirrors or a salesperson available to get me a different size; I just need to know that these Levi's won't give me a camel toe. The most discourteous part of it all is that I try on the clothes anyway. Some innocent kid accidentally sees my ass, or at least upper thigh, every time I go in there. That is just not decent. If the interstate highway did not have rest stops, you would end up peeing on the side of the road, correct? And that is congruent with another complaint.
You are unable to return anything. I would not have a problem with this, except that I cannot try anything on. "Buy before you try." That is the real motto. How is this helpful to the poor? They spend all their money on a pair of pink stretch pants for their 8 year-old daughter only to find out that they end up looking like boxer-briefs. And then they are threatened by the "store policy" that nothing is returnable, and next thing you know, the kid ends up in a school shootout because everyone tormented her about her funny clothes in grade school. A store policy is real clever when it can produce estranged psychos. Sounds more like caste policy. Where is this practiced anywhere else? Waiting until home to realize that the left sleeve is substantially shorter than the right? College students are known to have physical problems, but those problems are STDs, not limb disparity. The working class deserves to know if the clothes they are buying are symmetrical.
The higher classes assume that everyone else is so grateful thrift stores exist, that they are willing to take anything. We are still buying the products. Money is like a contract ÷ any amount is deserving of some sort of guarantee. Take, for example, the used and crumpled tissues and handkerchiefs you find tucked in the pockets of men's trousers. Three dollars should assure you, no matter which class you belong too, that they are not polio-infested. And if they are, give us our cash back. (Although some unsuspected items are appreciated. Yesterday, I opened the drawer of a dresser that was for sale and found a package of saltine crackers, unopened and in mint condition.)
When you buy from a thrift store, you are buying a thrift store state of mind ÷ one that says since you are not rich, you are unworthy of basic shopping rights. You may think you are getting a bargain, but what you are actually getting is a steal. Yes, a consumer robbery of lower-class worth. Let us be intelligent patrons; support thrift stores, but keep a carbon monoxide detector around for "theft" stores. Ask to talk to the manager about installing a shower curtain to try on potential purchases. Ask how much it costs to change store policy. Then ask him how much they are willing to charge for peoples' dignity.