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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Retail Rant

One of the things that go along with buying a new house is shopping. When you buy a new house right before school starts, this means double shopping, because you must do back to school shopping. Well, maybe you don't HAVE to, but I always like to get the kiddos an extra nice thing or two to bolster their moods to begin a new school year. Ugh. That sounded incredibly horrible. My kids feel crappy about going to school, so I buy them stuff. ICK ICK ICK.

Anyway, my plan is to do up the house nice. I want the girls to have decorated bedrooms. I want my house to look like a home, not just garbage thrown around in a disarray of sticking it where it fits. So I've been pricing things and waiting. Today, I put on my big girl sneakers (the ones with holes in them because I hate shopping and haven't gotten around to buying new ones) and hit the stores.

Maybe it's because I'm missing the female part of the brain that makes women enjoy shopping. But I honestly and truly hate to shop. But I went from store to store, looking at the things I'd seen online (being homeless makes it really hard to shop online. Plus, I like seeing things in person). I have three main gripes about shopping. Nothing I want fits me, the children's clothing is not appropriate, and they push you to charge it. So let's deal with those issues:

1. Nothing I want fits. I won't go in depth on this one, since I actually didn't look at anything for myself. Well, I looked at shoes, and they didn't have my size. I'm built funny, so nothing is ever the right size. And I can't sew, so I pretty much find that buying anything for me is irritating.

2. The children's clothing is not appropriate. I am HUGELY irritated with this one. My eldest is nearly 7, which means I need to start buying her size 7 if I have any hopes of her being able to wear it for more than a couple months. I've been looking in the 7-14 section, and frankly, I have to wonder if we're shopping in the adult entertainment department. WHY are we allowing our 7-14 year olds to dress like sluts? WHY? WHY? WHY? They are CHILDREN. Yet everything I see is something more appropriate for a grown woman (and even that I take issue with).

You know, we watch all this stuff about sexual predators and people targeting our children. Might part of the problem be that we are sexying up our little girls a little too much? Granted, I think a predator is a predator. But please, let's not entice them any more by letting our little girls look like prostitutes. Men are visual creatures. They are turned on by revealing clothing. Why are we dressing our kids in a way designed to turn on men?

I think the worst part is that I recently reviewed my daughter's school dress code. They don't wear uniforms, but I seriously have my doubts about finding clothes that actually meet the code. I hate that my daughter has to always wear jeans and t-shirts. (I ended up buying her 6 new t-shirts and a pair of capris. She has plenty of jeans) But I can't find decent outfits of any other style that are respectable and tasteful.

3. The stores push you to charge everything. No, worse, they push you to open up one of their store charge accounts. "But you'll save 10%." Our society is full of people in debt up to their eyeballs. Each year, I do more and more tax returns for people with an increasing level of bankruptcy and debt discharge because they can't afford to pay their bills. We have a negative savings level. And despite the horrific condition of the average American's finances, the stores keep asking you to charge it.

The sickest part is that most of these stores base their employee's performance levels on the amount of charge cards they open. So the only way to meet standards is to ask people to go into debt. I know this because I used to work retail. My friends all worked retail (some still do- they're in *shudder* management). They all say the same thing. If you don't open up enough charge accounts, you get written up. If that happens too many times, you either get demoted or fired. Basically, people who are dead broke (retail pays terribly) are asking others to go into debt so that they can keep getting their paycheck. Sick, sick, sick.

What has me ranting, though, is at Kohls, the sales clerks tag teamed the customer in front of me to open a charge card. They worked her for five minutes. She was very much opposed to it, but they pressured her so hard, she finally gave in. She's reading the terms of the agreement (21% interest!) and they're sitting there, trying to make it sound more palatable, to the point of LYING to her. As they're working on her transaction, she's still debating, but when she says she's changed her mind, the application has already gone through.

A few months ago, I had associates at this same store try to work me over. When I told them I would not open another charge card because I didn't want it to affect my credit rating so I could buy a new house, they told me it didn't matter. Besides, I could save $50 by opening the charge account, and it was worth it. No, bozos. It's not. We have one of the top credit ratings people can have, and it's because I've worked pretty darn hard to have and keep a good credit score.

I think it is hugely irresponsible to have people who are completely uneducated in the realm of consumer finance trying to get people to open up credit accounts. And yes, I know, the store has them do it because they make a lot of money off of those credit accounts. But at what price?

And honestly, I don't have good answers to any of my issues. Well, my own clothes, I've considered moving to a nudist colony, but I'm really not interested in letting others view my naked body or see theirs. But in terms of the kids clothes, how do I make my voice heard? Definitely, with my pocketbook. I don't buy things that are inappropriate. But how do I say, "look manufacturers. You need to make clothing that is appropriate for little girls." I don't know. And I don't know how to tell companies that they are making an incredible mistake by pressuring people who may not be able to afford it (which is what this woman's objection seemed to be- and none of the sales clerks suggested she just pay off the balance. They were too busy convincing her how "nice" the minimum payment of $25 is. So the $45 she would have saved would have ended up costing her upwards of $100 in interest).

I guess blogging about it is a start. When I've mentioned bad companies in my blogs before, I have had the corporate office contact me a time or two to say, "gee, we're really sorry." I just wish I could do more. While it feels nice to be validated by a corporate apology, the truth is people are still out there drowning. "I'm sorry Danica" doesn't help the poor little old lady who has a charge card she doesn't think she can afford. It doesn't help the other people who are duped into borrowing money they don't have (and all the retailers are guilty of this. The employees are required to ask you to charge it). It doesn't help the little girls who are growing up way too fast.

I keep thinking of Hosea 4:6 "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." We lack so much knowledge in so many realms of life and it's eating us all alive. And maybe, whether or not my words get the attention of corporate America, it will get yours. And maybe, if we all start making more noise about the fact that the clothing choices are inappropriate for little girls and that the credit garbage out there is way too much, maybe corporate America would actually change. I think, though, many of us don't realize that we do have a voice. We just sit back complacently and watch as the little old lady opens a card she doesn't need because we want to get our cranky three year old home to bed. But we stew about it the whole way home and well into the night. And maybe what we should have done, what I should have done, is reassured the lady that if she didn't feel comfortable opening the charge card, she shouldn't let these barely above minimum wage workers who are only trying to keep their job, not watch out for her best interests, bully her. To the little old lady, I am so sorry. I should have spoken up.

I pray that the next time I see something like this, I have the courage to say something. I pray we all do.

And because there is that shallow side of me, I pray that the next time I do go shopping, I find new shoes in my size (at the right price of course), jeans that fit, and clothing that's appropriate for my little girls. I guess that last bit isn't so shallow. I do really pray, as she gets older, I can remain adamant about dressing appropriately and that she'll be able to hold fast against peer (and societal) pressure that demands she grow up much faster than she should. May our little girls remain little girls for as long as little girls should be. And may our materialistic society refocus on things that are important. Like not using buying stuff as a way to make ourselves feel better.


Anonymous said...

I hate shopping, too! I'd much rather do it online. I used to even order my groceries online so I didn't have to go to the store. Of course, we can't do that here in Podunk, USA.

And I am so with you on the credit card thing!!!

Danica Favorite said...

Tori, it's awful! Why must I leave my wonderful house? Oh yeah, because I don't HAVE one!

Heather said...

Tell me about it. I destest shopping.
Unless it's books, of course.