Yesterday I had a post about this ridiculous shirt for girls and I was saying to a friend it reminded me of when I managed the kids’ clothing department at Macy’s and we had g-strings for babies. Okay, maybe not g-strings. And maybe not babies, exactly.
You know how you go into a lingerie department and they have those giant tables of panties? I’m going to give you some highly technical retail jargon here: They’re called table panty panties. And to make them look nice, one must fan one’s panty tables. A dream job, I believe, for the friend I was talking to–professional panty fanner. But that’s another post. So within the last ten years the genius merchants for department stores thought there should be table panties for the girls’ 7-16 department.
Let me digress a moment. Does anyone remember those little girl undies that were made of cotton lawn or something? Something that didn’t stretch. And they had eyelet around the leg openings. They looked a little like a tennis panty. I don’t know if they were just a Southern thing or not. I think I had to wear those until I was 16, so the thought of a ten-year-old girl getting silk drawers was NOT anything in my worldview. Evah.
So, yeah, we had silk sting bikini panties for pre-teen girls. Niiiice. I will give credit to store management and regional merchandisers at the time for being horrified. What most people don’t know is how little control individual stores have over their inventory. Like about none. I think we pretty much hid them in the stock room until we had a corporate visit or something. When we did put them out, they didn’t sell very well. I attribute this more to the region than anything. Fortunately, I neither manage a kids’ department nor am tasked with the buying of clothes for a size 7-16 girl anymore. Seeing those things would make me go ballistic, I fear.
Then I was telling him about the “Boys Are Dumb. Throw Rocks At Them” shirts. That one almost cost me my job. Not okay. I still see that shirt from time to time and it makes me stabby. Oh, and there was the Peppermint Patty Incident.
Y’all know Peppermint Patty, right? Calls Charlie Brown Chuck? Wears sandals no matter the weather? Okay, see, a few years ago the vintage-look graphic t-shirt fad hit. And it hit BIG. In the juniors’ department, we had all sorts of vintage graphics. Real brands, fake brands. Made up camp names (I’m looking at you, Old Navy) and fake teams. Colleges and kindergartens. Real bands and fake ones. If it was shrunken and distressed, it sold. Character shirts were big, too. So it was no surprise when we got all these Peanuts character shirts.
Oh, but this is Memphis. And y’all, Peppermint Patty is gay.
Now this is the part where I say HOW TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS THAT IS. One? First? Peppermint Patty’s like ten. Second? SHE DOESN’T EXIST. She’s a cartoon character. I mean, forget the complete and total idiocy you’re guilty of by assuming she’s gay. Do you know why she exists? Charles Schulz wanted to create a girl character who defied the gender stereotypes of the late ’60s and early ’70s when she was DRAWN. She was also the first character to come from a single-parent family. THAT MUST BE WHY SHE’S GAY, AMIRITE?
But we were asked to take the shirts down because we were promoting the gay lifestyle. I don’t remember the actual sequence of the events. I don’t remember if we were shipped the shirts and took them down, sent them back, or didn’t put them up at all. What I know is that we were not to sell the shirts because Peppermint Patty is gay, and therefore the most threatening thing to our teenagers since Elvis and his hips.
The thing of it is that retailers aren’t that bright. I mean, they aren’t that imaginative. Buyers don’t buy on gut-level instinct. Those days are over. There’s a reason you see nine million racks of cargo shorts in the boys’ department and twelve million pink sparkle shirts in the girls’ department. It’s because they sell at a profit. And don’t make the mistake of thinking just because it’s on the clearance rack it’s not profitable for the retailer any more. Private labels have profit margins wide as my ass. They’re big, is what I’m saying. And most department stores are heavy on the private labels because they feel it’s the only thing to distinguish them from their competitors. Maybe they can’t beat So-And-So’s price on Levis or Polo, but they can sell the same thing under a different label and beat So-And-So every time.
Heather Armstrong of Dooce.com has been criticized by some for taking to her blog and Twitter when she’s had issues with companies. It’s ridiculous. Her money spends just like mine. She earned it just like the rest of us. If she’s unhappy with a product or service, she’s got every right to bitch and moan every way she pleases to get satisfaction. That sounded backhanded. What I mean is that social media is a great tool for companies because it allows them instant feedback on products and services. I happen to think if you don’t want people with millions of Twitter followers to tweet about your crappy product, don’t sell a crappy product. And, yeah, it’s just that simple.
The only way dreck like PRETTYPINKPRINCESS SPARKLE UNICORN CRAPFEST™ shirts won’t get sold is if we don’t buy them. Ultimately, the ball is in our court. This is an end-user issue. Social media is a great way to let retailers know when we’re upset. They respond, they really do. So, yeah, there’s a reason I take to Twitter and this blog when I can’t find decent clothes in the plus size department or there’s some sexist crap in the girls’ department. I do it because my voice will get heard if I keep at it.
And lemme tell y’all something…this full-figured gal needs new jeans and is having a HELLUVA time finding them. So I fully intend to take to the intertubes to broadcast my distress. You have been warned.