Saturday, November 22, 2008

The warehouse sale

Boy, where do I start with this one?

My friend Mary Clare and I got up early this morning to drive downtown for a Kelly's Kids warehouse sale at the municipal auditorium.

For those of you unacquainted with Kelly's Kids, it's a boutique brand of children's clothing based in Natchez, my parents' town. It's a popular brand here. They sell little corduroy longalls in the winter and seersucker shortalls in the summer and cute little dresses and pajamas all year round. The clothes, while expensive at full price, wash and wear beautifully, which is key, given how much hard use and laundering we put clothes through here at our house. I already own a fair amount of KK clothing, mostly bought at consignment sales and from the outlet near Mom's house. The warehouse sale was advertising drastically discounted prices, so I figured it was worth a try.

Hoping to find a couple of cute things, Mary Clare and I drove up to the auditorium around 8:40. A line of women, dressed in their heavy coats and holding cups of Starbucks, was already wrapped a quarter of the way around the building. As we trolled for a parking spot, three women here, two women there, four women here again joined the line. A few women even pushed laundry hampers on wheels. No kidding. These women were serious. And as we found out later, some even showed up before dawn to wait in the cold and get one of the first spaces in line.

We found the end of the mushrooming line and waited. Finally, the doors opened at 9, and we descended into hell. Okay, no, we walked down the stairs into the warehouse space. But unless you love big eager crowds of shoppers, it was kind of hell-like. Hordes of women were converging around dozens of tall metal hanging racks, snatching and grabbing and squealing and pushing. Huge rows of clothing disappeared before our very eyes, like something out of a science fiction movie. MC and I moved around, trying to find an empty spot here and there at a rack so we could find a few things for our own kids. I got lucky and snatched a pair of brown corduroy overalls trimmed in light blue, and Mary Clare found a pair of darling tights with hearts printed on them. But we were clearly moving too slow to really get the good stuff. And all I have to say at this point is, thank God we didn't have William and Leland with us. It may have been a children's clothing sale, but it was clearly no place for children.

Well, as it turned out, those first few shoppers, the hard-core ones, had run through the space and grabbed enormous armloads of outfits--usually the best ones, like the really nice holiday overalls and dresses--and refused to part with them. They lugged huge baskets full of multiples off the main shopping floor and began dumping clothes on the bare dirty floor to see what treasures they had landed. See, these women were not Mommy looking for a Christmas card outfit for Sally and Junior. They were crusty old battle-axes looking to score as much new merchandise--with tags--as possible so they could take them home and sell them on eBay at a big markup. Security guards pushed their way through and demanded that the women start handing over some of the clothes because they didn't want them scattered all over the floor. Dozens of regular shoppers stood around them, hoping that someone would grudgingly part with that sweet little blue gingham snowman jumper or that long-sleeved pumpkin t-shirt. MC and I waited in vain for a pair of darling little madras plaid pants for Leland, but no one was willing to part with any. Not only that, but when we approached one of these women a little later to ask if she'd part with one lousy pair, she snapped at us. Yikes. Gee, thanks, lady. I hope you get carpal tunnel syndrome from listing everything on your eBay store.

We cast about aimlessly, looking for discards. Turns out most people must have discarded the same things. Strange red-and-white zebra-print jammies. Basic corduroy pants. Little blouses that didn't match anything else. Nothing to see there. So we got in line. No, scratch that. We got in the first line. We waited in a long line to have our items counted and packaged, then we had to go wait in another line to actually pay for our stuff. As we compared our small armloads of clothing with other women in line, a common sentiment was heard: "Hmmm. Do we really want to stand in this line and then again in that one for this?" We weren't the only ones disenchanted by the eBayers. Not by a long shot. That camraderie was kinda nice, actually. It made the line-standing much more pleasant.

So, whew. I like what we got, but was it worth the jostling and jousting? Hmmm. I might have to see how much the brown corduroy overalls are selling on eBay for before I tell you for sure.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jennifer. I was part of the first group that arrived at the sale and assume I am one of the old crusty battle-axes that you referred to. I am sorry you felt that the process was unfair. However, just like you, we all started out going to our first sale unaware of the craziness. But after time, we have learned that the only way to get anything is to come early and in a large group. In our group, we were shopping for roughly 20+ children and in that a few families with multiples. So, yes, we did have quite a few clothes and our group walked out of there spending more than $3,000. And contrary to your blog, none of our items are going to be listed on ebay. Of all the warehouse sales we have been to, there has never been a commotion like this. I attribute this to the other "regular" shoppers that didn't know what to expect. Every other Kellys Kids sale has had women standing in line for hours and the racks are always cleared within 10 minutes. So again, none of us are in this to make money but only to find affordable, quality clothing for our children.

Jennifer Larson said...

Hey, I have no problem with people there early to buy clothes for their kids or their friends' kids, even in bulk. I certainly intended no insult toward anyone there for that purpose; in fact, I hope you got some great stuff.

But there were definitely people there to scoop up as much as they could with the goal of reselling and making extra money, not to outfit their loved ones, and that's when the system breaks down. I just think it's sad when other people can't even get a few things they like because there are some people who take advantage of the system.

Jennifer Larson said...

Whoops, hit "publish" too soon.

Anyway, I certainly understand now that it's first come first served, eat or be eaten, so I'm not going to agitate for change or revolution or anything. I'm just...disappointed. Mostly for the women who were there early, too, but just didn't understand what they were up against.

Anonymous said...


I couldn't agree more! I've never been so agravated! I Live near Cleveland, TN about 2 1/2 hours away. I had my sister in law come up from south Georgia with some friends. We got there at about 9:15 and were shocked to find the racks cleaned out. We had to go around like voltures looking for rejects! Shame on the KK people for such poor orginization! I know I will never buy a KK item again, unless cheep & used! I did not go to their party last month, and I never will.

Anonymous said...

I'm really glad I read this. I was considering going, and bringing my 3mo. old baby. Not such a good idea. I hate that it always ends up like this. People acting like animals over a bargain. Forget casually shopping and picking up a few cheap pieces. This is exactly why I stopped going to Market in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. People get crazy when there's a deal involved.

AAREN1975c said...

Nice post!!