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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/8/09

Through the consumerism beast, it has left many of us buying junk from China

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Message Mary MacElveen
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As one reads this Newsday Op-Ed piece concerning the death of Fortunoffs which has been a predominant retail force for decades here on Long Island, it is at the end important lessons are learned in order to save failing businesses.


If you are a boomer like me and live within the New York tri-state area, you have witnessed over time, the deaths of Abraham and Strauss, Arnold Constable, Best and Company and other notable stores.  Within these stores and especially Fortunoffs, one could purchase quality goods.  Yes, you paid a higher price-point for what you bought, but these goods were durable and often passed down from family-to-family. Yes, even clothing was passed down from one to another and they were called hand-me-downs.  Try passing down a garment bought at Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Target.  Good luck!


In reading the news last night while logged onto AOL, I was astonished, but not really to read where Ann Taylor will be closing 163 stores where it originally stated it would only close 117.  The only part is what truly bothers me since this store is where Americans could purchase durable goods.


As we shop we must make our dollars go further and that is where purchasing quality goods must be at the forefront of our minds.  Quantity is not everything as we pile into our local Wal-Marts (cough, cough).  If you are purchasing any garment, do the seam test.  By pulling on both sides of a seam, if you can see through to the other side, that garment is not worth it.  Most of the goods sold at higher end department stores are quality made goods which will withstand the care of them and will last for years if properly taken care of.  If a garment calls for it to be dried flat, do not hang it up.  If it says to dry clean only, then do so.  Besides you are helping to keep dry cleaning businesses open. Take care of your garments and they will take care of you.


Also that is why I do not purchase garments on the Internet.  As a person with a retail background having worked for Lord and Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue, I inspect the clothing by touching it and to see if it passes this seam test.  You cannot do that seam test on clothing purchased on the Internet.  If you truly want to make an investment in how you present yourself to the world, go to a store instead of purchasing clothes on the Internet. 


Another factor to think about is, different manufacturers have differing ways of sizing their products and you cannot tell that from purchases over the Internet.  By going to the store and actually trying them on, you can actually see how the garment looks on you.  You cannot tell that from looking at a picture of it on the Internet.  It saves money too.  By purchasing clothing in a store versus the Internet, you are more aware of how much you are spending and how many items you are about to purchase.  Mouse-clicking acts counter to that.


Having worked for L&T and Saks, in their stores are alterations personnel; try finding one in a chain store.  For you men out there, a properly fitted suit makes a statement to a future employer instead of one bought off the rack at a lower priced store.  It tells that employer, you are serious about the job you are applying for.  When this economy begins to recover, you want to be at the front of the pack and not way behind it.


Higher end stores have far better trained sales employees that can aid you in your shopping experience.  They know what matches and can suggest to you how to make your dollar stretch further.  They will often take time to alert you to future sales.  They are professionals in my book. At Saks, we were required to have a little black book with a list of our customers and when we were not actively selling on the floor, we were to be on the phones with them.  Do you see that at Target, K-Mart or Wal-Mart?  At L&T and Saks, I knew my customers by their first names and that is how you sustain a business.  The song “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” from the sit-com “Cheers” is what comes to mind and it does make a difference.


Over time, we as a nation have bought into this notion that buying quantity was more important than buying quality.  We were feeding the beast of consumerism.  Well this beast came back and bit us as we have been forced to throw away more.  It is also at the very heart of this economic firestorm as people charged more and more on their credit cards. It used to be where we invested in our clothing.  That little black dress bought at a high end department store would withstand the test of time versus one that is purchased at a lower end store.  Again, with proper care the higher priced black dress would stay black as opposed to fading and pilling.


Yes, I have bought clothing at cheaper chain stores such as Targets and even with the proper care by reading the care label, the garment has been known to fray and fall apart.  My dollar did not buy me anything by shopping at these lower priced stores.  It frankly bought me junk.  Junk often made in China.  So, as they get rich, I am left wearing a cheaply made garment not worth the money I spent on it and one where I am too embarrassed to be seen wearing it.


Referring back to that article on Fortunoffs, it was this one line that caught my attention, “We need to go back to the hard-working entrepreneurial spirit of individuals such as Max Fortunoff.” In essence, we must do everything possible for our financial future as a nation to encourage future entrepreneurs to open their own businesses with quality goods.  Hopefully goods made right here in America.  I would rather purchase one item that is of high quality made by American hands than ten which come from China.


As far as buyers go, there is far more status to being a buyer for a quality department store such as Lord and Taylor then for Targets.  I know I am sounding elitist here, but I do crave the return of stores that do sell quality over quantity.  Through this consumerism beast, it has left most of us buying junk and I for one crave quality.  Quality coming from hard-working Americans versus the junk coming from China.  Imagine if you will a future when you will see a return of the “Made in America” label.


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I am a writer who currently writes pieces for my own blog I have been published by, and I was a guest on the Jay Diamond Radio Show on WRKO in Boston and have (more...)
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