I love my job. Where else could I discover, while drinking a cup of tea and listening to the sound of the rain, that the maker of fancy jeans (in this case, Citizens of Humanity) cannot sue Costco just because they don’t like the fact that an unclassy place like Costco has managed to get its hands on their jeans and is selling them to people who don’t look like the ideal Citizens of Humanity customer. (How does this customer look? Mostly, it doesn’t matter how she looks, it just matters that she does her shopping in a hushed boutique on Sacramento Street in San Francisco rather than in Costco in San Leandro, which, whatever it is, is not hushed.)
How do I know this? Because every day, without fail, I get something called the Daily Appellate Report, a little newspaper of all the cases that are decided by the appellate courts in California, and in the federal court that covers California and even in the United States Supreme Court.
Most of the time these cases are eye glazingly dull, and I know better than to share the details of them with anyone in his or her right mind. But I live for moments when I learn something like how there is a whole legal rule that covers the situation of the Unacceptable Retailer. You know, Costco. I also live for the moment when I see a criminal case and the defendant is named Lenin Freud Perez-Torres. This is what keeps me reading the Daily Appellate Report.
Anyway, the interesting thing about the Unacceptable Retailer is this: how did a not-so-classy establishment like Costco get the fancy jeans they are selling in their unacceptable retail space in the first place? The case I read does not answer this question, but I am going to hazard a guess, which is what I do when I read things and the most interesting questions are not answered. My guess is that, although Citizens of Humanity is too good to sell their jeans to Costco, there happen to be Acceptable Retailers, retailers Citizens of Humanities happily sells to, who have no such compunction. And small wonder.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have very tight, very expensive jeans on my shopping list this year. (I never did, but let’s ignore that for a moment. I’m going to guess that there actually ARE many shoppers who have interlineated this item right off their shopping lists.) So, there you are in your hushed store on Sacramento Street, staring at the stacks and stacks of unsold Citizens of Humanity jeans. You look around and realize your store is hushed because no one is visiting it, not because it is such a quiet temple to beautiful fashion that no one ever talks inside it. You find yourself wishing your store was a little noisier, like … Costco! After that, it is the work of a moment to bundle up all those jeans (indeed, you might even place an extra large order for them), and take them over to Costco. There, in between sampling biscotti and vegetarian lasagne, you sell these pants to the Unacceptable Guy at Costco Who Buys Luxury Items and Resells Them at Acceptable Prices.
This proves several things. First, it shows that lurking inside the apparently chilly heart of the Acceptable Retailer who looks at you cross-eyed when you walk in the door, is the Unacceptable Retailer. It also proves that the Unacceptable Retailer is not someone we should look askance at, because they generally charge Acceptable Prices. And, in the case of Costco, they also pay decent wages and provide health care. Third, in case you are wondering, Citizens of Humanity cannot actually win in a lawsuit against Costco if Costco got the pants without stealing them or doing some other bad thing to get its hands on them.
Fourth, it proves that on a day when it is raining really, really hard (there were actual “thunderstorm warnings” on the radio this morning which made me totally laugh because it just proves what weather wimps we are here in northern California) and I see a lot of homeless people on my way in to work and think about how many people are hungry and cold, the idea of Acceptable and Unacceptable Retailers, really bugs me. What I think today is that it’s unacceptable that it’s hard to find a job and easy to lose one, and that people are hungry and cold. And I see too that this case (which began in 2006 and is still going strong) is a leftover from another age, a time when many people plunked down their credit cards, walked away with $200 jeans, and thought maybe that would make them happy. How and why all that occurred is beyond me today, but I will say that it is heartening that for more and more people the Acceptable Retail Experience involves going to Costco and buying food for the food bank, which is all to the good, in my view.