Cool shops HATE when you do this... Is it ever OK??
Brazen Bozo Behavior Ethical Dilemmas. Plus: NYC world-class vintage recon
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The other day we got an unexpectedly vexing question from a wise & trusted Spyfriend about “showrooming” — i.e., hitting a brick-and-mortar store, seeing / trying out something you like, and then bouncing to go buy the s**t online at a lower price…
Ethics question: We all agree showrooming is wicked. But is it OK/less bad if your intent is strictly to purchase a used version of the thing and you just need to try it on for size? I’m trying to avoid buying new mass-produced stuff, mostly for environmental reasons, so when I try on a pair of shoes at a shoe store with the intent of copping on Grailed, it’s not as though I’m depriving the store of a sale per se, because they don’t sell pre-owned shoes. I know there’s some rationalization here but what's the good alternative? — Jeff B.
This question popped up in the Cla$$ified SpyTalk chat room but is compelling enough to tackle here, in all our Infinite Ethical Spyplane Widsom:
At root, what we have here is a powerful showdown between two Spyplane Maxims:
Showrooming — when it comes to the kind of store that sells fire jawns (as opposed to a cursed corpo big box where you’re looking at laser printers or whatever) — is wack and corny. We should want good cool stores near us to survive & thrive, not only because Copping I.R.L. is the most-ideal way to buy clothes, but also because a cool lil’ store “improves the rich tapestry” of a given neighborhood. Screwing over that store so you can save a few bucks is not just immoral but short-sighted, because when you do this you help incur huge long-term costs not only for the health of your neighborhood but for that of the jawns-enthusiast ecosystem…
Also it makes you look like a broke boi in the all-seeing eyes of G-d !!
AND YET —
Buying used clothes is, all things being equal, better than buying new clothes. Not just because of the obvious ecological angle but also because of the less-discussed “sauce angle,” which is that clothes that look even a little bit worn allow you to present like a cooler, more confident and less swag-arriviste kind of person than clothes that scream “fresh off the rack.”
How do we reconcile this paradox? Simple: Don’t showroom if you discover something you like at a good cool store, period, as a rule. Honor the taste and work of whoever it was at that store who labored to bring that piece to your attention by buying it from them. That’s the contract. What are you, gonna step outside real quick to see if that s**t is on Grailed for less, then send JawnWilkesBooth420 a lowball offer?? That’s not how you wanna live, get a hold of yourself.
HOWEVER, say it’s a garment you already knew about & come across secondhand online, but you’re unsure of the fit or the color I.R.L. or whatever, and you realize a store near you carries it so you head there to get some answers in person. (There is a possible ancillary moral good here, if getting those answers in person means you do not engage in the wasteful shipping-and-returns process, buying a piece online only to discover it doesn’t fit you….)
OR, say you discover the garment at a store, and try it on and like it a lot, but you are not ready to cop, and then a few days later during some idle scrolling you stumble across the same piece online in your size, secondhand…
Say, in these extremely specific circumstances, you use the store as a showroom. Kudos, enjoy, don’t feel terrible — but know that your ethical ledger is not clear. O no! You are now in that store’s debt. By how much is between you & yr g-d: If you saved $70 dollars on the garment, you could say you’re in that store’s debt for $70, or you could consider the figure more free-floating.
But there is a debt, and as a conscientious Mach 3+ citizen of Spy Nation you owe it to them. So make a point to repay it — or risk incurring SEVERE SWAG-KARMIC CONSEQUENCES.
P.S. If you discover a used piece you like in a cool vintage / thrift store, then it’s patently uncool to then go online to see if you can find that same piece for cheaper. SpyFriend Kathleen Sorbara of Chickee’s once told me she’s seen people whip out their phones in her shop to do this, which is some brazen bozo s**t. (We’re assuming the owner of the hypothetical secondhand shop in this scenario is not an obscene unrealistic price gouger, but keep in mind that what constitutes a fair price — one that takes into account taste, knowledge, sourcing, cleaning, rent, payroll, etc. — might feel “too high” to you, but that’s not the same as price-gouging.)
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SPEAKING OF USED SLAPPERS & GOOD COOL STORES —
During our early-February NYC recon mission, we hit up a few great shops. The eternally goated C’H’C’M, on Bond, was “between seasons” when I (Jonah) visited, as was the excellent Colbo, on Orchard, whose focus is on “emerging” independent lines such as L.A.’s and austin; New York’s Archie (whose pieces, some pictured below, are on sale there right now); a made-in-NYC eponymous house brand; and the BBSP-approved, Brooklyn-based Liv Ryan…
I met Colbo owners Tal & Eldar by chance on my first night in town, while I was out to dinner at Cervo’s with the Throwing Fits boys, after a lovely drink with Spyfriend Dean Kissick. (I also taped a TF ep where I discussed “the death of GORP,” dropping acid on Xmas & more, here.)
When Erin and I popped into the store (along with the big homie Bijan from Intramural) we chopped it up at length with Eldar, who oversees a clutch of vintage offerings in Colbo’s back room, and who was mad chill.
Beyond that, there in the “quiet space” between unsold FW22 stock and not-yet-delivered SS23 pieces, the most exciting shops we hit were a handful of truly world-class vintage spots: