Friday, September 10, 2010

Still Life With Robin: The Infernal Thingy

Photo by Tim Pearce
by Peggy  Robin

I just dropped a fair piece of change on lingerie at Macy’s in Montgomery Mall. Every item I wanted to buy came with an enormous plastic and metal security device clamped around one of its straps. This made the trying-on process less than accurate. How can you be expected to form a sense of how well a piece of clothing fits you when you have to wear it with something akin to a camel’s hump sitting on your shoulder, or worse, stuck under your armpit?

However, that’s not what I’m here to decry. The real problem occurred during checkout. While my purchases were being totted up and bagged, I missed the point in the process during which I normally say to the saleslady, “Now please make sure you have removed every single one of those security thingies, because I live far away, and I don’t want to have to come all the way back here just to have one removed.”

The reason I missed my chance to intervene at this crucial juncture is that I was momentarily distracted by a Frenchwoman behind me in line, who began speaking to me in French, apparently under the misapprehension that I was of the same nationality. (I still have no idea why she would have assumed that.) My French is just good enough for me to have responded awkwardly, letting her know that I’m not French and wish I could speak the language far better than I do. She responded graciously by telling me that I speak French quite well (I think we both understood that she was being kind) and we ended up chatting pleasantly, though somewhat brokenly, on my end, during the time I normally would have been keeping my eye on the de-tagging and checking out of my purchases. That explains (though does not excuse) the bra that ended up in my bag with that awful contraption still welded to one strap.

Now, I pride myself on being both a rational and determined sort of person, not easily rattled by little snafus of this sort. I like a challenge, and decided to approach this problem as I would a puzzle. I was sure there would be a way to defeat the device, and was not about to haul myself back to Macy’s and ask a salesclerk to do it for me. Knowing that the Internet holds the answer to virtually any question one might ask, I Googled the words, “remove store security tag.” Sure enough, that pulled up an image of the particular plastic and metal monstrosity affixed to the strap of my new bra. This particular type, I discovered, is a dye-loaded gizmo, which, if not removed by the tool designed for that express purpose, is fiendishly rigged to spew an indelible stain out in all directions, thus ruining the garment of the presumed shoplifter/tag-tamperer.

Immediately, I put aside all thought of prying, pulling, or cutting the thingy in an attempt to free the bra. My next plan of action was to call Macy’s and demand that someone come to my house and fetch the improperly checked-out purchase, take it back to be de-tagged, and return it to my home in ready-to-wear condition. On second thought, however, I put aside that plan as unlikely to meet with success. Customers must do this all the time. How likely would it be that Macy’s (which at multiple points during the past few decades has either been in bankruptcy or close to it) could afford that level of customer service? I was thinking this plan would just take up a lot of phone time, and go nowhere.

Plan B: I thought I would mail the bra back to Macy’s along with my proof of purchase, asking to have the tag removed and the bra mailed back to me at Macy’s expense. This sounded good in theory and I had some hope that Macy’s would go along with it. The downside was that it would take, at best, two or three days for it to get there and another few days on the return trip. That struck me as good enough for a back-up plan, but kept me searching for a faster, better way.

Here it is:  By the time I came up with it, I’d spent enough time studying the contraption to see that it’s possible to slide the security-thing along the short part of the bra strap between the adjuster clip and the plastic loop around which the end of the strap is sewn. Now it’s clear to me what to do. It’s radical but workable. I need to cut the strap. Then I can just slide off the dye-filled box and sew the strap back around the plastic loop, just as it was before.

This is well within my low-level sewing capabilities. So with one snip, I did it! The thingy came off, and I threw it in the trash. But no sense of victory yet. The hard part turns out to be keeping track of the twists and turns in the path of the bra strap through the plastic adjuster piece, and then out and around the plastic loop, so that the bra strap can lie flat and the adjustment clip will still work after I restitch the end of the strap where I made the cut. It’s much more intricate than I thought at first. But I did no resewing till I was sure I had the strap routed and looped exactly right. Then a few minutes of carefully placed sewing and voila! (That’s French for "See! You thought I couldn’t do it, Macy’s, but I did, haha!")

Now if only I could send Macy’s a bill for the alteration….

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