Investigative Shopping

The Wage List

When we went shopping at Goodwill for items to use in our final project we had a total of $12 per group. With that budget in mind we then used this chart to figure out how much money we could spend on any given single item. The countries on this list represent the top 14 countries where our clothes are made as of July 7th. Everything we bought had to be made in one of these countries and we couldn't spend more money on any item than the daily minimum wage in the country where it was made.



Minimum Wage/10 Hour Work Day






























The Truth Behind the Sale’s Rack.

Everything is not what it seems. Especially at the mall. When you walk into each store you get a different shopping experience. From the price tags to the service of sales people, each store gives off specific feelings that stick with each customer until the next time they take a trip to the mall. Whether its Balenciaga, with its intimidating employees and luxurious merchandise, or PacSun with it's discombobulated displays and groovy music. We were on the hunt to find to see if stores actually follow their code of conduct or if their employees are even aware of it. In Anthropologie the employee was very straight forward and didn’t stutter when informing us of their distributors, but American Apparel was on the contrary; when we approached the sales person she attempted to show us a dressing room and informed us of the current sale, when we finally asked if she knew their factory worker’s hours, she hesitated and said, “I don’t know, 9-5?”  

Now we gathered that there are many different kinds of employees; the ones that answer your questions, lie to your face or the ones who could simply care less. We encountered all of those while trying to find the truth behind the sales rack. Now what do you do when you're done with your purchases? Most people donate their clothes to charity or certain thrift stores. We explored Goodwill and purchased very usable items of clothing with an attractive price tag (four items for under 12 dollars). Although Goodwill has great intentions, and you feel geat for donating, you're actually doing something harmful to the environment and other people overseas. I know donated clothing is a great factor for disaster relief and it serves a purpose for many peple here at home as well, but 90 percent of the clothes we donate get "dumped" in countries like Haiti, Cambodia and across the Continent of Africa. The clothes that get placed in those countries are totally arbitrary. As we learned in the film, "True Cost," the clothing is a burden to the citizens of Haiti and other place. Ever since the wave of cheap clothing from the USA, sewing jobs dwindled. This led to families in debt and foodless tables. We know that this is not the intention of Goodwill and other charities. It's a symptom of the fact that the Goodwill store we visited in Honolulu receives donations from over 300 people on a daily basis. That's more than they can distribute locally. The root of the issue is the fact that there is so much clothing to begin with.


As a group we learned that there are different shopping and fashion environments. Throughout this trip, we became more aware of our clothing choices and how the overall environment of a store affects our feelings in our shopping experience. For example, snobby employees made us feel intimidated and annoyed, whereas open and friendly employees made us feel comfortable and happy. What we took away was a new found respect for sweatshop-free brands and a craving for fixing our clothing intead of continuously donating it.

Field Trip Q&A

          This week, we went on a field trip to Ala Moana, JAM's World, Patagonia, and Goodwill. We were also asked to go to 7 For All Mankind, Burberry, and Michael Kors. While browsing and collecting information, we were asked to consider the following questions:

          Q: How did the stores make you feel? Why?

          A: At first, we were unsure of how the sales people would react to us asking questions, so we were a bit shy. But after, they we very nice, so they made us feel welcome at their stores.

          Q: What did you learn at the stores?

          A: At 7 for All Mankind we found out that all of their clothing is made in the USA. They also get discounts at their store (Nice!). At Burberry, we learned that they invented the trenchcoat, and that their cashmere scarves take over a year to make. We think that this is pretty amazing; a scarf, not very big, can take a year to make? Wow. The sale people also wear the clothes their company makes. Burberry is also a British company. When we went to Michael Kors, we found out that they're required to wear their company's clothes.  Most of their clothes were made in China.  Some select merchandise was on sale, such as bags and shoes. Also, in JAM's World, most of their clothing, actually 95% of it, was made in Hawaii. I think that this is pretty cool, since this was one of the only stores that I've been to that sells clothing made in Hawaii. 

          Q: Which store had the most informed employees?

          A: In our opinion, Burberry's and Patagonias employees were the most informed because they even asked us if we wanted to know more about the company and it's products. (At Burberry, they even let us smell their new perfumes, and showed us some of their clothing.) At Patagonia, they also told us about the geese feathers that were used to make some of the jackets. Did you know that you can learn about the geese and their feathers and their journey from the beginning at the farm to the product at the store by scanning the scan code with your mobile device?

          Q: Was anything told to you that you questioned?  Do you feel that they told you the truth?

          A: Yes, because everyone answered right away and didn't hold back.  The sales people also were kind and seemed trustworthy for the most part.

         Q: How is this experience different from normal shopping?

         A: This experience was different because it opened our minds by having us ask questions.  Also, we weren't allowed to buy anything.  In a normal shopping trip most of us wouldn't even think about asking questions. 

        Q: What was it like shopping at Goodwill with $12 and the wage list?

        A: It was difficult searching for items in our budget.  We took advantage of the fact that some items were 50% off, and chose those to use. We also chose clothing with the most fabric, and the ones that looked like they could be transformed into a new piece. The wage list wasn't as big of a problem with the items that were 50% off.


Not A Typical Day At The Mall

On Tuesday morning, we took a trip to the mall to ask some questions you wouldn't normally ask. Our group, Kendall, Kaydi, Diana, and Camron, were asigned three stores. Forever 21, Bebe, and Balenciaga. In addition to our three stores, we also traveled to other stores as a class. Such as JAMS World, Patagonia, and last but not least, Goodwill. In the mall, Camron and Diana made their way to Bebe, as Kendall and Kaydi found their way to Forever 21. In Bebe, Diana and Camron felt curious as to what to expect, because they didn't know if the sales people would feel offended by us asking questions. At Bebe we discovored that the workers wanted to know what we were doing. They wear the clothes from the store, although they are not obligated to. In Forever 21, Kendall and Kaydi felt like the employees weren't very helpful, and didn't answer their questions clearly. They learned that most of the stores products are made in China, and that they put clothes on sale once they're out of season. In Balenciaga, Kendall and Kaydi felt self-concious because the workers kept staring at them. As soon as they walked into the store, one of the employees immediately told them that photography and vidoes were not allowed in the store. They went out without even finding any information, because they felt very intimidated. Camron and Diana went in to ask the questions instead. After they came out, they agreed that the workers were scary. They told us not to touch anything even though some of the questions required us to touch the clothes. Camron and Diana were told to just let the sales women answer the questions instead of looking around. This is some of the information we got from that store. Balenciaga sells mostly bags, which are made in Italy and France. They use sheep skin, goat skin, and calf skin to make some of their bags. Although they were intimidating, Balenciaga seemed to have employees that knew everything about their products, and the store. We all felt like every store told us the truth about their stores. This mall trip was different from normal shopping sprees because we all agree that we're not usually looking for what materials were used, and where the items were made. We are also are able to buy things at the mall. At JAMS World, we learned that most of the clothing was made in Hawaii. The workers at Patagonia were very helpful. They answered all our questions, and we learned that Patagonia is a mountain range in South America and that the reason the jackets were so expensive because of the lifetime warrenty. Diana didn't understand this because most companies make it so the jacket will break so the customer will have to buy another jacket. At Goodwill, we only had a $12 budget. We had to look at where things were made as well. Having a $12 limit was challenging, because there was so many choices, and big pieces of fabric were expensive (with only $12). Most of the nicer clothes cost around $7-$20 which really suprised us. Our group ended up buying 2 dresses, and a pair of shorts. We all agreed that this was not a normal shopping trip, but we learned a lot!

Ala Moana Experience

-How stores made you feel-why?

•American Eagle: They made us feel welcomed and appreciated us coming in. Sales people were friendly and manager was straight-forward. Store was bright and energizing. Displayed were neat and environment was appealing.

•Abercrombie: It was dark, music was loud, and smelled strongly of cologne and perfume. Workers were welcoming but didn't know where the clothes came from. Manager was untruthful about the sweatshops.

•Gap: Environment was clean-looking, modern, and simple. Sales people were kind but not as welcoming. They weren't truthful about the companies actions. 


-What you learned at each store

•American Eagle: We learned that they have sweatshops. Every week the shipments of new clothes range from 1,2, or 3 times a week. Most of their jewerly is made in China. Their Clothes is mostly made in China and India. Most of their pants are made in Bangledesh and Indonesia.

•Abercrombie:Most of their clothes are made in China and Taiwan. Materials are mostly cotton are polyester. Everyday from Monday to Friday they get 100-3,000 units. The style of clothing they sell are based on the mainland seasons. 

•Gap: Mostly use cotton for their clothes. Most items are made in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Most manufactors are in Asian countries. A lot of clothes are made in sweatshops. 


-Which store had most informed employees?

•American Eagle: Sales people weren't informed where their companies clothes were made, and all of the sales people told use to ask their manager. The manager knew where the clothes came from and was more informed then the sales people were.

•Abercrombie: Similar to American Eagle, sales people at Abercrombie weren't very informed about where their companies clothes are made, so they asked us to ask the manager. The manager knew where the clothes came from and was some what more informed than any of the sales people. It struck as interesting that in both American Eagle and Abercrombie, the information that managers had about the companies' manufacturing practices was not conveyed to the sales associates.

•Gap: As with Abercrombie and American Eagle, the sales people at Gap did not seem well informed, but the managers seemed to have a little more information. Still the what the managers said about sweatshops was confusing to us as we will explain in the next answer. 

•Patagonia: All the employees had a lot of knowlege about their company and the purpose of the resourcful 

-Was anything told to you that you question? Do you feel like they told you the truth?

•American Eagle: We feel that American Eagle told the truth, because the manager told us that American Eagle does use sweatshops. Yet she did not elaborate on this, merely saying "thank you" and stopped talking and left us.

•Abercrombie: The group feels like Abercrombie was untruthful becasue the employees there told us that the company doesn't use sweatshops to produce its clothing. We did our own research and found out that in fact Abercrombie has a poor record of maintaining labor standards and there are many recorded instances of the comapny manufacturing in sweatshops.

•Gap: We think that the manager at the Gap store gave us false information about the working standards the company has. While she did say that the company uses sweatshops in other countries, she also said that the company pays and treats its employees well.  We are confused by what she meant, because no sweatshop can be like that. The very definition of sweatshop is that it has "that has socially unacceptable working conditions." (Wikipedia) From our research we believe that Gap is one of the worst compnaies when it comes to using sweatshops in its supply chain. Perhaps when she says the company treats its employees well, she is referring to employees in the retail stores. 


-How was this experience different from normal shopping?

•It was different because we were more concious of where the clothes were made and the material.


-What was it like shopping at Goodwill with $12 and the wage list?

•Shopping at Goodwill was hard with only $12 and the wage list. The wage list documents the minimum wage for a 10 hour work day ing the top 14 countires where the clothes we wear are made. The clothing we purchased at Goodwill could not be more expensive than the minimum wage in the country where it was made. It was hard finding items in the budget of a person working for minimum wage.