Words by

Amy Campbell

If you've ever had the privilege of working a sample sale, manning a sale desk, or crowd-controlling the line to the fitting rooms (God forbid there be any), I feel you gurl. 

I understand if you no longer consider shopping the therapeutic hobby it once was.

I understand if you never want to step foot into another sample sale again in your life.

Sales provide a fascinating observation of human behaviour. Simply whisper the words ‘sample sale’ and you’ll notice women transforming into material-hungry monsters. Thievery, fights, mamas spending their week's pay on their darling daughters. I've seen it all and it ain't pretty.

Recognise yourself among these shoppers? Of course you do. Here's what you become when you enter the doors of a sample sale.

The uber-keen doorknockers 

What’s that? The sale starts at 10am? Well, we’d best be in line by 9am! These punctual people are not about to let a sleep-in hamper their chance of securing a steal. They usually travel in twos (let’s be honest, any more would hinder efficiency) and arrive with sneakers secured and flat whites in hand. They are the most prompt of the pack, and don’t mind complaining if doors are late to open. These ladies consider sale shopping a competitive sport. Don’t make the mistake of racing them to the rack, we guarantee you’ll feel the wrath.   

The compliment chasers 

These gals are usually gorgeous, and can sell a sample to fellow shoppers simply by trying it on. But that’s not enough. Taking centre stage (or warehouse floor), they’ll slide into a garment with zero hanger appeal, stare vacantly in the mirror and wait for the first compliment to come. It won’t take long, someone notices and gushes enviously, ‘that looks so good on you!’ to which she’ll reply, ‘I’m not sure… do you think so?’ She knows so. She just likes to be reassured. She’ll try, she’ll stand and sigh, but rarely will she buy. 

The mum and daughter duo

This mum deserves a medal. She’s the most selfless woman in the room. She’s sacrificed her morning to be her daughter’s personal clotheshorse; she can muscle five dresses, three shirts, a sweater and a pair of boots, and all without complaint. She returns the rejects and holds on to the hits, counting gingerly as the pile of pros grows. She’s forever there to offer advice, flatter her favourite darling girl (after all, we got it from our mamas) and most importantly, foot the bill. Thanks Mum.

The ‘I’m going to do another lap’

This gal has cash to burn, and she’s awfully persistent. Guaranteed, she’s already done multiple circuits and her pals are ready to depart. If you didn’t find it the first time round, you probably won’t find it the fifth. 

The angelic unpaid assistant

Every now and then, a little cherub comes along who bestows upon herself the responsibility of assisting the sale assistants. GOD. BLESS. HER. She’s blissfully naïve and has definitely never worked retail, but she senses calamity and wants to play her part in restoring relative calm. She’s either young and innocent, or retired and unnecessarily altruistic. She re-hangs her garments, and those tried by the ten who went before her. Somehow, she seems to enjoy it. It’s her good deed for the day. She is a bittersweet reminder that good still exists in the world.  

The ‘I’ll make it fit!’

When the price of clothing is reduced, conventional rules of size and fit seem to go out the window. Statements such as “It’s a little tight around the toosh” or “it’s falling off my shoulders” are all-too-easily justified by “but it’s only twenty bucks!” You’ll go home, try it on, and wonder what the heck you were thinking. If it doesn’t fit when it’s full price, it won’t fit on sale. 

The faulty forager 

Is that a pull I see? Yippee! Believe it or not, people get excited about the infamous ‘faulty.’ Just like a metal detector, certain shoppers have an eerie ability to scan shelves for a lost button or slight make-up stain. And if they find one, voilà! Why settle for 70 per cent off when you can find a fault and barter for further discount? These eagle-eyed, sixth-sensed ladies win the award for most articulate. And chances are, they’re very handy on the sewing machine.  

The ‘try 20, buy one’ (leave the rest on the ground)

It might not be your day, but don’t punish the world by leaving your discards in the dirt. After a four-hour freeway into the fitting rooms, the floor begins to look like it’s carpeted with clothes. Sometimes, this allows one lady's trash to become another’s treasure, as unwanted items are resurrected and offered new life on a new body. But miracles aside, it takes 30 seconds to re-hang your no-goes. Pls, just do it.

The sample stealers 

Watch out girls, these shoppers are on the prowl, and they’re picking up what you’re putting down. It happens all too frequently, you’ll have second thoughts, takes your eyes off the prize and BAM. Just as quickly as the pants walked into your life, they walk out, most likely in the arms of another punter. Always remain vigilant, stalling at sample sales is suicidal. True, it’s illegal to steal on the streets, but thievery doesn’t exist inside the walls of a warehouse.  

The flabbergasted first-timers

Don’t fret newbies, it’s not uncommon to leave your first sample sale feeling a little disheartened. Unfortunately, and despite what Instagram says, sales are not as glam and jam-packed with goodies as they’re hash-tagged up to be. In reality, the garments up for grabs are last season’s seconds. They are the prototypes that never made it to production. That’s why they’re cheap as chips. But don’t be completely discouraged, a serious steal can be unearthed from time to time. And if it’s your size, it’s free of faults, and you can keep hold of it until you reach the register? Meet sample sale rule number one: honey, take it and run. 

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