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"I don’t need a purse to buy comics online"
July 16, 2014 4:33 PM   Subscribe

Attack of the purse snatchers: gender and bag policies in U.S. comic book stores
What could a clerk at a comic book store possibly say to a new female customer to make her feel as alien and unwelcome as possible? Would it be some sort of overtly sexist slur, or an inappropriate comment about her appearance? Or could it perhaps be something as presumably innocuous as: "I’m going to need to take your bag before you go any further."
posted by Lexica (126 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
On the one hand, it's a little stupid for a clerk to insist upon a small clutch purse to be checked.

On the other hand...I've been in PLENTY of stores that asked me to check my bag, and they always allowed me to take my wallet and cell phone and keys out and put them in my pockets first before turning the bag over, so...that seems to eliminate her main objection.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:37 PM on July 16 [11 favorites]


Unless you don't have pockets.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:39 PM on July 16 [48 favorites]


(I don't usually go into stores that insist that I turn in my purse. Fortunately, as I hurtle into middle age and respectability, it rarely happens.)
posted by small_ruminant at 4:40 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


Unless you don't have pockets.

Which, of course, is a very common thing for women's clothing.
posted by elizardbits at 4:41 PM on July 16 [61 favorites]


I didn't really start going into comics shop until I was in my late teens. Being of the busty variety, I am sure I was ogled at, but I think I might have been a little too dim (I guess) to register it as having dudes stare at my boobs was horribly commonplace. The first shop to make me feel welcome as a female comics reader was Wuxtry Comics in Athens GA, run by the patient and knowledgeable Devlin Thompson. Then it was Criminal Records in Atlanta GA, where their staff routinely tried to date me because it was "so cool a girl knows about comics." (Not really, guys, I like the same stuff as you do, I just happen to be a different gender.) Then I moved onto a surly French-Canadian owner, who was gruff yet made me pronounce the titles I wanted slowly and/or spell it out for him as English wasn't his first language. (Oh, the laughs we had with me telling him about a Dark Horse title I wanted!) Now I'm onto another indie shop here in Ontario with a sweet but slightly dim pair of owners who are happy to talk comics, not giving a shit about my gender, but genuinely interested in the choices on my pull list. I do wish one of them would stop asking us to hang out with his ferret in the back of the store. (I do not like ferrets. My husband is indifferent.)
posted by Kitteh at 4:47 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Unless you don't have pockets.

True, there is that...I do insist on my clothes having some damn pockets as a general rule, but it's true that I'm kind of weird about that (sincerely - I've pissed off some store clerks who thought they were making a sale but then I saw the thing I was about to buy had pockets and turned it down).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:51 PM on July 16


It's not about intentional oppression, it's about creating an environment—probably often unintentionally—where some people automatically feel like they're unusual and unforeseen for even walking into the shop. It's a subtle way to signal that "you're unusual here," even if no one means to say "you're unwelcome here." No one has to check their purses at Claire's, because it's an environment where women are a given.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:53 PM on July 16 [26 favorites]


I'm a guy, and I carry a lot of stuff, laptop, gym gear, assorted cables and gadgets, etc. so I always have at least one bag, and often 2 on me. I buy a lot of comics, and I remember at Jim Hanley's Universe I always, always had to check my bag. Often it had several thousand dollars worth of gear, and sometimes irreplaceable data and/or items. I never felt like this was an unusual request, and often it was a woman taking my bag.

I know I'm speaking from a privileged position here, but still - this sounds a bit overly dramatic. You've got two hands, use one for your wallet and keys, and the other for browsing. I've been to many other places that asked me to check my bag as well - B&H camera, for example.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
posted by bashos_frog at 4:54 PM on July 16 [16 favorites]


It's a cigar to you, it's a "go away" to me.

As the author of the article says, it's not the giving up of my stuff- it's the getting it back when I'm ready to leave. If I want to bail out for whatever reason, whether it's because I'm late for the bus, or because Creepazoid has been following me around telling me he's going to cut me, I am unwilling to wait til the choad at the counter is done with slowly ringing up 3 of his friends and having chummy conversations with them about the latest issue of whatever.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:59 PM on July 16 [37 favorites]


Large bags are usually treated as separate from purses in most places that require back checks — most museums, for example, will let you carry a reasonably-sized purse but not a messenger bag or backpack. Carrying a big gym bag + laptops + cables feels like a different deal to me than "I have this purse with my wallet and sunglasses in it." I mean, at that point you basically appreciate getting to set all that stuff down!
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:59 PM on July 16 [8 favorites]


We used to have a bag check in my store, but the management got rid of it when they realized it was taking up valuable display place. Some people still ask to check bags if they're heavy, and we accomadate them at the register, but we wont accept any valuables or electronics, since we don't want to be held responsible for them.

We have other security measures in place that work better anyway.
posted by jonmc at 5:00 PM on July 16 [6 favorites]


After spending the past month in Tokyo, where women (and men!) carry not just purses and shoulder bags but rolling suitcases into comic shops without the staff batting an eye, I have decided that I am done with comic book stories in the U.S. If the staff of the offending stores think that I don’t need to my purse on me to feel comfortable buying comics, they’re absolutely correct – I don’t need a purse to buy comics online.

I don't think it's fair to call someone complaining about actual uncomfortable experiences they've had, and a simple decision to not engage at places like that anymore, "overdramatic". Just because you don't find something burdensome doesn't mean it's not burdensome for anyone.
posted by bleep at 5:00 PM on July 16 [7 favorites]


I wonder how many places that confiscate tiny purses only started doing so after a guy was asked to give up his backpack, pivoted around and pointed accusingly, "WHAT ABOUT HER?"
posted by ckape at 5:02 PM on July 16 [21 favorites]


I've never been asked to check my bag in the Seattle shops I frequent. (U Dist Comic Stop, Xanadu, Phoenix). Often it's big enough for my laptop, plus several comics.

(I'm a lady.)
posted by egypturnash at 5:02 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I've only ever been to college town comic shops, and knowing what little I do about the industry (it is, apparently, a challenge to stay afloat even without people reading stuff in-store for free or shoplifting), I always figured the "no bags" thing was more about backpacks.

Not that this in any way disproves this thesis.
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:02 PM on July 16


Whoa -- I'm working on a purse FPP right now and cannot wait to post it! (It's a different manner of purse-related FPP....)

I get her point: if you're caught off guard, you don't think to take your wallet or whatever out, and then you kind of worry about it the whole time you're browsing. It's unsettling - I don't really trust anyone to hold my wallet, even if it's behind the sales desk. They do the purse/backpack check thing alot in Berkeley (CA).

I was intrigued by this part at the end of the piece:
"After spending the past month in Tokyo, where women (and men!) carry not just purses and shoulder bags but rolling suitcases into comic shops without the staff batting an eye, I have decided that I am done with comic book stories in the U.S. "
It's a cultural thing and there is another way...
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:03 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


This is a preposterous overreaction. Having worked in a comic book store, I can speak from experience that someone can lift hundreds or even thousands of dollars of merchandise that would fit into even a Coach purse pretty easily.
posted by koavf at 5:04 PM on July 16 [11 favorites]


That's weird.. I have never been to a store in my life that asked you to check your purse sized bag. Is this a large city thing?

My local shop though is ludicrously friendly. (Casablanca Portland Maine)
posted by selfnoise at 5:04 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I understand wanting to discourage shoplifting but there is a point where your policies have a negative impact on your bottom line. Bag check is typically one of them.

If you have easily pilfered items put them in a display case.
posted by vuron at 5:05 PM on July 16 [9 favorites]


I get her point: if you're caught off guard, you don't think to take your wallet or whatever out, and then you kind of worry about it the whole time you're browsing

Yes, this, really. If someone demanded that I hand over the thing which held the money I planned to spend in that store before I could enter that store I would simply exit the store and spend my money elsewhere. It wouldn't even occur to me to argue about it.
posted by elizardbits at 5:06 PM on July 16 [17 favorites]


I think it's a large city thing, and a large city with a crazy amount of thieves, which not all of them are.

In Berkeley it's music stores, used book stores, comic book stores, and probably some other ones, too.

Also, Berkeley's parking meter system seriously sucks. All in all I have mostly stopped shopping there.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:07 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


I was going to comment that bookstores in general often seem to ask me to check bags, but apparently the Strand doesn't do bag checks anymore and that was the biggest example I could think of. The next biggest example is record stores, but even then it's much rarer.

The way I figure it, enough places don't bother with the bag check thing that it can't be that great a deterrent or preventative measure for shoplifting. So why bother, really?
posted by chrominance at 5:08 PM on July 16


I do see the point about not being able to leave easily, and I think it's valid, but then it also makes me wonder how she deals psychologically with the 14 hour flight to Tokyo that she also can't easily leave in the event a drunk passenger starts harassing her.

Apropos of nothing really, I've been to other places that had bag checks, but let me keep a backpack only as long as I was wearing it, not carrying it. Which seems ridiculous to me.
posted by bashos_frog at 5:08 PM on July 16


That's weird.. I have never been to a store in my life that asked you to check your purse sized bag. Is this a large city thing?

Must be - I've seen bag checks in many stores and had to check mine more than a few times.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:08 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I realize i might be dudesplaining here, and call me out of i am, but i've actually had the _opposite_ experience where i am(seattle)

Only a couple irritating chain clothing stores like buffalo exchange want to take purses. Everywhere else will allow in either a small purse, or any purse, but take any backpack/messenger bag/fanny pack/murse/etc from guys.

What i'm saying is everyone always wants to check my little dinky backpack that just holds a water bottle and a jambox, or my big rolltop cycling bag(which i get), but no one ever bothers my partner or my friends about their purses.

And yes, even at comic book/game stores. I'm actually kinda surprised this was different other places.

It's to the point here, that me and my friends joke that if we're going to a show where we know they'll bother us about our bags, we just stuff all of our flaska/ganja/etc in one of our friends purses because we know they'll be left alone.

I can commiserate on hating the ambling around waiting for your bag dumbassed process and potentially uncomfortable if you're being harassed/bothered or need to leave ASAP and they just get annoyed at you for making them stop what they're doing to do their job, but i'm mostly surprised that there's places that take/check purses like this.
posted by emptythought at 5:08 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


14 hour flight to Tokyo that she also can't easily leave in the event a drunk passenger starts harassing her.

There is a greater feeling of safety when you know that the person threatening you on a plane is committing the equivalent of a federal offense and will be arrested at the arrival airport. Flight attendants take this very seriously. Comic book store employees may not, and do not have any level of authority comparable to a flight attendant on an international flight.
posted by elizardbits at 5:11 PM on July 16 [26 favorites]


Seriously, rare acts of terrorism or nature aside, an international flight is one of the safest places to be a single woman being harassed by an intoxicated man.
posted by elizardbits at 5:12 PM on July 16 [31 favorites]


Serious question - do most women not ever start a tab (give up a credit card) at a bar? It would seem like a pretty equivalent situation in terms of having to check out to leave, plus the harassment factor is high, and yet I feel like it's not really a rare thing. Does retail engender a different mindset?
posted by bashos_frog at 5:17 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm in southwestern Virginia, and I've never had this happen in my comic book store. Of course, my comic book store is an amazing place, run by an older lesbian couple. I've been going there since I was twelve, and it's probably a large part of the reason I'm a nerd today.

(Seriously, it was so weird to me at like, fourteen, in a comic book store out of state and looking for-- I think it was some Alan Moore thing-- and having the sweaty guy at the counter leer at me and ask if I was looking for anime. It didn't even register at the time. No, dude, I'm here for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I heard it's out in trade paperback!)
posted by dogheart at 5:17 PM on July 16


If you have easily pilfered items put them in a display case.

Pretty much everything in a comics store is easily pilfered.
posted by rifflesby at 5:17 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


Serious question - do most women not ever start a tab (give up a credit card) at a bar?

I do this all the time. It's by choice, no one is forcing me to do so as a condition of my presence in the bar.
posted by elizardbits at 5:18 PM on July 16 [5 favorites]


Ok, not "forcing" me, but insisting that I do so or leave. No one is doing that.
posted by elizardbits at 5:19 PM on July 16


Unless you don't have pockets.

Which, of course, is a very common thing for women's clothing.


Yeah what's that about? I'm always carrying my girlfriend's shit.

I actually had to hold her purse when she popped into the loo at a shopping mall the other day, and as I'm standing there I notice, and I'm not even kidding, another guy standing opposite me holding the exact same purse (or near enough for it to be mistaken as such, they were both the same shade of red and long and with that weird puffy pattern), waiting for his girlfriend/wife as well.

We both noticed what was going on and I tried to make eye contact so that we could share the hilarious joke about matching purses and omg!, but it just didn't work out.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:19 PM on July 16 [20 favorites]


(Not, I should add, that I have anything against anime! It was just such a weird 'hurr durr little girl is here for Sailor Moon' kind of dismissive vibe that it stuck with me.)
posted by dogheart at 5:21 PM on July 16


Yeah some dude demanding my credit card when I walk into a shop, before I even know if I want to buy something, would be equally uncomfortable and weird. This isn't even remotely analogous to setting up a tab. I've already decided to buy something at that point.
posted by bleep at 5:22 PM on July 16 [5 favorites]


Asking guys particularly teenagers who are common loiterers at comic book stores to check bags is definitely profiling. It's basically an easy enforced policy for discouraging shoplifting at stores where there is a lot of look but don't buy foot-traffic particularly near high schools.

These spaces have traditionally been mega-BOYZONE traditionally and are often owned and staffed by the groggiest of grognards. I'm not really surprised that there is a tendency to either exclude purses or ask women to check them.

Ultimately like I said above it's a crap way of dealing with shoplifting because it really only helps with a certain class of items (basically book sized) but a ton of the higher value items in a comic book store are easily concealed in baggy jeans, shirts, sweaters, etc and should probably be in display counters (miniatures are a big challenge in this regard).

But let's be honest most Friendly Local Gaming/Comic Book stores are pretty much running on minimal profit margin because most gamers can get games from Amazon and Comic Books are in a near perpetual doldrum so you depend on mini and CCG sales to kids too young to buy from Amazon and people with pull lists.

So they really can't afford too much pilferage even though it's a lost cause so they adopt policies that should work to a degree but just chase away more business.
posted by vuron at 5:22 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


I do see the point about not being able to leave easily, and I think it's valid, but then it also makes me wonder how she deals psychologically with the 14 hour flight to Tokyo that she also can't easily leave in the event a drunk passenger starts harassing her.
For what it's worth, not being able to leave and not having any control over when I can leave is absolutely at the heart of my fear of flying. It's actually really terrifying to me to know that there is literally nothing I can do to get off that plane until someone else decides to land and let me off. I don't think the bag thing is quite the same, because I could leave if I really needed to. I would just have to abandon my wallet and cell phone. I wouldn't do it, but knowing that I could do it is reassuring.

But that's neither here nor there. Also, I'm a little crazy.

I worked at a bookstore years ago, and we took everyone's bag. We wouldn't take a small purse, but we took anything bigger than a small purse. I remember it being standard procedure at bookstores at the time, and I think it's less standard now. It may be because of the internet: bookstores are a lot more attuned to the need to provide a decent experience, because otherwise people will buy books online. I don't know if I consider it oppressive, but I don't much like having to check my bag, and I think I might be more likely to go to stores that didn't have that policy.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:23 PM on July 16


I have been in comic books stores since I was a kid and all over North America -- never once in my life has anyone ever asked me to check my purse or bag...on the other hand, when I go to jewelry-supply wholesalers, when I carried a purse (do not carry one now since men can survive easily without that cumbersome security blanket, so why can't I), I had always been asked to check not only my purse, but also my coat -- so I bring neither because if they do not trust me, I do not trust them. Some of these places have lockers for bags, but still, while I understand that people with purses can steal, many pickpockets and thieves prefer not to be tethered and can steal just as easily without the bag...it is poor customer service...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 5:24 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


There are some museums that have mandatory bag/coat checks.

I guess you could look at that Monet online, but it's not the same...
posted by FJT at 5:25 PM on July 16


If I'm carrying a purse, I probably don't have enough hands to carry my phone, keys, wallet, and epipen and also do whatever it is I showed up to do. Having to take this stuff out of my purse defeats the point of the purse: a small bag that leaves my hands free.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:29 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


There are some museums that have mandatory bag/coat checks.


Generally speaking, that's a collection safety issue to prevent people from hitting stuff carelessly, or because they restrict drawing materials of a certain size, etc. I don't think I've ever seen a mandatory coat check, though.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:31 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


I can see how experience in a Japanese bookstore could sour you on bag check policies. Sometimes I stroll into them with, like, an open paper bag half full of books, and no-one even looks at me strange.
posted by No-sword at 5:34 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


The last time I had to deal with bag checks at any stores were in college neighborhoods almost two decades ago, back in the Dark Ages of Loss Prevention. Which, come to think of it, may be why these comic shops still do it: they haven't upgraded their antitheft tactics.

On the other hand re checks they're getting worse in regards to attending pro sports events in the US. When I see mainstream accessory makers coming out with lines of clear purses that comply with NFL security procedures, something's wrong.

(Come to think of it, I remember getting bag checked in stores that catered to women. And very small, cramped stores with "no backpacks" signs.)
posted by Electric Elf at 5:34 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


The first time I went to my local comic shop (Laughing Ogre in Northern Virginia, formerly Phoenix), I was surprised to see an employee's baby in a pack-and-play behind the counter. Family-friendly workplace! No bag check silliness. I'm a woman and I've always been treated well there.
posted by candyland at 5:35 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


My favorite part about walking into a small store with my bag is the steely stare from the clerk and the sinister, "how's it going, bro."
posted by michaelh at 5:39 PM on July 16


Serious question - do most women not ever start a tab (give up a credit card) at a bar?

Serious answer - this is a thing I legitimately think about before going out, and if I'm going somewhere new or I'm meeting people I don't know very well or I just don't feel totally comfortable or whatever, I will make sure to have cash on me so that I don't have to start a tab. Easier to ghost on out of a bar if you don't have to linger at the bar waiting for the bartender to close out your tab. It's also a good way to keep track of your drinking, like "I will not drink more than $20 worth of booze" or whatever. I have no idea if this is common or a thing other women think about.

I generally haven't minded the bag check thing. Small_ruminant is right that a lot of places in Berkeley especially have bag checks, but since I was a college student lugging around my giant messenger bag when I was living in Berkeley, I didn't mind giving the heavy thing up to browse Half Price Books or Amoeba or whatever. I'm more annoyed by being asked to give up my (smallish) purse. Trust me, I can't fit anything else in here.
posted by yasaman at 5:39 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


I honestly believe most of the bag check shenanigans at sporting events is 99% about enforcing no outside food and drink policies because gotta get a share of those overpriced hotdogs and beer and about 1% about TERRORISM. But antiterrorism is a sexy excuse that can basically shutdown all but the most persistent complainers about all sorts of intrusive searches.
posted by vuron at 5:40 PM on July 16 [7 favorites]


The only places I've been in years that demand bags be handed over (besides security checks at airports and courthouses, of course) are college bookstores, and mostly they don't care as long as you are older (and white, middle class, etc).

The comparison of a purse to a backpack isn't quite right, because A) purses themselves can be crazy expensive, and B) purses are used to hold incredibly personal stuff. It's more like a guy being asked to empty out his pockets, plus part of his medicine cabinet, and maybe a few other things that you keep in a drawer so visitors not see it. A purse is personal space, more so than the average messenger bag or backpack.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:42 PM on July 16 [8 favorites]


I can't ever remember being asked to check my purse at any comic shop I've ever been to, starting back in the 80s. I spend more time in the games section of the comics and games stores these days on the few times a year I go, frequently looking at the 25/28 mm figurines, so I really don't get where this is coming from.

Any store that required me to check my bag would lose any business I had to give them.
posted by immlass at 5:43 PM on July 16


bashos_frog: "Serious question - do most women not ever start a tab (give up a credit card) at a bar? It would seem like a pretty equivalent situation in terms of having to check out to leave, plus the harassment factor is high, and yet I feel like it's not really a rare thing. Does retail engender a different mindset?"

A purse is psychologically a different thing than a bag. It is more akin to a man's wallet -- have you ever been in a store that wanted you to turn over your entire wallet as a condition of shopping there? I don't mind giving someone my credit card to run a tab, but I would absolutely balk at giving them my entire purse.

They carry not just identification, memberships, insurance, and money, which are of course talismanic and protective and men carry too, in their wallets; but they also carry potent and private feminine identifiers like tampons and pads and makeup. They carry relational signifiers (photos, keepsakes) and caregiving aids (diapers, kleenex, snacks).

Purses are intensely private spaces: I have had the same group of BFFs for 10 years now and I don't think I've been in ANY of their purses. I get annoyed when my kids or husband go in my purse, and when my mom tells me to go get her car keys from HER purse, I still have an incredible sense of transgression that I'm trespassing on such a private space.

I am happy to hand over my laptop bag or my gym bag or my diaper bag, but my purse is a different psychic space, in which I carry identity, personality, and protection, and being asked to turn it over to a stranger feels intrusive and violative, and it is anxiety-inducing when someone asks me to give up my purse.

None of this is to say that it isn't sometimes a reasonable request (my federal courthouse restricts handbags) or that some women carry what are essentially suitcases as purses or that some women use their purses to steal things or that some women are not at all attached to their handbags. All of those things are true. But as a general thing, women's purses are very private, very significant terrain, which more than any other accessory (except perhaps a smartphone) are an expression of identity and self. Losing control of them creates anxiety and discomfort, and the possibility of invasion or disturbance by Others feels extremely risky and unsafe and full of possibilities for humiliation, shame, or violation.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:48 PM on July 16 [80 favorites]


I can see why bookstores have such strict personal bag size policies because when I was a teen, I shoplifted the fuck out of books from the mall. (My greatest coup: a hardcover 1st run copy of Cliver Barker's Imajica.)
posted by Kitteh at 5:49 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


Purses are intensely private spaces

I was sitting here trying to picture the circumstances under which I'd feel comfortable looking in someone else's purse even with permission and it's pretty much only if they were on fire and had an extinguisher in it.
posted by winna at 5:52 PM on July 16 [25 favorites]


I find the need to ad hominem the comic book store staff in these anecdotes telling.
posted by bobloblaw at 5:54 PM on July 16


I find the need to ad hominem the comic book store staff in these anecdotes telling.

What does this mean?
posted by winna at 5:58 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


From the OP:
Of course, not all women carry purses. Still, mainstream women's fashion makes it difficult for someone dressed in women's clothing to keep the necessary accoutrements of daily life (such as wallets, cell phones, keys, glasses, bus tokens, subway pass cards, and so on) on her person without the aid of some sort of purse or briefcase. It's one thing for a man to surrender a backpack or laptop case; he's more than likely got his keys and wallet and cell phone in the pockets of his pants or jacket. It's another thing entirely for a woman to give up her purse or shoulder bag, which – to add insult to injury – generally isn’t even large to put a comic book in without folding it, which would defeat the purpose of going through the trouble of stealing it in the first place.
Dudes who have bags can take their wallet and cell phone (at minimum) out of their backpack or pannier or whatever and place those items in their pockets. For reasons that are incomprehensible to people outside of, I guess, clothing manufacturers, women's clothes basically never have pockets. This means we have to either hand over everything or walk around with just our wallet and phone in our hands... which means we have to find a place to set them down when we want to pick something else up, put them in an open cart or basket or, if we're with a dude, ask him to keep our stuff in his pockets as we browse together. It's a definite pain in the ass at record and book stores because those sort of places involve a lot of picking stuff up for further inspection.

I fucking LOVE purses but I'm super-sick of carrying one all the time so I've been trying really hard to maximize my pocket space, but buying all your work clothes from Goodwill is a harsh mistress that way. It's tough to be so choosy, because in an office, form always has to come before function. The pants I wore to work today have those stupid decorative slits in the front and those wretched 1/2"-deep fakeout pockets in the back. I couldn't even fit my house key in one! What the hell is all this nonsense, anyway?

Serious question - do most women not ever start a tab (give up a credit card) at a bar?

I always start a tab at the bar. I definitely feel OK with the idea of leaving my card at the bar if I get so sketched out that I feel like I need to leave immediately, because personal safety is paramount, but I always have the rest of my personal belongings with me at the bar -- obviously, the bartender doesn't take my whole purse -- and I do always close out my tab as I order my last drink so I can high-tail it as soon as I'm done.

On an aside, when people start asking questions like this, questions unrelated to the topic at hand, it can seem like they're trying to catch out their interlocutor on some perceived logical inconsistency. It tends to happen a lot in discussions about gender.

Does retail engender a different mindset?

No.
posted by divined by radio at 6:03 PM on July 16 [28 favorites]


I know I'm speaking from a privileged position here, but still - this sounds a bit overly dramatic. You've got two hands, use one for your wallet and keys, and the other for browsing. I've been to many other places that asked me to check my bag as well - B&H camera, for example.


That might matter if I was morally judging the staff at the store. I'm not. I'm just going to observe that the author is right -- no one has to put up with that from Amazon. If your policies alienate customers to the point where the cold impersonal light of an amazon.com page is friendlier and more relaxed, your days are numbered. Those people will sell to an ever-dwindling base of friends. Until it gets down to zero shrinkage and zero sales.

It's not personal, it's just business. They are doomed, not by feminism, but by economics.
posted by tyllwin at 6:05 PM on July 16 [9 favorites]


Actually why don't more women's clothes have pockets?
posted by I-baLL at 6:08 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


"Fashion"
posted by Pudhoho at 6:09 PM on July 16


Of all the big anti-feminist targets to go after in the comic book world, the taking of purses would not have been my first choice.
posted by Bonzai at 6:10 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


Of all the big anti-feminist targets to go after in the comic book world, the taking of purses would not have been my first choice.

Perfectly happy to take them all on, thanks for asking!
posted by immlass at 6:14 PM on July 16 [52 favorites]


Purses are intensely private spaces
posted by Eyebrows McGee


QFT. My husband has all my computer passwords (and I have his); we have access to each other's browser histories; we work together 50+ hours per week and share a 700-square-foot house with two dogs. In other words, we have little privacy. Despite all this, he categorically refuses to look in my purse, even at my express direction. I recently replaced my mobile phone, and my #1 priority was that my new handset fit in the phone pocket of my favorite purse, because that purse is non-negotiable.

Also somewhat related, I've been on a hunt for skirts with pockets that I could wear to work (I use my pockets at work, carrying box cutters and dog treats and the like.) Skirts with useful pockets are vanishingly rare.
posted by workerant at 6:14 PM on July 16 [5 favorites]


The pockets men have on their ugly-ass khaki cargo shorts could fit a lot more than most small purses. Hell, the men's carpenter pants I own could probably fit a manga size paperback in the "tech pocket" and I know from experience that I can keep two dice sets in one regular pocket and still have room for an iPod touch in a wallet case and some keys.
posted by NoraReed at 6:35 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Clothing should have pockets. Read (Thorstein) Veblen on the subject of clothing -- he's pretty persuasive (and witty).

Under the patriarchal organization of society, where the social unit was the man (with his dependents), the dress of the women was an exponent of the wealth of the man whose chattels they were. In modern society, where the unit is the household, the woman’s dress sets forth the wealth of the household to which she belongs. Still, even to-day, in spite of the nominal and somewhat celebrated demise of the patriarchal idea, there is that about the dress of women which suggests that the wearer is something in the nature of a chattel; indeed, the theory of woman’s dress quite plainly involves the implication that the woman is a chattel.

Basically, fancy clothes (such as the contemporary businessman's suit, although Veblen was writing in the Victorian era) send the message that the wearer is above manual labor (certainly not with those shoes, those cufflinks, that tie!) -- and women's clothes send the message that even his *wife* doesn't have to do anything practical, why, she needs a servant just to lace up that bodice!

I can't help the feeling that the continued lack of pockets in women's clothing is like the stupid strips of cloth many men feel compelled to tie around their necks -- a remnant of the patriarchal culture of conspicuous consumption Veblen tore a new asshole over a century ago. WAKE UP SHEEPLE.

(Seriously, read Veblen. Sharp, insightful, way way ahead of his time. Theory of the Leisure Class is well out of copyright, if you have an ebook reader...)
posted by uosuaq at 6:38 PM on July 16 [10 favorites]


Huh, I'm actually surprised that the whole purse thing is still as gendered as it is? Most people I know carry some sort of small messenger bag or backpack thing with all their stuff, because like, people need stuff, and I don't see nearly as many actual purse-purses as I used to. Everyone just has their bags. Maybe a demographic thing?

I always have a messenger bag on me that has some pretty private things it - identification, medications, first aid supplies, flash drives, carabiners, para cord, small hunting knife, flashlight, emergency tea bags and emergency whiskey, tissues, emergency two-use toothbrush and paste, hand sanitizer, headphones, books, and gum, among other things. There are a bunch of weird little stores in Portland where I've had to check it, and I guess I've never thought twice about it? I've even left my wallet in there and when I needed to pay for something I've just said, yo, I need my bag first. But maybe I ought to be more cautious.

Seriously though, women's clothes not having pockets is ridiculous. I've often said that if there were a god, s/he would have given us some damn pockets in our own skin. Pockets are important.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:44 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I agree that shops can and do use the bagcheck as a way of deterring clientele. In my experience, it was mostly preventing backpack laden ne'er-do-well teens from loitering around the shop after school. The chances of us-I-mean-them buying something was low, but the probability of jackenapery breaking something high. Holding a bag hostage was a decent way to ensure good behavior.

While my local shop (Harrison's in Salem) has a bagcheck sign up, they've never asked me for mine and actively denied me trying to give them my bag, even though it was full of comics I had acquired elsewhere.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:46 PM on July 16


I will just say that, as a man, no one has ever demanded my pants as a condition of entering a store, even when I'm wearing baggy cargo pants.
posted by ckape at 6:46 PM on July 16 [11 favorites]


Huh, I'm actually surprised that the whole purse thing is still as gendered as it is? Most people I know carry some sort of small messenger bag or backpack thing with all their stuff, because like, people need stuff, and I don't see nearly as many actual purse-purses as I used to. Everyone just has their bags.

Yeah, this is why I'm not inclined to see it as a gender thing on the part of the comic book shops - because a lot of the guys visiting all have bags too, and they all have to check their bags too.

The lack of pockets is something else again, though. I just always seem to be wearing jeans so I just have always rolled with it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:47 PM on July 16 [7 favorites]


All this talk about bag checks and the Strand though reminds me of this wonderful Improv Everywhere bit.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:48 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I can't help the feeling that the continued lack of pockets in women's clothing is like the stupid strips of cloth many men feel compelled to tie around their necks -- a remnant of the patriarchal culture of conspicuous consumption Veblen tore a new asshole over a century ago. WAKE UP SHEEPLE.

Veblen educated me greatly on life but ... you think conspicuous consumption went away or something?
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 6:53 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I used to frequent a women's clothing store in Berkeley California that required people to check their purses and bags. What made me alright with it was that they had individual cubby holes that they put your things in, and gave you a check tag to turn in when you wanted to get your things back. My issue with the comics/game stores that I've been to is that "check your purse" usually amounts to a person taking your things and putting them behind the counter, where you not only can't see them, but have no way to prove that you turned anything over in the first place. A more nefarious person could very easily hide my purse and claim that I never gave them anything, or bend down below the counter and rifle through my stuff. Not that I've ever had that happen, or that I take pleasure in assuming such bad faith, but I prefer to patronize stores that don't require me to put something very private completely out of my sight.
posted by Shouraku at 7:02 PM on July 16 [6 favorites]


I can see how experience in a Japanese bookstore could sour you on bag check policies. Sometimes I stroll into them with, like, an open paper bag half full of books, and no-one even looks at me strange.

Well not right in front of you, at least.

Oddly enough, I have a video on my blog about shoplifting in Japanese comic book shops. I facetiously entitled the post Manga Causes Crime.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:05 PM on July 16


uosuaq, i agree with that but i think there's an additional factor here which was touched on above, that being "fashion".

Every time i've brought this up around one of my friends who works in high end retail(several of whom dress very vintage/mid century as a style choice) they get into a whole diatribe about how putting things in pockets "ruins the form of the dress" or pants or whatever. Similar to mens dressy suits.

I find it interesting that a lot of the punk/anarchist/burner/oregon country fair type women i know wear either unisex or traditionally "mens" clothing with lots of pockets that they altered to fit themselves well... which is mostly workwear, and often has lots of pockets they can keep bits and bobs of day to day life in. I see it as a conscious rejection of that bullshit idea that the appearance of the outfit is WAY more important than utility.

My partner has gone out of her way to find dresses and skirts which have pockets in the lower part you can at least stash a phone and maybe a little money clip with some cash and an ID/bus pass in and jumps for joy when she can, she dresses very femme and stuff which is that + actually has usable pockets and was designed to look OK with stuff in them is so few and far between.

Also, additionally to what was said above, i have left places because they wanted to take my bag. It's different than it being a really personal space, but at times it has my $2300 laptop, and a couple hundred dollars of other bits and bobs in it(clothes, portable phone backup battery pack thing, cables, music equipment, etc). Fuck, the bag itself is custom and cost almost $200 and is one of my favorite possessions. I saved up for a long time to get some of that stuff, and some of it also contains lots of personal information. Why the fuck should i leave that much valuable stuff up to some minimum wage apathetic worker bee(i've been this person, i feel i'm allowed to diss) who will likely hand it back to the wrong person mindlessly if they ask because they just don't care, or whoever is the front counter person rotates when someone goes on break and they don't even _know_ whose bag is whose. I've had my bag handed to the wrong person and i've had my bag handed to the wrong person and raged out because what if they weren't honest and just went "woah, this is a nice bag, i bet it has good shit in it" and just left?

The solution to this problem that makes everyone happy IMO isn't not taking bags, it's having an airport style "is your bag bigger than this? You'll have to check it" sign, and using the clip+token method where you get a piece of a playing card or a ticket with letters on it or whatever as proof your bag is yours. I've seen places smart enough to use cubbies behind the counter, and have some accountability like tokens and sign in/out sheet for the employees of "accepted bag at: 1:30 gave out token: ace of spades. type: blue jansport name: jaime". the name thing is nice, because if your token is lost/damaged you can still get your stuff back.

I think we can agree that taken womens small purses creates manifold issues, but i also think that checking bags isn't crap. The system just needs to be improved and adjusted to allow for differentiation between what makes sense and what's just silly or even actively discouraging equal access and treatment. At least some of the rhetoric here, including some that i may have assisted the side of, is essentially along the lines of this.

Dog: i've been to a number of places lately where i really didn't feel welcome, because there was only a cat door and i was barely able to squeeze through. Although this is officially a space for everyone, it makes me feel unwelcome
Cat: Well i'm a larger cat and i don't fit easily either!

While both are true, it's kind of defeating the original point. Which is murky enough that it actually took some extra marinating in the brain chamber(and caffeine) for me to really grok. There's more than one issue going on here though, and i think the most fair solution isn't "don't check any bags" or "check all bags", but more "check all bags above a certain size and use your better judgement".
posted by emptythought at 7:06 PM on July 16 [10 favorites]


I misread that and thought emptythought was feeling unwelcome because she was being forced to come in through the cat door, and that if that was the case, it was likely that she was, in fact, ACTUALLY unwelcome.
posted by small_ruminant at 7:13 PM on July 16 [4 favorites]


Can I just give a shout out to Eshakti.com for making pockets standard on almost all their dresses? Real pockets! Not cargo pants big, but functional. If they only had zippers, I would probably wear little else.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:16 PM on July 16 [6 favorites]


And if you haul out your cash or debit card from your bra to pay for your purchase ya get the stink eye! If ya won't let me hold me purse where the heck else was I gonna put my bits and bobs?
posted by saucysault at 7:24 PM on July 16


In my motorcycling days I tried to carry a backpack into a WalMart. The greeter insisted I leave it with him. As a bonus to everything that follows here, the greeter had been a fast-food manager who turned me down for a job 25 years earlier

"You're going to watch it, right."
"Sure."

So I come back to the spot and the greeter has walked around a corner to talk to someone, leaving my backpack unattended.

So I moved it around ANOTHER corner, and raised all kinds of hell about where my bag went...

I'm an asshole.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:28 PM on July 16 [22 favorites]


you think conspicuous consumption went away or something?

Good God, no. I guess I just would have hoped that by now it could have moved on to driving gold-plated cars or some shit, instead of continuing to reenact old nobility vs. peasantry tropes in practical matters like clothing.

To briefly touch on emptythought's comment, which I'm just reading now and need more time to process, I certainly agree there are additional factors here. I wasn't even trying to address the "check bags" thing (arguably the main point of the thread), and a generic size qualification for bags (will it fit a comic book?) seems like a reasonable place to start. But talking about "fashion" brings us back to Veblen, and the question of why what's fashionable is fashionable.
posted by uosuaq at 7:28 PM on July 16


Having worked in a comic book store, I can speak from experience that someone can lift hundreds or even thousands of dollars of merchandise that would fit into even a Coach purse pretty easily.

Having also worked in a comic book store, I was never aware of any comic stores that confiscated bags or purses; and while I am perfectly willing to accept that this is a thing that happens, I am disbelievingly skeptical that its incidence rises to the level of actually being A Thing That Happens. Moreover, it's a stupid way to address loss prevention. The best tool and first priority is to put personnel on the floor. Tasking staff with worrying about bags isn't just overreactive; it is counterproductive.

Sure, shoplifters use bags. They also cram stuff down their pants and into their shirts, and they have their friends distract you while they just stroll out the door with who-knows-what in their hand. There are probably veins of retail where bag checks are a wise use of resources, but not in comics.

All that said, the gendered thing is a weird chicken-or-egg. We don't confiscate women's purses (or we allow them on airplanes as a second free carry-on) because purses are private and because women's clothes don't have pockets, which are things that are true because we know women will be carrying purses and because purses are different...'round and 'round. I don't think there's much traction to be found in logical analysis. It's just a cultural quirk we have, like tipping or handshakes.
posted by cribcage at 7:54 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


I often carry a backpack or messenger bag. I used to make it a point to avoid stores which would make me check my bag. I have noticed that fewer stores nowadays force me to do this.

I note that Forbidden Planet in NYC used to check bags, but no longer. St. Mark's Comics still does, however, AFAIK.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:59 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


> Serious question - do most women not ever start a tab (give up a credit card) at a bar? It would seem like a pretty equivalent situation in terms of having to check out to leave...

Not equivalent at all to browsing in a store. If you've opened a tab it's because you've decided to stay for a while. Otherwise you would have paid for your drink when you received it.

As a guy who spent most of his twenties urban-commuting by foot, train and bike, with bag in tow, I'm plenty used to storefront bag checks. The ritual of the bag check was pretty much a mandatory aspect of shopping in small independent shops in big cities at the time. There are times I've asked to check my bag when it's not required, just so I don't accidentally swing it into things. They're doing what they can to get by, this is how they do their things, and you have to agree to their rules to enter their space. Some shops do a better job of it than others, which means the clerk will be just as friendly returning your bag whether or not you bought anything, and the bags are kept in a dedicated space for it behind the counter and away from arm's reach of passers-by.

I also had the advantage of pockets. I could still keep my keys and wallet on me regardless of where the bag was.

Also, and fundamentally, as a white guy I presented as something like a peer to the comic/record shop grognards. Women and people of color don't have that advantage. If bag checks contribute to the differences in experiences we have in the same stores, it's depressing but not surprising, and depressing because it's not surprising.
posted by ardgedee at 8:05 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


Having worked in a comic book store, I can speak from experience that someone can lift hundreds or even thousands of dollars of merchandise that would fit into even a Coach purse pretty easily.

So, this may be an Ask MetaFilter question, but... how would one optimize that?
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:18 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


This bag check phenomenon seems to be a very regional thing. Some posters in this thread seem utterly shocked by the very idea, but IME in the US (born in Houston, now living in NYC, have lived in other large cities) it's a pretty common thing.

I think the varying reactions here might be due to varying levels of familiarity with the practice: if you've been around it all your life, it's harder to see what the problem is.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:24 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I find it hilarious that my aforementioned men's carpenter pants also work better for me because the "tech pocket" easily fits a few pads or tampons without them being visible
posted by NoraReed at 8:25 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


even a Coach purse

I missed this before, but: Coach purses come in a lot of sizes, from wristlets to totes. I am still not turning my purse over to some random person behind the counter. Also, fwiw on the experience front, my comics shopping in the 80s started in my hometown of Houston and I worked at a shop there when I was in grad school (so I have been the random person behind the counter, and no I don't want the responsibility of looking after your purse). This may be a regional thing but it's not universal even in large cities.
posted by immlass at 8:29 PM on July 16


Chicks Thieves ruin everything.
posted by 445supermag at 8:58 PM on July 16


There are some museums that have mandatory bag/coat checks.

First, pretty much every museum I've ever seen lets women keep purses as long as they aren't suitcase sized. I have never encountered women in an art museum clutching their wallets and handfuls of personal belongings. Besides, walking around a museum with a bulky bag/coat isn't very fun, so it's a little less of an imposition. One might come into a comic book shop for a few minutes, but someone visiting a museum is probably going to be staying for a little bit.

But most importantly, comic book shops sell, for the most part, commodity items that can be obtained from a wide variety of retailers. Some may be expensive, and a big handful of merchandise probably will be pretty valuable, but the place isn't, well, a museum. Museums hold one-of-a-kind masterpieces, and it is reasonable that different measures are used to secure them.

And museums tend to have large well-organized coat checks with secure space and tokens compared to the "we stick it behind the counter and hope no one else gets your bag" method used in small stores.
posted by zachlipton at 9:17 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]


There are several stores in Chicago that check bags - but I've never been asked to check my purse, just shopping bags or totes or things like that.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:46 PM on July 16


A lot of stores do this, and it isn't gender-specific.
posted by John Cohen at 9:47 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]


Honestly I don't know how the heck you put "hundreds, even thousands of dollars worth" of merch in a purse that's less than backpack sized. Do comic book stores have Silver Age originals out on display or something?
posted by kmz at 10:03 PM on July 16


I think generally museums ask you to check your bag as a safeguard against blocking the way/knocking stuff over, rather than theft.

Thinking about it, I think the only stores that have asked me to check bags lately have been rare book stores, which to be honest is fair enough, and Amoeba Records, which I can relate to - it's huge, poorly organized and the stock is on the shelves (ie the CDs, DVDs and vinyl are in their boxes and sleeves). I don't think I'd object to checking my bag at a comic store. I would object to turning out my pockets, though, which it seems from this discussion is more like what handing over a purse feels like...
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:37 PM on July 16


I'm happy to let a store employee take a cursory look in my bag as I leave, if they are seriously worried I'm stealing things from them; but I am also in my forties and when a squeaky voiced stripling demands my bag, I say, "No, this is my handbag." and that's that. But for the most part, shops in Australia don't hold your bags hostage, except at museums and the bookstore I was in with my son a while back, that had a big sign saying school bags must be left at the counter. They didn't bother me with my handbag and shopping bag full of yarn, either. Even airlines recognise a handbag isn't quite just a "bag".
posted by thylacinthine at 11:59 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I'd never heard of the "women's clothes don't have pockets" thing until very recently. I guess over a certain size they figure the lines of the clothes aren't as important so they allow us pockets to make up for it or something.
posted by rewil at 12:25 AM on July 17


Actually why don't more women's clothes have pockets?

Thinner materials, often cheaper construction, and almost always tighter (much, much tighter these days) fitting. Adding insult to injury, a lot of women's clothes that look like they have pockets actually don't -- they are just ceremonial pretend pockets. The Veblen quoted above is probably right, with women themselves being presented as a man's conspicuous consumption.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:26 AM on July 17 [8 favorites]


There are a lot of stores that ask you to check bags, for security reasons as well as protecting the merch (like glassware you might knock over), and I've never once thought this was a gendered insult as men often carry backpacks or bike messenger bags which are precisely the type to be checked. When I have a large bag I'm always relieved that I can put it somewhere so that I have both hands free to browse with. This happened most recently in a really large record store where I spent hours sniffing vinyl and caressing pretty album covers until I had a pile of "must have these now" that I bought.

As for comic book stores... I used to visit forbidden planet for comics in the 90s on a weekly basis and I was never told to check anything because I had no bag to check. The sudden silence when I entered was what turned me off from shopping there, until one of the clerks managed to remember his job and offered to help me find something. It was rather sweet how he blushed when I asked where they kept the Milo Manara.
posted by dabitch at 12:27 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Adding insult to injury, a lot of women's clothes that look like they have pockets actually don't -- they are just ceremonial pretend pockets.

I bought a pair of shorts from White House Black Market's site specifically for the pockets. Two side pockets and 2 front pockets, all with zippers, I thought, from looking at the photo. Joy! My wallet and phone and keys wouldn't fall out even when I was doing overhangs at the climbing gym! But no. The box arrived and those two side pockets were so shallow that half my phone stuck out. Those two front zipper pockets weren't actually pockets. They were just openable, close-able zippers over a teeny horizontal space that I could stuff half a tissue into; they were placed above two non-close-able actual front pockets that, again, were too shallow to hold more than the bottom half of my phone or wallet. The shorts looked great if I didn't put anything IN the pockets, but aargh. I returned the damned things and went back to my usual baggy mountain gear shorts with close-able pockets.

Fuckers. It would matter less if were a handbag carrying person but I loathe handbags.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:12 AM on July 17


I know it isn't a solution for everyone (and damn it we want to to be right in the first place) but that pair of shorts for me would have lacked for pockets for about as long as it took me to find a needle, thread and some suitable cotton fabric to sew up an internal pocket. The pocket would be completely hidden so one doesn't have to be any sort of master sewer. Back stitch two adjacent sides of rectangle and then stitch it to the slit open tissue paper sized "pocket". Probably less time elapsed than returning them.
posted by Mitheral at 2:05 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Since checking bags/purses affects women more, saying that men have to check their bags too is besides the point. In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.
posted by ersatz at 2:56 AM on July 17 [14 favorites]


Utility belts are unisex, and their time has come.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:20 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


I have zero doubt that this policy is not intended to be off-putting to women. And as you've seen, some women don't mind. But as you've also seen, some women, asked to hand over their purses, think either "Hell, no" or at least "oh, no." So then the question is: given that small bags probably don't present a risk of stealing all that much greater than stuffing things in your clothes, why drive anybody off over it? And my guess is, "Because you don't know it will drive people off, because you are envisioning men."

What's gendered about it isn't the intent. It's the fact that the blithe adoption of a policy like this makes it sound to me like you are envisioning men in your store, because lots of women hugely object to this in a way that hurts your business whether you think it's foolish or not.

It's not something that makes me think "you hate women." But it's the kind of thing that makes me think, "You didn't talk about this with very many women."
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:43 AM on July 17 [36 favorites]


I don't think I've ever been to a comic book store with a bag check, including my old haunt in a sketchy part of a sketchy town. It can't possibly help reduce shrinkage, and is a hassle for the clerk, who should be keeping an eye on the customers and not shuttling bags to and fro. Plus, it apparently is offensive to women, which is interesting to know.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:50 AM on July 17


My issue with the comics/game stores that I've been to is that "check your purse" usually amounts to a person taking your things and putting them behind the counter, where you not only can't see them, but have no way to prove that you turned anything over in the first place.

Wait, really? Okay, yeah, that is messed up; I'm used to there being cubbys for every person's bag and a claim ticket, which also explains why I may think this ain't no thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:55 AM on July 17


Utility belts Fanny packs are unisex wildly unflattering, and their time has come thankfully gone.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:15 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


Linda_Holmes: "I have zero doubt that this policy is not intended to be off-putting to women. "

Yeah, I assume aggressive bag-check policies are intended to be off-putting to teenagers with (school) backpacks, not women. I don't feel like my human rights are being violated or anything, you gotta do what you gotta do when you own a store, but I won't be visiting that store again. And I'm probably not going to tell you WHY I'm not coming back, because it's really not a huge deal and you (store owner) are well within your rights, but I won't ever be back. If it comes up, and a friend asks, "Oh, I know your little Joey is into comics and my Johnny wants some for his birthday, have you been to Comic Store Z?" I'll probably be like, "I was, but it was just sorta -- I don't know, it was kinda shady. I felt uncomfortable. Now I usually just go online."

I actually do notice and appreciate stores that have taken a few minutes to think about how to cater to women -- or young people, or people with mobility issues -- and I shop there more often. Small independent store owners would do well to ask people, "Where do you really like shopping? What caters to you really well? What's great about that?" There was a women's businesswear boutique near me that had a kid-sized table and chairs, with crayons and paper, in the dressing room area, clearly contemplating that some of their customers would be busy working moms with small children who could try on a LOT MORE CLOTHES if their kids were occupied with crayons. It was always the second thing people mentioned about the store -- "they have great clothes, and a coloring table in the dressing room for kids!" Then take a little anthropological trip to a busy nearby mall and see which stores are drawing which mix of customers. Aisles wide enough for a wheelchair will also accommodate a stroller, a walker or cane, or a parent holding a child's hand. A chair so an indulgent grandparent with bad knees can watch his grandson shop for longer will also give a baby-carrying parent a place to rest or a bored spouse somewhere to more comfortably send texts. You can't cater to everybody, but you can definitely think about how your space and practices make some shoppers feel more welcome than others, and whether that's the message you want to send.

(There is a jewelry store near me that offers patrons a Diet Coke when they come in. I AM CLEARLY SQUARELY IN THEIR TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC. And obviously I am then going to be browsing their sparklies until I finish my Diet Coke.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:17 AM on July 17 [10 favorites]


Also, store owners who want to be more welcoming to women, your checkout area should have somewhere that I, as the patron, can PUT MY PURSE DOWN, the better to dig through it. I hate shopping at stores that have a crazy-cluttered checkout area and I'm trying to juggle my purse and my purchase and a babe-in-arms and I can't put ANYTHING down unless I put the baby on your (inevitably very dirty) floor.

Also you should wipe down whatever surface women are putting those purses on when you close up at the end of the night, because the bottom of women's purses is pretty much the most disgusting clothing article in the world after doctors' ties. Just as a mode of self-defense against grossness and germs, not because the purses care.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:27 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


I just say no thanks and walk out of a place that wants to take my purse, which is never, ever a place where most of the stuff is worth as much as what is actually IN my purse. (And I don't keep that much in it.) I'm sure I'd understand if a super expensive jewelry store did it, but they never do.

Do I like clothing that has pockets? Sure. (And, like everyone, say "It has pockets!" as the first comment to "I like your skirt/dress".) But I have a wallet that doesn't work in pockets no matter how big they are, and I like to carry around a book and pills and hair crap and my somewhat too large for many pockets phone so I just put it all in a convenient purse when I am going out.
posted by jeather at 7:38 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I assume aggressive bag-check policies are intended to be off-putting to teenagers with (school) backpacks, not women. I don't feel like my human rights are being violated or anything, you gotta do what you gotta do when you own a store, but I won't be visiting that store again. And I'm probably not going to tell you WHY I'm not coming back, because it's really not a huge deal and you (store owner) are well within your rights, but I won't ever be back. If it comes up, and a friend asks, "Oh, I know your little Joey is into comics and my Johnny wants some for his birthday, have you been to Comic Store Z?" I'll probably be like, "I was, but it was just sorta -- I don't know, it was kinda shady. I felt uncomfortable. Now I usually just go online."


Wait, you won't go to a store with a bag check (even though it's "not a big deal"), but if your friends ask why, you won't say "I don't like checking my bag", you'll say "It was shady, I felt uncomfortable"? That seems really not nice, since it's pretty well understood that "shady" and "uncomfortable" indicate that the store workers were leering at you or otherwise being harassing. If you don't wanna check your bag, okay, that's your right, but implying darker events seems mean.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:09 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Well I might or might not remember the bag check, because its a legit business practice, but I will definitely remember feeling uncomfortable. I'd probably say I didn't like the bag check if I remembered it, but the point is it's a low-level thing that makes people uncomfortable without necessarily remembering why it was bad.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:17 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


Having worked in a comic book store, I can speak from experience that someone can lift hundreds or even thousands of dollars of merchandise that would fit into even a Coach purse pretty easily.

So, this may be an Ask MetaFilter question, but... how would one optimize that?


This is a deeper question than you may suspect.
posted by Jpfed at 8:43 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


I guess over a certain size they figure the lines of the clothes aren't as important so they allow us pockets to make up for it or something.

Below a certain size there's generally just not much room for internal pockets, especially with the trend over the past ten years or more for low-waisted pants. When the zipper's not more than three inches long, the pockets can't really be much deeper than that. (Or I end up with my keys in the foldy part of my leg/hip/lap and that's pointy and uncomfortable.)

I wear some men's jeans that happen to fit me and am always pleased at how large and functional the pockets are, but the back pockets sure give me the longbutt and it's genuinely difficult to cram my hand halfway down my thighs into the bottom of the front pockets.

High-waisted pleated (or at least baggy) pants are the only reasonable way to go if I want comfortable pants with usable pockets -- and then it's not the pockets themselves that render them wildly unfashionable for me, it's everything else about the cut.

Women's pants are a land of contrasts, I guess. What features you can fit where vary wildly by cut/size/fabric/price, and it's easier for me to just say hell with it and carry a bag I can fit my pull list in and slap on my bike rack.

I don't think I've ever had to check my bags at a comic shop except for one or two extremely high-traffic ones in NYC; none of my regular shops in other places have ever asked me to check a bag. Those are all much lower traffic shops with larger aisles and usually a quiet enough environment the clerk would be able to hear if I were unzipping my bag and cramming fistfuls of old Valiant II comics in.
posted by asperity at 9:30 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Do comic book stores have Silver Age originals out on display or something?

No, but most comic stores are also selling collectibles of various types, and there's only so much merchandise you can put behind the counter or inside glass cases. You have stuff that probably needs to be on the floor, like hooks full of action figures; and you also have space you need to use somehow, like the tops of bookcases and shelves. I don't know about particular bag size versus specific dollar amount, but sure, there's enough valuable merchandise on the floor that you can take a serious hit. In my experience, the average "pro" shoplifter (as distinguished from kids) would get between $200 and $400 worth of stuff.

There was a women's businesswear boutique near me that had a kid-sized table and chairs, with crayons and paper, in the dressing room area, clearly contemplating that some of their customers would be busy working moms with small children who could try on a LOT MORE CLOTHES if their kids were occupied with crayons.

Agreed. And by the same token, I'm amazed how many women's clothing stores don't provide someplace for men to wait, a small bench or even someplace unobtrusive to stand.
posted by cribcage at 9:36 AM on July 17


Stores don't want you sitting, they want you moving and shopping. It's not really that amazing.
posted by agregoli at 10:07 AM on July 17


That's rather context-deaf. But in fact providing a bench or spare corner does promote moving and shopping, in that it moves people who are waiting away from obstructing merchandise from people who are shopping.

This isn't something comic stores have to confront, because stereotypes aside, their merchandise isn't typically gendered.
posted by cribcage at 10:17 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "Wait, you won't go to a store with a bag check (even though it's "not a big deal"), but if your friends ask why, you won't say "I don't like checking my bag", you'll say "It was shady, I felt uncomfortable"? That seems really not nice, since it's pretty well understood that "shady" and "uncomfortable" indicate that the store workers were leering at you or otherwise being harassing. If you don't wanna check your bag, okay, that's your right, but implying darker events seems mean."

Lemme expand my prior comment slightly. If the store were like, "Woman, do not breastfeed in here!" I would be like OH HELLS NO and get all civil rightsy on its ass. But when the store is like, "Woman, you need to check your purse to shop here," it's clear that that is not a gendered policy aimed at me (if anything it is probably aimed at teenagers with backpacks) and I do not feel called out in a sexist manner; I agree the owner has ever right to make a policy like that (and in some cases it may even be sensible). I just feel uncomfortable about shopping there because I feel uncomfortable giving up my purse, and uncomfortable shopping without it on my shoulder.

Unless the person were really a jerk about taking away my purse, I would probably more strongly remember feeling uncomfortable and uneasy, and not very welcome in the store, rather than particularly pinning it on bag check policies. And that's what sort-of dangerous and insidious about bag policies to the retailer -- they are gender neutral, they're perfectly legal, but they serve to make women disproportionately unwelcome. But since they're legal and not targeted at women on purpose, a lot of women who are turned off by them aren't going to say "Hey, Store, you might rethink that policy and its disproportionate impact on women," because it's a legal policy and on its face not discriminatory. Instead, they think, "That was uncomfortable. I guess I won't be back," and don't necessarily even pin it on that specific thing. So a Rational Comic Retailer may WANT to serve a female market and may be stocking a woman-friendly mix of comics but still not drawing a lot of women to the store, and the bag-check policy may not be visible to him (or her!) as one of the things that makes women feel uncomfortable shopping there. It's good for retailers to pay attention to these somewhat under-the-radar things, as much as they can, and to try to hear customers about what makes stores welcoming or unwelcoming.

(And totes about the women's clothing stores; good ones have a man-bench near but outside the dressing rooms so male escorts can sit while women try on clothes. As do good men's clothing stores.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:56 AM on July 17 [5 favorites]


You'd breastfeed in a store? I, personally, liked those fancy restrooms with couches, or a quiet corner in a café, or a park bench outside. Not gonna whip my boobs out and plop down on the ground in an aisle at Target. Has nothing to do with civil rights and everything to do with taking proper care of my baby's needs (which includes a little peace and quiet).
posted by dabitch at 11:13 AM on July 17


Would you, could you, in a store?
Would you, could you, on the floor?


I did it anywhere and everywhere. 1964 World's Fair Museum, I'm thinking of you.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:34 PM on July 17 [4 favorites]


dabitch: "You'd breastfeed in a store? I, personally, liked those fancy restrooms with couches, or a quiet corner in a café, or a park bench outside. Not gonna whip my boobs out and plop down on the ground in an aisle at Target. Has nothing to do with civil rights and everything to do with taking proper care of my baby's needs (which includes a little peace and quiet)."

Okay it's been five hours and I still can't decide if this is serious or the best parody of a breastfeeding comment ever. Please tell me and put me out of my misery.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:16 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


As a former teenage shoplifter, the longtime manager of a store where loss prevention was a full contact sport, and a lover of comic books, I cannot imagine a comic book store so busy, so understaffed, and so poorly organized that having a mandatory purse check would be effective or necessary.

Like even the dumbest, stonedest, minimum-wagedest teenager should be able to spot over 95% of shoplifting as it happens (and those kids don't last too long cuz comic shops always have a stack of resumes from overqualified true believers begging for a part-time position with no benefits, shit pay and a decent discount)*

*my gf is one of those true believers. She works a 12 hr shift every Wednesday when the new issues come out. I'm gonna ask her if their checked bag policy extends to purses
posted by elr at 5:02 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


My non-comic book store had a common - sense mandatory bag check that did not include purses. The store was five floors with different departments, so we wanted everybody carrying their money with them, and a lot of people with heavier bags were happy to drop em off for a few.

We tried to make the mandatory bag check seem more like a service than an imposition , "Hey, may I check your bag for you?" But if anyone raised a fuss about having their money/laptop/pacemaker/chihuahua/etc, we'd wave them off.

The store was owned by a family of very cautious/paranoid Korean American men who were not racist in hiring (the store had a very multiethnic hipster staff, all of whom were equally distrusted and subjected to random bag checks at the end of the day) but profiled the SHIT out of the customers. I would often get calls telling me to keep an eye on black men and transwomen coming up to my floor. The black men were almost never thieves (the same percentage as anyone else in their age bracket) but I always felt bad when I caught a black transwoman cutting security tags (shoplifting is one of those dumb, wrong things that gives you a sense of power and control that's often lacking when you're young, poor, and feeling all kinds of othered).

Despite their racial biases, the owners' favorite shoplifters (to catch) were thrillseeking white teenagers from the suburbs. They were the most-likely to be really sloppy obvious shoplifters, usually had enough money to pay full price for an item they damaged trying to remove the security tag, and were more likely to break down crying than to pull a weapon (I've seen a couple guns pulled, the manager who was ex-military and would chase a shoplifter *outside the store* got his head bashed in with a wrench and a lead pipe on different occasions).

Even though we've seen up to a thousand dollars worth of flimsy designer bullshit wadded up into fairly-tiny purses, our bag check didn't extend to purses because half of our customers were women and transwomen and drag queens, and we knew that their purses served different functions than all those other bags. Like duh, yo.
posted by elr at 5:41 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


"uosuaq, i agree with that but i think there's an additional factor here which was touched on above, that being "fashion".

Every time i've brought this up around one of my friends who works in high end retail(several of whom dress very vintage/mid century as a style choice) they get into a whole diatribe about how putting things in pockets "ruins the form of the dress" or pants or whatever. Similar to mens dressy suits.
"

Yeah, men's suit jackets also often have the fake pockets on them, and the objection in a lot of designs is that by adding bulk in the thighs and ass (where most pockets live), the clothes are thus less flattering.
posted by klangklangston at 6:51 PM on July 17


Eyebrows McGee, I'll put you out of your misery: I can't see how breastfeeding on the floor of Target is a civil rights issue or how checking large bags in stores with shopliftable (or easily just damaged, collectable and expensive) items and a non-1% clientele is anti-woman. Maybe this means I fail as a woman, if so I'll turn my card in.
posted by dabitch at 7:25 PM on July 17


dabitch: "I can't see how breastfeeding on the floor of Target is a civil rights issue "

Because the public breastfeeding is usually included in state civil rights statutes and asking a woman to leave a place of public accommodation because she is breastfeeding is, therefore, a civil rights violation. Typically investigated by your state department of human rights or similar, which is responsible for protecting citizens against civil rights violations; there is also a federal law that is an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 preventing women from being fired for breastfeeding. I was being extremely literal; in the United States, public breastfeeding is typically a civil rights issue and breastfeeding mothers are protected against discrimination in places of public accommodation under the same statutes that protect patrons from gender, racial, or religious discrimination. You are welcome to breastfeed, or not breastfeed, wherever you prefer and wherever is best for you and your child; however, it is an affirmative right for most women in the United States to breastfeed in public, in any way they choose, at any time. I believe that is an important right.

Also I have never seen anyone sit on the floor in the middle of Target to breastfeed. Personally, I just breastfed while I walked when it happened to come up. I have heard people like to sit in the display chairs at Target to do it, but I have never seen that myself. Most people probably go to the dressing rooms.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:40 PM on July 17 [5 favorites]


Me, I still prefer sitting in a chair or on a bench, and I did so for the more than two years that I breastfed (in more than one country on earth).
posted by dabitch at 7:49 PM on July 17


> if they do not trust me, I do not trust them

Mostly this.

But also, my *ssh* private keys are in the bag. No fucking way are you getting it.

And, with warm weather here (no coat pockets) my summer purse* well may be idling inside my larger bag.

*And yes, it's a purse. Not a murse, or manbag, or European carryall.
posted by one weird trick at 8:15 PM on July 18


Hmm. This whole conversation feels a little weird to me. I get checked a lot - much more than anyone I know. I'm male, I don't drive and I carry everything I need all day in a messenger bag that takes careful planning to comfortably fit the EDC items, let alone some mysterious hypothetical shoplifted merch.

There are simply more stores than I'm comfortable disclosing that I won't shop in by myself. However merely by arriving with my girlfriend (often dressed exactly the same way) is usually enough to clear me from all aforementioned interference.

Discussing this with my female friends and relatives, or with anyone I know who drives, results in this weird twilight-zoneish feeling that makes it abundantly clear that no one I know has the faintest clue what I'm talking about.
posted by mce at 6:23 PM on July 22 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine still bikes everywhere and like you he carries a messenger bag. He's told to check it in every record or comics store we enter together. I'm only asked to check bags that are significantly larger than "teeny purse that can only contain wallet or phone". I have a few purses that reach bike-messenger size dimensions (usually hiding a computer) and I have to check those.

My pal used to work in a comic shop that didn't make people check purses but where everything was in locked glass display cases. Every time he forgot to lock one, figurines went missing.
posted by dabitch at 8:59 AM on July 23


BTW: if the check place has a sign stating something like "we're not responsible for lost or stolen items" at the check-counter regarding their checking service, I won't enter the store. Because, puhlease.
posted by dabitch at 9:01 AM on July 23


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