Q: You worked at “a clothing exchange” in LA.
A: I was 24 years old. I was there for two, maybe two and a half years.
Q: Do you remember interviewing for the job?
A: Yes. They brought over a bunch of clothes and they said something like, “Out of these items, what would you choose for, say, a luau party.” It was a double interview.
Q: Meaning two people were interviewing you?
A: No, meaning another person was interviewing at the same time as me! It was stressful! She seemed like a know-it-all, like she was answering everything correctly. I thought for sure I didn’t get the job but I guess maybe they liked me more.
Q: What was your job title?
A: I was a buyer. You were either at the buy counter or the register or you were at the droom — that was their word for the fitting room and the dressing room.
Q: So you bought clothes from people?
A: Yes. By the end of the day you had a film on your hands, based on the grimy clothes people brought in. It was like, “Did you poop in these? Have you not washed them in forever? Then bring them in!”
And you can’t wear gloves because you have to feel the fabrics to test the quality.
People would dump out shit that they’d had in their basement and it had a mildew smell or a cat smell. The word we used to describe it was “condition.” Like if there was an old period stain on the crotch and they said, “These are my True Religion jeans! Why won’t you take them?” We told them it was the condition.
There were things we’d find in the pockets. Sometimes we would find paraphernalia, like crack pipes or the occasional bag of coke.
Q: Coke was in the pockets?
A: Actually the coke got shoved down in one of the rounders. My co-worker found it.
With the crack pipe, a person came out of the fitting room and was like, “So… this was in the pocket…”
A: Another time there was a Free People hoodie and inside the hood it was full of semen! It was dry and crusty! And I said, “I’m not putting this on the floor! Pay more attention when you buy something! Gross.”
Q: What was the cool vs. disgusting ratio? As far as what you saw on a daily basis?
A: I’d say 30% cool, 70% disgusting. I feel like that seems accurate. It really just depends on the day though. Some days there were great things all day.
Q: How did you know how much money to give someone for their clothes?
A: You had to go on shopping assignments, go to the mall. You had to see which labels were sold at which stores. You had to know about the hardware, the material, the stitching, and based on the feel and the look you could decide how much something would sell for.
Q: So you kind of taught yourself what the prices should be?
A: You had to train with a buyer. The price was based on so many things. Like did we already have that style in the store… Did that style sell…
People were always bitching, like, “This is brand-new; I only wore it once!”
But if we already had a lot of that style you couldn’t pollute the shelves. Even if it was current, you had to wait until there wasn’t very much in stock.
It was hard learning at first. You would see an item that looked okay but it wasn’t.
Q: What were the styles when you worked there?
A: Everything with owls was a big deal. Mustaches all over the place. Phrase shirts. High waisted jean shorts had just come back…
Q: Did you know much about fashion before you worked there?
A: Yeah, I do love fashion. My mom has exquisite taste. Everything cool I own is from my mom. I didn’t know anything about labels though. Like recognizing a YKK zipper.
Q: What’s that?
A: It’s just a type of zipper some labels use.
Q: Huh. I will have to start looking for that. Anything else interesting?
A: Let’s see…
I had this one crazy bitch try to sell me the shoes off her nasty feet. I told her, “It’s literally illegal for me to buy the shoes off your feet!” This store was right on Ventura Boulevard and I think the rules in normal society just don’t seem to apply to LA.
I had to clean up pee in the fitting room one time. Well, truth be told, I ended up pawning the job off on another employee who had just been hired and was overly eager to help.
People would straight up pee on the fitting room floor. People wrote with blood on the walls one time as well. We had to repaint the whole fitting room eventually. Not like these things were a regular occurrence, but the fact that these things even happened once is not okay!
A: Yeah. The reasons people were selling clothes were pretty interesting too.
Like, “I’m selling an ex’s stuff” or “My roommate was a bitch and shorted me on the rent.”
Actually, one time I found out that a guy I had been dating was moving to Vegas to be with another girl, because he went in and sold his clothes at the store. My good friend Mattie was at the buy counter next to him and overheard everything! That was a crazy one!
I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was a pretty odd way to find out. And I’m pretty sure going into the place the girl you’re dating worked at, and where she knows everyone—doing that is something only an asshole would do.
But hey, it was LA, so what could I really expect? We heard stories like that all the time about why people were selling.
Q: Wow. Harsh. Were there good aspects to the job?
A: When people had good stuff, it was like a treasure hunt for me. And I had great clothes when I worked there. I found the coolest stuff and I worked with the coolest people. It was actually a great job.
To hear more from Abby Markson, check out the You Got Jobbed podcast.