Poppin’ Tags: A True Story About How Storytelling Saved My Butt

I have a favorite Goodwill store. I assume you all do, too.

Mine is on 8th street, just East of 6th Avenue. Damn close to the Jefferson Market Library, home to my favorite clock tower. They have a really good selection of quirky items, and they’re pretty lax about enforcing their “only 3 items in the dressing room at a time” policy. What they are sticklers for, and I can vouch for this, is the Goodwill store policy that no item can be sold if it is missing its tag.

I have personally been turned away heartbroken thanks to this rule, after finding some exotic gem on the racks and realizing I had to have it, no matter what the price.

“How much does this item cost?” I ask, taking it up to the counter. “It doesn’t have a tag.”

“No items sold without tags!” the counter staff barks at me, before tossing my treasure haphazardly into an intake bin behind them. Embroidered blazer, GONE! Neon parachute pants, GONE! If you’ve ever had this happen to you — defeat snatched from the jaws of victory — you know how much it hurts.


But these past traumas were far from my mind when I brought 4 pairs of pants (heh heh) with me into the dressing room to try on weeks ago. I checked to make sure every item was tagged appropriately, and made my way through the pile. I try on a pair of soft, heather grey/green cargo pants — too big! I try on a pair of bleached denim boyfriend jeans — too small! I try on a pair of orange cargo pants — these seem about right. And lastly, a pair of dark-wash skinny jeans.


Ooh! They were soft. And very stretchy. And tight! I slid them carefully over my calves, then up my thighs, then tugged them up over my hips by the waistband, then —




Something popped.

Time stopped.

I swear the echo of that terrible sound could be heard all the way up at the top of the clock tower at the Jefferson Market Library. My god. What have I done? I twisted around to check for damage.


It turns out what had happened was this: whoever had tagged the pants had, instead of piercing through one side of the material, actually managed to catch two layers of the pants at once. When I yanked the waistband up over my bum, I had pulled apart the waistband where the tag was sealing it shut, causing the plastic toggle to pop right in half

But when I looked behind me to find the missing tag, I also caught sight of my reflection in the mirror. Specifically, dat ass. And I liked what I saw! These pants were AMAZING! I ogled my rump as I bent over to retrieve the price tag from the floor. Yes, that would do nicely. These pants were flawless. I had to have them. There was only one problem.

They didn’t have a tag anymore.

What was I going to do? I had to convince them to sell me these pants! Tucking their price tag into the back pocket, I shimmied back into my regular clothes and settled on a plan:

I must weave a web of words. Spin a yarn. I must use my storytelling prowess to convince them to sell me these pants.


With my orange pants and my dark skinny jeans in my arms, I marched confidently up to the counter. I laid them down atop the jewelry display case by the register and addressed the cashier, a young man who I judged to be just slightly younger than me. I took a breath. It was showtime.

“I’m going to buy both of these pants,” I began, “BUT —”

I paused for dramatic effect. He was my captive audience. I slid the dark denim pair out of the stack and held them up.

“BUT, when I was trying these on, I yanked them up over my butt really fast and I heard something pop.”

The young man’s eyes widened. He started to redden with embarrassment, on my behalf. I had him exactly where I wanted him. It was time for some props. Ready?

I slid the price tag out of the back pocket and held it up.

“The tag snapped off.”

He exhaled in relief.

“I thought you were going to say that you ripped the pants!” he laughed, keying the price into the register and ringing up my total. I grinned wickedly to myself. I know you thought that! I made you think that!I’m a master storyteller, don’t you know?

I pulled out my debit card and my best Blanche Devereaux charm.

“Oh no, honey. This ass breaks hearts, not pants.”


Those pants were four dollars. And Reader, I’m wearing them right now.

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