Ralph Melton (ralphmelton) wrote,
Ralph Melton

Shopping Mysteries and the Reinforcing of Stereotypes

Last night, because Lori was still sick, I went shopping for Christmas presents for the girl that Lori's class had 'adopted'.

The games were no trouble. (Although the version of Uno currently for sale seems to have removed the word 'Wild' from the Wild cards.) I even managed to get a doll that Lori approved of without too much trouble.

But I was challenged by the first item on the list: size 6 snow boots for a 10-year-old girl. I found the girls' section of the shoe department, but there I was stymied by the complete absence of size 6.

I reinforced stereotypes: I found a helpful female salesperson, showed her the specifications Lori had written down for me, and asked for her help and advice.

The answer: there's a discontinuity in girls' shoe sizes. When the sign at the end of the aisle said that it held sizes 8 1/2 - 4, it meant that the sizes started at 8 1/2, went up to 11 or 12, then jumped to 1 (which is still larger than the size 11), and then went up to 4. (I may have some of the details of the particular numbers wrong, but the general nature is as described.) So the size 6 shoe in the specification was actually a woman's size 6, not to be found in the girls' shoe aisle.

I had not known about this discontinuity. And I think that it would have taken me a long time to figure it out, even with the evidence of the shoes before me.

I continued to confirm stereotypes: I asked the saleslady for her fashion judgments, and when she considered one pair and said "those are cute," I took them and added them to my cart, checking only the snow-worthiness and the price. I'm sure I'm not qualified to judge fashion, and so any choice the saleslady considered adequate was satisfactory to me.
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