Tall, Dark, and Mysterious


Business sense

File under: XX Marks the Spot, Know Thyself. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 7:20 pm.
  1. At the local Sears, women’s jeans, unlike men’s, are indexed not by pairs of numbers that denote waist size and inseam, but by single numbers that denote nothing. Yeah, I know, I’ve been over this before, but that’s what you get when you keep reading the same blog for over a year. Anyway: a few weeks ago I subjected a (middle-aged, male) coworker of mine, nevermind why, to a passionate tirade about how I will not even try on jeans whose manufacturers can’t even be bothered to provide a two-parameter description of them. Why waste my time? Except that some of the Sears jeans are labelled with waist size and inseams: one pair, filed under the marker “8″, sported a tag that read “30/32″. Seems the dolt in charge of the women’s jeans section decided that that information should be hidden from immediate view. (Aside: you know those women in fiction who describe themselves as “I’m a size n”? Does anyone actually do that? Because if I were to give the single-number pants size, I’d need to provide a margin of error as well.)

    Credit where it’s due, however: I did manage to pick up some great pyjama bottoms at Sears. They came from the men’s section - and were labelled with waist and inseam. Which is kind of weird, but goddamn, do those pyjamas ever fit.

  2. My employer sprung a new business trip on me after I’d already booked tickets for another one. I called the airline to cancel my original flight, had some conversation involving the words “non-refundable” and “thirty dollars”, and I agreed to a bunch of stuff, and then, a few weeks later, saw my credit card bill, and -

    “Excuse me, but did you people charge me thirty dollars to change a flight from return trip to Edmonton to return trip to nowhere?”

    “Yes, we did.”

    “That doesn’t make any sense.”

    “It’s our policy. We explained it over the phone to you.”

    And, in all fairness, they did: they said that my tickets were nonrefundable, and that I could cancel the flight “for thirty dollars”, which I (understandably) parsed as “…but we’ll refund you $30.” You know how I always complain about students not reading the damned question, and instead just doing whatever they want with the numbers in their word problems? Feel free to point me to this post next time that happens.

    Nevertheless, “But if I just didn’t show up to the airport, it wouldn’t cost me anything to fly to nowhere. I thought that the airline would prefer to know that I wouldn’t be flying so that they could sell my seats to someone else.”

    “Yes, we do appreciate it, thank you for notifying us.”

    “But you just showed your appreciation by charging me thirty dollars.”

    To be fair, they were charging my employer thirty dollars, and perhaps I should have shown my appreciation for my employer by not spending more than thirty dollars’ worth of my time debating this issue with the airline. However, it wasn’t about the money; it was the principle of the thing.

    “That’s our policy.”

    “May I speak to your supervisor?”

    Yes, I may! And let me skip the ensuing thirty-minute conversation and go directly to the coda, which is this: supervisor agreed that why yes, now that I mentioned it, this was ridiculous from the perspectives of both company and customer, and we’ll credit your account thirty dollars, have a nice day.

  3. The hotel where I last stayed on business had a pizza place on the first floor. “Available in the restaurant on the first floor, and in room service!” boasted the menu on the desk. Also: “15% gratuity extra for room service.” Why not? I’m sure that lots of folks who pay their own money to stay in places like this also pay their own money to avoid walking to the lobby.

    “I’d like to order a pizza,” I said.

    “Room number?”

    “Oh, I’ll pick it up myself.”

    “Okay, but we still need your room number so that we can call you when it’s ready.”

    Fair enough.

    Twenty minutes later, a knock on my door, along with man holding a pizza.

    “Oh,” I said, “I told them I’d pick it up in the lobby.”

    The fellow nodded, and walked over to the end of the hall. I followed him into the elevator and into the restaurant. “That’ll be twelve dollars,” he said, reading from the receipt he’d carried up to my room and back down again. “Price of the pizza plus tax.”


  1. Maybe I’m being thick here, but I don’t understand the pizza story. Did the $12 include the 15% gratuity or didn’t it?

    - saforrest — 1/27/2006 @ 7:39 pm

  2. It did not. (I’ll rewrite to clarify.)

    - Moebius Stripper — 1/27/2006 @ 7:45 pm

  3. One fascinating effect of Women’s sizing, mentioned in the article, is that it renders online clothes shopping impossible. As a man, I’m regularly bemused with my girlfriends requsite trip to the changing room. Not only can I order things online, I can walk into any thrift store and know that anything with my digits will fit (at least well enough for a guy).

    - Lawnchair Tommy — 1/28/2006 @ 4:25 am

  4. Part of the problem with sizing women’s jeans by waist and inseam is that these things vary with the fashions. Right now, when women’s “waists” are down somewhere near their butts, a 30 waist would fit a very differently sized woman than a 30 waist when waists are up near the actual waist. The average woman has about an 8″ difference between waist and hip measurements, so your “waist” size would vary by even more than your Sears clothing size as the fashions changed. You might wear a 30 in regular jeans and a 38 in hip-huggers. Inseams also vary, as flood pants, capri pants, etc. come in and out.

    Men’s waists, by contrast, have been at the same spot (right above the pelvic bone) for many, many years. When they vary, they don’t move very far; and when they do move, the part of the body to which they move is pretty similarly-sized to the part of the body they moved from. So it’s practical for men’s pants to be sized by actual waist measurement.

    - Wacky Hermit — 1/28/2006 @ 5:38 am

  5. See, this is why we need more reasearch into unstable molecules. Clothing sizing would cease to be an issue!

    Comic Book Physics makes everything better.

    - Geoff — 1/28/2006 @ 9:08 am

  6. See, never mind the flying cars and silver jumpsuits. It’s 2006; Why can’t I go into a ScanBooth, get measured with lasers, and get a fourteen-digit code describing my shape? “I want that hat over there.” “Yes sir; may I see your code? One moment please… here you are. Do you want a vest to go with that?”

    - Tom Harrison — 1/28/2006 @ 1:05 pm

  7. Yeah, I want three or four numbers on my pants: waist, hip, inseam, and maybe crotch-to-waistline. I’ve tried on too many pants that fit my hips perfectly but were too tight on the belly, or vice versa.

    - yami — 1/28/2006 @ 1:59 pm

  8. Reguarding Lawnchair Tommy’s comment, I wonder if more manufacturers of women’s clothes will change to a more rational sizing system to accomodate online sales.

    - Chris Phan — 1/28/2006 @ 2:47 pm

  9. Wacky Hermit - oh, yes, the travelling waist! I want the top of my pants to be at the narrowest part of my upper body - low-rise jeans are meant for the flatter of stomach, alas. Nevertheless, a waist measurement is still more meaningful than the single-number system. And a label such as “30 waist, low-rise” provides a lot information regarding both size of waist, and definition.

    Yami - yes to the four-parameter measurement, particularly the crotch-to-waistline one, which is the one that fails for me most often. (However, these jeans are reasonably priced, well-made, well-labelled, and fit me. Perhaps I will just stick with them from now on.)

    Re online shopping and such - funny thing, that; a few months ago I ordered a winter coat, from Land’s End. I created a virtual model for myself, with my height, weight, hip measurements, waist, inseam, bust, and many other variables. I was then informed that my size was…extra-small. I know some folks who wear clothes of that size; they are all under 5′2″ and under 100 lbs. I am neither. I ordered a medium, and it fit.

    - Moebius Stripper — 1/28/2006 @ 7:57 pm

  10. The funny thing is that Land’s End virtual model (it’s a third party piece of software, actually, also used by some other online retailers) had a moving scanning booth/truck. You could make an appointment, get scanned and have an actual virtual model of you. I was tempted, but had some privacy concerns (they own the scan of your body). I’m not sure if it is still available or not.

    - Sam — 1/29/2006 @ 11:54 am

  11. That is neat, Sam, but ditto on the privacy concerns. You know how (futilely) paranoid I am about those things, to the extent that I won’t even use my credit card in the States.

    I’m amused that all of the responses have been to the clothing sizes gripe. But I have another complaint toward the airline industry. See, up until today I have almost always arrived at the airport two hours before departure, just like I’m supposed to. At the checkin I’m always asked if I’d like a window or an aisle, and am then assigned to somewhere near the back, where I have to wait half an hour while everyone who hauled their sum total of their possessions onto the plane removes their stuff from the overhead compartments.

    But today, I arrived only an hour early, and was informed that there was only one window seat left - right at the front of the plane, where I’d have extra leg room and would get off first. The checkin person explained that they reserve those seats for special-needs folks, but since I was the second-to-last person to check in, that one was still available.

    So: arrive early, sit at the back. Arrive late, sit in a good seat at the front. Shee. I’d much prefer it if the folks who really need the front, leg-roomy seats would have to declare their preferences at the time of purchase, so they’d be guaranteed them, and the rest of us weren’t encouraged to show up last.

    - Moebius Stripper — 1/29/2006 @ 6:12 pm

  12. You arrive 2 hours early for domestic (to the US or Canada) flights? Really? Wow. I try to arrive 60-75 minutes early, that’s all, though it never gets me a better seat. (I recall hearing that the US customs in YVR is horrible. The one time I flew through there, I had no problems. The customs at YUL is fine.)

    - wolfangel — 1/29/2006 @ 7:45 pm

  13. Huh, I always reserve a seat when I make reservations (as I do all my reservations online, and I don’t fly Southwest). Most of the sites I go to will even indicate which seats are already taken, are on bulkheads or exit rows, etc.

    - meep — 1/30/2006 @ 6:21 am

  14. The women’s clothing size thing is a joke. Every couple years they “sneak down” the actual sizes - by adding an inch or two to the existing size. (The common remark about “Marilyn Monroe wore a size 14″ is kind of meaningless; I’ve read that in “modern sizes” she’d be about a 10. Which is still bigger than the average cinewaif out there now, but still)…

    I went into a “Chico’s” store over my break while visiting family. They have four sizes: 0, 1, 2, and 3. O is like an “extra small” (I think the woman said 2 to 4?) and the other sizes are scaled proportionally. No, I do not want vanity sizing. I know I am a fat chick and no giving me clothes that are labeled “3″ or some other coy euphemism is going to change that fact. Just give me waist, hip, and if we’re talking dress, bust, please.

    The “S, M, L, XL” sizing is equally unhelpful: depending on the manufacturer and cut I am anywhere from an M to having an XL not quite fit. (And as much as I said I hate vanity sizing that “shrinks” me? It’s still really, really depressing to pull an “XL” off the rack and find that the manufacturer considers a 28″ waist or a 36″ bust an “extra-large”).

    Actually, the idea of having a series of allometric based codes and custom clothes to fit that allometry is mightily appealing. (I sew some of my own clothes and although the fitting of patterns is a PITA, nothing fits as well as something made just for you).

    - ricki — 1/30/2006 @ 7:34 am

  15. On the subject of vanity sizing — my boyfriend’s mother says that she hasn’t changed clothing sizes in the last twenty years. She’s probably gained about 30 pounds in those years, not to mention that almost all women change hip size after pregnancy.

    I am in favour of the four-number size for women’s clothing. Currently, I guess my size based on what I guess the target clientele of the store to be. In stores for older women, I fit into a small. In stores for families, I am a medium. In stores for gen-X/Y, I am large. In stores for teens, I am extra-large.

    - YL — 1/30/2006 @ 5:25 pm

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