Today I put in some time at Barefoot League selling Aloha For Japan tsunami relief fundraiser t-shirts. They cost $20 with 100% of the proceeds going to relief efforts in Japan (click here for details). This fundraiser came about as one of many collaborative efforts between Barefoot League & a handful of other local apparel businesses. This Christmas if you decide to shop “local,” please remember these guys. They don’t make a cent off of this project, which, believe me, is a lot of work.
March 23 note: the state just got involved & now the stores are forced to charge sales tax, so the shirts are no longer a flat $20. I could comment more on this, but I’ll just leave it at that.
April 4 note: Don Quixote has now taken over distribution of Aloha For Japan shirts; Barefoot League (& I think the other stores) will no longer be distributing them.
I have no retail experience. I don’t even know how to fold a t-shirt (check out my drawers at home — I roll my shirts.) but today I learned & I learned fast.
When I showed up at Barefoot League at 3pm, there were opened boxes of these t-shirts still hot from the delivery truck stacked around the counter, several customers similarly stacked around the counter, a nonstop ringing phone, & an extremely stressed out employee. We had been told the t-shirts would not be arriving until 6pm but they had apparently shown up early, all but size Small. Mike, who had been in the shop alone since 10, was getting bombarded with people eager to give their support to Japan. He needed to count the t-shirts to confirm how many were delivered but with the crowd of people waiting to buy t-shirts standing in front of him there was no way this was going to happen.
Every other person wanted size Small, every other person failed to read the large sign stipulating that fundraiser shirt sales were to be cash only. One lady asked me if by “cash” we actually meant “check.” That was funny. I assume this is normal retail stuff & I give you retail people credit. The cash collected for the t-shirts was dumped into a manila envelope which had to be hidden behind the counter, & later I begged Jacky, the owner, for a bank bag because reaching into a manila envelope every time I needed to make change was getting ridiculous.
The craziness was nonstop, & it lasted the entire 5 hours I was there. I got to help a lot of really nice people, which is a great benefit of working charities: all the nice people show up. We did have a few PITAs, including a woman who insisted we make an exception to our “no holds” rule & obdurately waited several minutes to speak to the manager when she saw that I wasn’t going to bend for her as well as people who complained that we should make a limit on how many shirts people could buy so that they could get the sizes they wanted. I suppose the occasional “me firsters” show up for charities as well. Meh.
Most of the day had passed & in spite of the craziness I was still smiling. I think just coming into contact with good people for a good cause could affect even my general misanthropy. A Japanese woman entered the shop & when I explained to her that we only had 2XLs & 3XLs left because most of the sizes had sold out within 2 hours of arriving, she expressed appreciation that there was such a great response to the relief fundraiser. I agreed.
She explained to me that she had friends in Japan, & her voice broke as she said that they were being called today to identify bodies, & then she thanked me & left, sobbing. As I watched her go out the door everything got quiet for a few seconds, & then I turned to the evening manager, Joey, & said, “Shit just got real.”
Another Japanese national came in &, unable to buy sizes remotely appropriate (we could probably fit 2 or 3 of her into the sizes we had left), burst into tears but shook hands & thanked everyone in the store, other customers included.
At the end of the day not only had we sold almost all the Aloha For Japan t-shirts, but we had collected 3 pages of people who wanted to be called when tomorrow’s shipment arrived, & we had broken our daily sales goal by $137. The t-shirt madness had been so crazy that it had not felt like we had made much in store sales at all, but apparently we had. As I drove to Champa Thai to meet my sister for dinner, I imagined what I would say to her about my day. All I could think of to say was, “It was so awesome.”
Barefoot League is located on Kapahulu Avenue in the Safeway shopping plaza, facing Kapahulu next to Burgers On The Edge. They specialize in mens & womens apparel & I especially like their baseball caps & dryweave polos. Their hours are 10am-8pm & purchase of an Aloha For Japan t-shirt gets you 10% off anything in the store.