The Non-Consumer Advocate Gets Intimate At Target

by Katy on January 16, 2009 · 22 comments



I’ve been a member of  The Compact, (buy-nothing-new) over the past two years. This has meant that I really don’t buy anything new. No new clothing, no new gifts, no new toys.

Yup. Nothing.

But there’s one item I most definitely will not be buying used:


Yup. I am not that extreme.

I’d been chugging contentedly along with my used purchases, perfectly happy, not a care in the world. And then it happened, somehow I had not a single pair of panties I could wear without fear of accusations of taking things a bit too far. Because yes, I strip down to my skivvies at work. (Before your imagination starts to take over, I’m an RN and change into scrubs in a communal locker room.)

And it’s not like I started out on my Compact journey with new underwear anyway. They were already, um . . . let’s just say starting up their AARP membership.

I like to procrastinate errands until I can batch them, and I finally had enough to justify powering up the ol’ mini-van and hitting the road. One errand I’d been particularly dreading was a Home Depot run to return a box of too-big dimmable compact fluorescent light bulbs. I completed this dull errand, and I’m walking back to the car when I notice that there’s a Target store in the same complex.

Hmm . . . I’m already here, I might as well just get it over with and buy some new underwear.

So I took a deep breath and aimed myself across the lot, and entered the holy grail of consumerism.

I walked right past the carts and the baskets and found the intimates department. And what-do you-know? They were even on sale! I quickly found an acceptable panty packet, (buy 6, get 1 free!) and carried my singular purchase to the check-out line.

I paid my $6, declined a plastic bag and walked back to the car.


And you know what? I had thought I would have to work to consciously ignore all the tempting shiny objects, but there was absolutely nothing that caught my eye. Nothing.

So now I have a brand new pair of underwear for each and every day of the week.

Yup. I’m set for the next three years.

Because I am not that extreme.

Do you have things you would never buy used? Tell us what your Compact exceptions would be in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Hippy Habibi January 16, 2009 at 10:14 pm

Items I couldn’t buy used: underwear, bras, undershirts, socks, and pillows.

Items I would take as hand-me-downs from friends/family, but not buy from thrift store or stranger: shoes, car seat, mattress, and sofa.


rebecca January 17, 2009 at 12:55 am

I did buy my husband underwear at a garage sale once, but it was unopened packages.


Caroline January 17, 2009 at 2:16 am

(inside ear bud) headphones are must buy new for me, along with anything else that would have been too close for comfort to another persons insides.


Hy G. Ennick January 17, 2009 at 2:37 am

Well, certainly all items of personal hygiene should be purchased new, especially the consumables, such as your Q-tips and toilet paper and such. …I suppose that goes without saying in most cultures.

As for RE-usables, I recommend quite seriously this test: As a general guideline, purchase items brand new when they’re likely to have regular, close contact with any mucus membranes. Underwear, of course. Eye patches, swimmer’s nose-plugs. Handkerchiefs would qualify as well.


teri January 17, 2009 at 5:59 am

I am right there with you about stopping short of undies. And any appliance that would have blood products like a blood sugar meter would be off my list too. I don’t mind buying anything that can be disinfected with bleach like sheets or blankets. Undies are just too close for comfort.


Julie January 17, 2009 at 6:03 am

I have to make a comment about Target—we went in there briefly the other day, also to buy underwear, for my son. I told the girl I didn’t want a bag but she put the stuff in anyway. I remembered the last time I was in Target a month or so ago (first trip to buy a 3-pack of underwear to make sure my son liked that kind before buying enough to keep him fully stocked till he grows more!) and when the guy put stuff in a bag without asking me and I said I didn’t need it, he PUT THE UNUSED PLASTIC BAG IN THE GARBAGE CAN! I was so horrified and astonished, I told him to give me the bag, which he did. I took it to my car to use as a garbage bag, or kitty litter bag, or whatever, but I just could not understand why he would throw away an unused bag to languish in a landfill for 1000 years instead of just using it for the next customer. Apparently, it’s too hard to put it back into their little bag holder doohickey thingy. The guy thought I was a freak, of course. So when the girl gave me a bag even though I said no, I meekly accepted the bag and shuffled out of there, I knew it was pointless to fight the Target bag mafia. My 7 year old son was upset about it but I assured him we will make sure we use the bag and if it’s still clean at the end, we can recycle it. (This of course necessitates a trip to a grocery store—not the local organic co-op—that we usually don’t go to, but it will have to be done. ) I’ve been meaning to write an angry letter to the Target manager. They actually sell Target brand reusable bags in there, but don’t try to use one. The automaton clerks will not allow that!


Tara Morrison January 17, 2009 at 6:38 am

Running shoes, athletic socks, and underwear so far I haven’t had to buy any of these things but I am soon due for more running shoes. I will go to my locally owned shoe store and get these which usually last about a year and half and then they get moved to gardening shoes or sent to GW.


Mandy January 17, 2009 at 7:54 am

I am a bit girly. I love frilly undergarments and if I could find them used I’d buy them (and I have on e-bay- but never bid). I actually would just run them through the hot cycle in the washing machine and not think twice. But sadly that’s very hard to find, so I just wait for Vicki’s semi-annual sale and then stock up on the fun stuff.

I am not sure there is much I would mind if it was used. I’d prefer new athletic shoes, but I have found my last pair (newbalances) worn once on e-bay for .99+$6 shipping.


Heidi January 17, 2009 at 10:02 am

I know this isn’t really answering your question, sorry, but I do go into Target from time to time to cruise their clearance endcaps. Most often I walk out empty-handed, but once in a while I can get a great price on household stuff, dish soap or shampoo, for example, if you pair a 50-cent coupon with a $1 clearance item, you can get necessary household items dirt cheap.

I always bring my own green bags and it’s clearly an inconvenience for the clerks to use them, but I make a fuss and insist.

Recently I saw a tee-shirt in there which said (and I swear this is true), “I New Stuff.” I just could not believe it. How sad.


Heidi January 17, 2009 at 10:04 am

Sorry, it said “I Heart New Stuff,” with a picture of a heart. (I typed the word “heart” in brackets and it didn’t get printed.)


Viki January 17, 2009 at 10:39 am

I’m right there with not buying used underwear, and I think bedding would bug me too. Everything else, I think I’d be ok.

What is it with Target clerks and reusable bags? Every other store I go to, it isn’t a problem at all, but the Target clerks act like I am a complete inconvenience to them.


Juli January 17, 2009 at 11:15 am

In addition to underwear, running shoes and some everyday shoes that get frequent wear. I’m OK with used shoes that are worn occasionally- pumps, snow boots- but running shoes need to fit MY feet only and not be worn out to prevent injury. Ditto shoes that I walk around in a lot, like my Danskos (I would purchase those if they were very lightly used though). I have a newish pair and have turned the 10 year old pair into house clogs.


unemployedgreg January 17, 2009 at 11:42 am

My wife and I couldn’t bring ourselves to buy a used mattress last year. I suppose underware and sofas would bother me for the same reasons!


Di Hickman January 17, 2009 at 11:46 am

I buy underwear (socks, panties, bra’s) new, and sportswear, just because I can’t find it here and I prefer the sweat-whip-away materials to run in.

Hey everyone, Target might be changing soon, so keep your eyes peeled! Last time I was in there about 3 weeks ago I brought in my cloth bags and the checkout guy said “good work! better get used to bringing them as they are talking about charging for plastic bags soon”. I hear that Target will be charging 25c a bag! Hurrah!


thenonconsumeradvocate January 17, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Hy G Enick,

My husband is the equipment manager for our soccer league, and one of the bags had 6 handkerchiefs and 6 bandanas in it. (No way to ever find the original owner.) I now carry the hankies with me all the time so that I won’t have to use kleenex. And I’ve got NO problem with it. I use the bandanas as kid school lunch napkins, and I have bought used cloth napkins before.
And you’ve used them when eating dinner at my house.


eBay prohibits the sale of used underwear. I know this because I once tried to sell a girl’s used dress with matching underwear. The listing got something like 600 views, but no bids. eBay revoked my selling privileges for 24 hours. I was super grossed out that people were coming to my listing to look at little girl’s used panties, which they were. Eeeuuuwww!


I got no attitude about bringing my own bag to Target yesterday, but I was just buying the single item.

Also, my couch is vintage, probably 70 years old. So yeah, it was used. I always take a deep sniff of used upholstered items before buying them. This may sound gross, (which it is) but I don’t want to wait until I’ve taken something home to find out that the previous owner was a smoker or incontinent. Or both.

You have to possess a strong stomach to be a nurse.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


sandy January 17, 2009 at 12:56 pm

I usually buy the cheaper brand of women’s underwear at Target also. I hadn’t bought any in a long while, and really needed new ones, so about a month ago I finally bought a package. Right away I noticed that the material was thinner than the older ones I still had of the same brand. Good luck Katy on trying to make your new underwear last 3 years with weekly use–I doubt if the ones I just bought will last that long.


Kristen@The Frugal Girl January 17, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Katy, my Goodwill has had tons of new with tags undies from Target lately. Granted, some of them have been g-strings, but there have been some more conservative styles too. lol


Magdalena January 17, 2009 at 2:26 pm

My husband’s shoes usually have to be new, because it is hard to find good used ones for him. I have a terrible mold and dust mite allergy, so I have to be extra-careful about upholstered anything.

I will buy used dishes and pots and pans, but they have to be completely crack and chip free, and glazing has to be intact – not crazed. Remember that old china may not be lead free. You can’t know the source of the clay, so make sure there is no chance of leaching.

Here in Canada many Loblaw chain grocery stores also carry some clothing, so it’s easy to pick up a packet of undies without Walmart. (We don’t have Target.)


Alison January 18, 2009 at 10:44 am

I have recently added cloth diapers to the list of things I won’t buy used. My first batch of cloth diapers were given to me by a good friend, who had used them for her four children. I then ordered several expensive ones from an online shop to add to my collection. While I was waiting for my shipment to arrive, I found a posting for a huge batch of cloth diapers on our local buy/sell website. The price was too good to be true! It wasn’t until I got them home that I realized how poorly cared for they had been. Most of them were smelly, and some were mildewy. I had to throw most of the stuff away… 🙁 I would have been better off picking up a few brand new ones instead.


Christy January 18, 2009 at 4:51 pm

I have mixed results using reusable bags at Target. I have gotten some employees who actually say “Thank you for bringing your bags!”, some who look totally confused with the idea and I had an experience last week that really fried me. The cashier made no effort to use the bags. I don’t mind giving a hand in packing but she merely put all the scaned items on the counter so I could put them in the bags in between paying for my merchandise. Even after all the scanning was done she just waited for me to finish. I was a little annoyed.


thenonconsumeradvocate January 18, 2009 at 5:10 pm

I have sent an e-mail to Target, asking them to clarify their policy on customers who bring their own reusable bags with them.

I included some of your great comments, so I will hopefully get a nice prompt response.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Jan January 19, 2009 at 4:02 am

I ditto everyone else’s remarks about what to buy new.

Funny thing – I was in Connecticut last week visiting my sister & her grocery store – Stop N Shop actually gives you a 5 cent credit for each ‘green’ bag that you use for your groceries! Now, it’s only a nickel, but at least it’s an incentive!


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