FRENZIED, FRENETIC FEMALES ………1949
Imagine a room with wall-to-wall females of all ages, packed in like sardines and each one vying for the best bargain available. The scenario is not all that uncommon in this day and age, but it was unheard of in the early 20th century. At that time “Sales” were fairly civil affairs and, more often than not, they were held on specific days or at the same time of each year.
This all changed in 1908 when Edward A. Filene came up with the idea of selling surplus and overstocked merchandise in the basement of his father’s department store in Boston. In 1909 Filene’s “Automatic Bargain Basement” opened it’s doors and it was an immediate success.
I was 16 when I made my first visit to the famous discount store. This was in 1949 and I waited in line until the doors opened. It took all my strength to hold my own against the push of all those bodies. Once inside I elbowed my way to one of the tables and was thrilled to see a peach colored cashmere sweater. It was a brand name in my size and at an incredibly good price. I held it high in front of me to inspect for flaws & before I knew it a hand reached out and snatched it from my grasp. I was so surprised that I didn’t even try to see where it went.
This was not an auspicious beginning and I decided to step back and reconnoiter. I saw that the savvy shoppers had large Filene shopping bags. They would quickly scan a table and shove anything that seemed of interest into the bag. When they had their fill they would retire to the end of the room where large mirrors were hung. Then they would take their time inspecting their choices…keeping everything close and out of reach from the other shoppers.
Now I had the maneuver down pat and, at the end of the day I’d spent very little and had quite a bit to show for it. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was worth it. I was exhausted and I realized that both my dignity and my body were bruised. I was glad to say that I’d visited the famous Filene’s Bargain Basement but I never went back.
It is interesting to note that Edward A. Filene not only devised a new way of shopping but he also introduced practices in the workplace that we take for granted today, such as: the 40-hour work week, Minimum wage, Profit sharing plans and Medical Insurance for workers. He was truly a pioneer in his field.