Monday, March 28, 2011

Lead Astray

Urban Outfitters and I have always had a steadfast, congenial relationship. Although I always felt (and still do feel) that their prices are WAY too high, I do enjoy their merchandise and try to get things when they are on sale. But recently, our relationship has hit some major barriers.

It all started when I ordered these online:

Yes, they are super cute. That's why I had to have them. That is also why I was extremely crestfallen when I tired them on and found that they were falling off of me. I don't know who those were a small to--maybe a 6'5" lumberjack. Regardless of their size, I still wore them. But within the first night of wearing them, they had multiple runs and a tear starting on the thigh.

I was furious. I did NOT pay fourteen dollars for a pair of ill-fitting stockings that I could only wear one night. So I went to Urban the next day to exchange them for another pair (which, by the way, ended up being just like the first pair I bought. They aren't as big, but they already have runs in them and I've worn them like four times).

But my anger had yet to reach its peak. As I stood at the check stand, I saw a small sign taped on the register that said:

"Some of our products such as dinnerware, glassware, items used to serve food, wallets, handbags, purses, clutches, totes, clothing, accessories, or shoes made of vinyl or imitation leather may contain lead and other chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm."

I stood staring at that sign for what seemed like hours. So many thoughts were going through my head: How many people had seen it? How many people were as shocked and appalled as me? Does this mean that every time I rock one of my many tops, purses shoes, etc. from Urban that I am potentially endangering my future offspring? How could someone in good conscience put cancer causing chemicals like lead in products that millions of people purchase every year? How is one of the most popular teen clothing stores even allowed to have these chemicals in their products? Why weren't there more signs and more information about the chemicals? How much chemicals were in the products? How much would it take to really harm you?

I was hurt. I felt betrayed. Not just by Urban Outfitters, but by humankind...if that makes sense. I mean, here we are, with a growing global epidemic of cancer and we are struggling to find the cure. It seems like no one can figure out why cancer is getting more and more out of control every year. Well, here you go! We are WEARING and exposing ourselves to (mostly unwittingly) cancer causing chemicals every day! Clothes made by a fellow human being!

I went around the store and tried to find out if they were posting these warnings on the actual products that contained the chemicals. On the tags of some of their other products, I noticed written in extremely fine print, "This item does not comply with California Proposition 65. Please visit help/info for more details on Proposition 65."

That's when I decided to go home and really start Sherlock Holmsing this. Unfortunately, very few of my questions were answered. But I did find out some more information on the company that I was not aware of.

I found that proposition 65 requires the State to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. It also requires businesses to notify Californians about significant amounts of chemicals in the products they purchase, in their homes or workplaces, or that are released into the environment.

Thanks for your honesty, Urban. But it kind of doesn't count when it's in like size two font and no one is seeing it.

I called the Urban store at the Arden Mall and asked the manager if he had any information about the chemicals in their products. He said that he wasn't 100% sure about what products contain lead or other harmful chemicals. He told me that every retailer is required to display the sign that I saw on Urban's register even if they only have one or two products that contain chemicals that don't comply with Prop. 65. He was a very nice gentleman, but I felt like he was trying to make the situation much less serious than it really is.

He told me that if I go online, there is a detailed description of each of their products. So I went online and looked at a few purses. It definitely wasn't "detailed." It had the same Prop. 65 warning in tiny font. And for the content it said: Polyurethane, cotton, mixed metal. "mixed metal" do you mean "toxic lead compound"? Cause that would be nice to know.

The real underlying point is that NO products in any store should have lead or harmful chemicals in them! It doesn't matter if it's one product or all of them! You are still putting out dangerous products!

After doing some more research on Urban, I found that they are not the company that I was under impression they were. I guess I was under the spell of their hipster, carefree atmosphere and decor in the store. For some reason, I always felt like they were just a big independent boutique. Wow, how wrong I was.

Urban strives hard (and succeeds) to portray themselves as a hip, trendy independent retailer instead of the corporation giant that they really are. I found out that not only do they have 60 stores in the U.S., Canada and Europe, they are also the parent company of Anthropology and Free People. So little, they most definitely are not.

For a store that seems to target young, progressive, free spirited people, you'd expect their upper management to be pretty progressive themselves. But it turns out that the cofounder and President of Urban has donated thousands of dollars to Rep. Rick Santorum who has been quoted comparing homosexuality to bestiality. No matter what your political affiliation is or where you stand on homosexuality, you cannot deny that this is a blatantly incongruent to the image that Urban portrays. And I'm sure that if this information was widely published, Urban would have a lot of disgruntled patrons.

I have had qualms with Urban in the past in regards to some of their "Humor Tees". Some of the titles that I personally found offensive were "Eat Less", "New Mexico--Cleaner Than Regular Mexico", "Ghettopoly", "Everyone Loves A Jewish Girl" (this had dollar signs around it) and "Voting Is For Old People."

Some people don't have a problem with these shirts. Honestly, they are not THAT terrible. Abercrombie has had way worse. I'd always just dismissed them in the past. But they really are very offensive to me and they send a message that I do not support.

But now that I have all this other information on the company, it is too much to ignore. As hard as it is for me to say this, I really can't support Urban Outfitters in good conscience anymore. Even if I was able to dismiss the humor tees and the presidents politics, I am not going to endanger myself and my future children just to look cute.

Now I'm not trying to make Urban out as some evil, diabolical corporate monster. There are far worse stores out there, and all stores have a dark side they don't want us to know about. I'm just trying to show how important it is to research a store and its products before you shop there. You would really be amazed what companies are willing to put into their products and what they're willing to go through to make them.

And this isn't to say that mom and pop stores are without a dark side, too. But the difference between a local, independent store and a store like Urban Outfitters is that you can actually talk to the owner! Face to face! You can ask and get a straight answer about where their products came from and what is in them. And if you shop vintage, you know where it came from...probably some old lady's closet haha.

With Urban, what could I do? I talked to the store manager, but he wasn't really that helpful. And what could he do, really? Put a complaint up to corporate where probably no one will ever see it? Refer me to customer service? No, thanks.

Like I said before, know your shops, know their products. You have a right to know!

Be chic, be unique and be SAFE!

1 comment:

  1. Holy. Frickin'. Crapola.

    I had ZILCH idea that those types of chemicals were on the clothes, accessories, etc! I mean, I knew chemicals were put in some apparel, like jeans, but I only knew it was Formaldehyde (the gas compound used to preserve the deceased).

    This is absolutely disgusting. I remember Urban before everyone discovered it, when shirts that are now serious $$ were no more than $30.

    Once the prices were jacked up to revolting proportions, I stopped shopping there (like you, waiting for super sale items). I just felt icky buying from Urban once it went immensely hipster and I could make ripped, scantily-clad shirts and shorts for a heck of a lot less.
    You know, if that was my style and I liked looking like a grunge, dirty, just rolled out of bed after a night of boozing and banging.

    Sadly, no. I'm glad I rarely ever buy from Urban and will continue to venture away. Love your blog, Skybaby. Just like I love you (strictly none homo of course, if you want).