Keeping Tags and Remember When

I bought some trousers last week at The Gap at the Oak Ridge Mall. Noth­ing unusu­al there, oth­er than the fact that it has been a while (per­haps 3 or 4 months) since I bought any, not count­ing the 2 or 3 pairs of trousers at Cost­co the last time we were vis­it­ing fam­i­ly in Seattle.

Before any­one takes me to task for sup­port­ing child labour in some coun­try to the east, I want­ed to point some­thing else out, that was kind of inter­est­ing, and if you are prone to tin­foil-hat para­noia, stop read­ing now.

When I get new clothes, if they are wash­able, the first thing I do is go home and wash them. I just nev­er liked the smell of ‘siz­ing’ or what­ev­er oth­er chem­i­cals they spray on fab­rics that gives clothes that smell they only have in the chang­ing rooms. In these pants, along with the usu­al tags and sta­pled on labels, etc. there was an odd look­ing one that said ‘Remove before Wash­ing or Wear­ing’, with a ‘cut here/ coupez ici’ line at the top of the label. Not only that, it had an odd, thick feel to it, a lit­tle bit like those lead aprons you wear at the den­tist when they take an X‑Ray (although nowhere that heavy or thick, but the same feel­ing of some­thing that is def­i­nite­ly not fab­ric sewn into the cloth. Pam cut off the labels and gave them to me (there was one on every pair of pants). I was curi­ous about these labels and what was in them, so I pulled one apart. Clear­ly, the heavy sub­stance was some sort of sil­i­con or some sort of light met­al. I scanned the tag to show what it looked like:


The top is the ‘before’ pic­ture, and the bot­tom is the back of the tag, after I removed the cloth from the ‘bot­tom’. Sand­wiched inside is the coiled flat chip-like cen­ter. This clear­ly what they’ve been talk­ing about for some time in the Hi-tech Press: a Radio Fre­quen­cy Iden­ti­ty tag (or RFID). It’s put in the cloth­ing so that each piece can be tracked as a unique item dur­ing man­u­fac­ture and ship­ment. With the right sys­tem set up, you can walk through a door with a stack of RFID tagged cloth­ing and some­one can see on their screen all of the data­base entries for the items that have passed through the door. Some peo­ple are right­ly wor­ried that these RFIDs could be used not only to track the cloth­ing while they are being made and shipped (and also pre­vent shoplift­ing), but also could be used to track where the buy­ers of said mer­chan­dise go and what else they buy, etc. So much for pri­va­cy. For the time being, I’m pret­ty sure these par­tic­u­lar tags are just being used for these items up until the time we pay our bill at the reg­is­ter. After that they are, as the instruc­tions on them say, to be removed before wash­ing or wear­ing. Nev­er­the­less, the affixed is in.

I Remem­ber
I still, from time to time, read some lib­er­al blogs and sites. You can take the lefty out of the coun­try, but you can’t… what­ev­er. I came upon one of those great ‘list’-style rants con­tributed by some­one going by the login name of Nance­Greg­gs, a fel­low res­i­dent of Cana­da (per­chance anoth­er expat?). It is real­ly a col­lec­tion of Remem­ber when’s, includ­ing some real­ly good ones I quote here:

Remem­ber when you dis­played your flag on the front porch on the 4th of July, and you did­n’t have to wor­ry about whether it would be mis­in­ter­pret­ed as sup­port for a cor­rupt pres­i­dent and his administration?

Remem­ber when ‘Sup­port the Troops’ meant equip­ping our mil­i­tary with every­thing nec­es­sary for bat­tle, instead of just being a catchy phrase that looked good on a bumper sticker?

Remem­ber when you actu­al­ly thought that the peo­ple in charge of run­ning your coun­try were smarter than you were?

Remem­ber when your par­ents worked all their lives to ensure you a bet­ter life, instead of wor­ry­ing about how bad the life they’d be leav­ing their chil­dren might be?

Remem­ber when the impor­tance of clean drink­ing water and breath­able air were unques­tion­able man­dates, and not some crazy hip­pie agen­da to be weighed against cor­po­rate profits?

(and one of my favourites, due to our cur­rent location:)

Remem­ber when you hitch­hiked through Europe as a teenag­er, and you did­n’t have to replace the Amer­i­can flag on your knap­sack with a Cana­di­an flag in order to be a wel­comed guest in a for­eign country?

You find the whole thing here. At the end of the list, Greg­gs sug­gests that you print out the list and give it to your chil­dren… “It could be worth a fair buck on ‘Antiques Road­show’ some­day; an odd doc­u­ment that can’t be ver­i­fied as authen­tic, because the mem­o­ries it con­jures up are just too bizarre to be accept­ed as ever hav­ing been fact.”

2 Replies to “Keeping Tags and Remember When”

  1. Per­haps my para­noia has been washed out of me, but I remarked about the new tags to the clerk on a recent shop­ping trip myself.

    “Oh, the new secu­ri­ty tags?” she said. “They’re great. Now we can sim­ply zap the clothes kind of like the CD stores do, and don’t have to wor­ry about acci­den­tal­ly leav­ing one of those big clunky ones attached in there some­where. You can’t imag­ine how many returns we used to get for peo­ple hav­ing to come back because the tag was left on, or else it had ripped a big hole in their clothes. Way less pissed off vis­i­tors these days.”

    To me, that was expla­na­tion enough.

  2. I guess it’s handy when it has a real ben­e­fit to the con­sumer as well.

    Still, it’s one of those things like Google Maps, GPS, and Ama­zon’s per­son­al­ized page. On some days I think I’d pre­fer a lit­tle more anonymity.

    Not that I have any­thing to hide. I, for one, wel­come our mer­chan­dise data overlords.

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