Friday, December 27, 2013

The Mysterious Message in the Pocket of the Chinese Jacket

The jacket came from a discount store I frequent, and carried the Guess label. 

Just before Christmas I did a little shopping for myself, and, as is my wont, I descended upon one of my favorite discount stores, into which goods trickle from some of the better shops. Bloomies, Saks, and other stores of that ilk are always changing displays and seasons and, after a certain amount of time, they sell what consumers don't purchase to discounters like TJMaxx and Marshalls. Lovely.

If you take your time and sift though the loads of stuff that isn't worth very much, you can find a gem or two from time to time. That is how I felt when I came across a jacket on my shopping day in brown-ish/red-ish leather. The price was right. The jacket fit and it had these cool zip pockets: just the right size for an iPhone or a house key. And, it was from the company called "Guess" a nice sportswear brand.

Handy zip pocket over each hip! Can't beat that.

When I got home, I took some time to slip off my other jacket, slip on the new leather jacket and give it the once-over in a full length mirror. It looked good on me, if I do say so myself. To further examine its chic lines, I unzipped the pockets at the side and put my hands in them and did the "model slouch." Nothing wrong with pretending you are on a runway at Fashion Week in Paris: just as long as you don't stay there too long in your imagination and begin to eat only carrots and eau minerale three times a day.

That's when I found a little surprise.

In the left hand pocket was a little piece of paper. Not a printed label, it was a torn piece of what looked like typing paper.

Message in a pocket.

When I removed the paper, the mystery deepened. For, once I opened what I realized was a note, I discovered it had been hand written with what appeared to be the ink from a ball point pen. And it was in Chinese.

Forgive me if this message is upside down. 

And that is only an assumption. I do not know Chinese, nor do I think I could tell it from written Japanese, Korean or any other Asian language that uses logograms in its lexicography. However; the jacket had a "made in China" label: I made an un-educated guess.

Now, my imagination kicked in. Now, all those Nancy Drew novels I had read as a girl came back to me. Now, I remembered the old joke in which the diner, after a satisfying meal of stir-fry, opens the fortune cookie and finds a message that reads: "Help. I am being held captive in a Chinese fortune cookie factory."

What to do? There have been real stories of  beleaguered prisoners smuggling out desperate messages from dank cells in far off places. This could be my big chance for international intrigue and adventure! But what to do? I couldn't even tell upside down from downside up.

Fortunately, I have a friend from China who works at my local U.S. Post Office. Every now and then, when there isn't a queue behind me, she will talk to me of the evils of the dictatorship in her native land and I, as a free market (small d) democrat, will nod my head in agreement. I do try not to buy much that is made in China for this very reason. Though, in this particular case, I admit I'm glad I broke my rule as it appeared to lead onward to great adventure. 

Anyway, I decided to call on Grace-from-China-at-the-USPS. I found a time when there was not a line of people waiting and discovered that Grace and another USPS employee from China were both on duty.

I showed them the jacket. I pulled out the note. We smoothed it out onto the counter.

Message in a pocket.

Grace and her co-worker leaned over their registers together to look at the paper. They turned it right-side round. They looked at each other and laughed a little. Grace looked up. "It says: there is a flaw in the left sleeve."

"That's it?" I asked. "Good quality control in China," Grace said and smiled.

I was holding the jacket in my hand and we pulled up the sleeve to give it a closer look.

In the right center of the photo at the right edge of the sleeve, you can see a slight color mistake. I thought it was done on purpose for a look of "faux distress." Clearly, it was not. 

We found the flaw, just as our mysterious correspondent said we would. And, metaphorically speaking, I had to tip my hat to the person who took the time to export his honesty into the jacket pocket.

My friend Phyllis was visiting shortly after and I told her the story and showed her the note and the slight flaw in the jacket. Phyllis is married to an attorney who specializes in trademark law, so Phyllis knows her branding.

"I hate to tell you," she said to me as she examined the label. "This is not really a Guess jacket. It is a knockoff of a Guess jacket. The label is similar, but it is not exactly the same. Good copy, though!"

I had to laugh. The worker in the Chinese factory might have written a slightly broader apology that read: "There is a flaw in the left sleeve. And, BTW, we apologize, too, for selling you this counterfeit jacket and trying to make you think it is from that famous label of Guess! Another year of this and I'll have a new car! America you must be a wonderful place. Send more money, please. Bye, bye!"

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Doc Soc said...

A great story!

Doc Soc said...

Excellent article!!! There real IS life out there!

Don Meuler said...

But it could have been so much more. Maybe even worth a trip to China! On a plane, anyway.