Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Buying Jeans in Lima

I had a feeling that it would be difficult to find pants in my size (W34 L34), since the average Peruvian is about a foot shorter than me. So I went first to the largest department stores, figuring that they would have the largest selection. The first thing that I noticed was that there was only one size printed on each of the labels. I asked one of the attendants whether it was the waist size or the length. ¨The waist size.¨ Not wanting to appear the stupid gringo, I read the labels carefully for several different brands, trying to decipher the coded information that surely must include the length. But I couldn´t find any number that could possibly be the length.

I selected a pair of size 34 Lee jeans that I liked and took them to the same attendant to ask her what the length was. Without even glancing at the pants, she replied, ¨32¨. I scanned the label again, and couldn´t find a ¨32¨ anywhere. Dumbfounded, I asked her, ¨How do you know?¨. ¨They´re all 32¨, she replied.

And so it is in Peru. You can buy any waist size you want, but unless you want to pay more than $50 for jeans imported from the US, the length is always 32. That´s more than enough length for 95% of the customers, and it costs less than a dollar to have someone tailor them to your preferred length. So it doesn´t make economic sense for the stores to order and manage lots of different sizes when they can get a better price ordering larger lots of fewer sizes.

A few days later I went to the huge clothing market in the district of Gamarra, and after asking half a dozen people where to find extra long jeans, I finally found two pairs of jeans with a 33 inch length for less than $20 each, one of them in an off-the-street backroom store that sells Chinese imitations of American brands, and the other at a Chilean import store. After paying a lady at the market 90 cents to let the hems down, they fit me as well as my American-bought jeans.

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