Store owner dons gown, gives cross-border shoppers ‘dressing’ down
Darting in and out through the jam of cars at the U.S. border, shopkeeper Christen Haines wasn’t sure what reaction she’d get from the horde of drivers squeezing over the line to empty their credit cards.
The masses were being drawn into the States last Friday to take advantage of the new cross-border shopping rules, which more than doubled what people can bring back into Canada.
Haines, however — who runs the Kids Supply consignment clothing store in Steveston — said it pure coincidence she and her staff were on the scene that day, dressed in their finery and handing out flyers encouraging drivers to shop local.
“We didn’t quite intend to do it on the same day; we had been planning this since February and were just waiting on a good weather day to do it,” said Haines, who was “stunned” by the TV coverage her stunt received.
“One person at the border said ‘you can’t beat the price I’m going to get in the States.’ They were going for a bridal gown and were going to spend a few hundred bucks.
“I have three new bridal gowns in the store for $75 each. But they wouldn’t know because they hadn’t bothered to check.”
Haines said she’s been inundated with phone calls and random hugs from people since she tore it up at the border.
Although business picked up significantly on Wednesday, she’s not sure if the flyers and media coverage are the cause.
“I’ve no problem with people going south to shop, but just not exclusively,” said Haines, who employs three part-time assistants in her store, which sells kids and adults clothing, both used and new.
The new cross-border shopping rules allow Canadians to buy up to $200 after an overnight trip, four times the previous amount.
The limit has doubled from $400 to $800 for people on a jaunt of between two and seven days, while the limit for those gone for more than a week increases from $750 to $800.
“Before the rules changed, there were still a lot of people that manipulated the system, so you have to wonder how much they will now spend,” said Haines.
Global TV turned Haines’ border stunt into a protest story, according to Haines. “It wasn’t a protect, we just wanted to give people a shake and get them to at least think about us before going over the line.
“There are so many great deals in our shop, but people don’t even bother looking.”
Rubbing salt into the wound, Haines said former customers she hasn’t seen for years waltz into her store, mention they do all their shopping cross-border and then ask for sponsorship for their kids’ sports team.
“I’m not a vengeful or spiteful person, but I have a hard time not saying “Are you kiddin’ me?” said Haines.
“If they scratched my back, I might just scratch theirs once in a while. I’m not sure that some people can quite connect the dots when it comes to these things.
“Another person, who shops over the border, came in after a long absence and remarked that her neighbour doesn’t seem to work in the store anymore. I thought to myself, ‘Target doesn’t employ people here’.”
Haines said business has definitely slowed over the last couple of years and is more erratic than ever before.
“It’s totally unpredictable now,” she said.
“Although holidays are way down, they’re very quiet. Everyone just goes over the border now on those days.”