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Where Do the Clothes at Discount Stores Come From?

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Sometimes when clothing retailers love bargains (and bargain shoppers) very much, they forgo the traditional department store route and venture off-price. Stores like Macy's buy clothing from manufacturers under a buy-back clause. If the merchandise doesn't sell, the manufacturers have to buy it back. Traditionally, off-price retailers then buy this overstock from manufacturers at a discount, slash prices, and give it a second chance at life.

Not all overstock merchandise is sloppy seconds. Overstock happens when department stores overestimate the demand for an item. Sometimes merchandise is unusual: say, a pair of pleather, cheetah-print overalls. It might also be irregular, with flaws ranging from a tag sewn upside-down or two pant legs with different inseams. Much of the clothing at Ross Dress for Less is irregular overstock from lower-end department stores, like JCPenney. Even if it's irregular, overstock merchandise is usually current or from last season, not years old. Department stores start selling next season's clothing early, hence those comical swimsuit displays in the middle of winter. So manufacturers often buy back merchandise from department stores and sell it to off-price retailers all within the same season.

T.J. Maxx, whose parent company also owns Marshalls and HomeGoods, is the biggest off-price retailer in North America. It claims that 85 percent of its merchandise is from the current season and less than 5 percent is irregular. Instead of solely buying overstock merchandise after department stores can't sell it, T.J. Maxx often buys from brands and designers at the same time as stores like Macy's. Department stores make a few big orders and buy in an array of sizes and colors, but T.J. Maxx buys new merchandise every week and can buy it piecemeal. So the same in-season, designer items can be found at higher-end department stores and T.J. Maxx at the same time, only the latter sells them for up to 60 percent off. (And no, T.J. Maxx is not sponsoring this post.)

T.J. Maxx can offer discounts because it's getting a better deal up front. It all goes back to the buy-back clause. Once T.J. Maxx—or any off-price retailer—buys merchandise, it's responsible for selling it. Items that don't sell at one off-price location might be sent to another store, or put on clearance. If they still don't sell, they're eventually donated to a thrift store.

Moral of the story: Don't pay full-price for those pleather, cheetah-print overalls.

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Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
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WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane
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What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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