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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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What’s the Difference Between Prison and Jail?
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Many people use the terms jail and prison interchangeably, and while both terms refer to areas where people are held, there's a substantial difference between the two methods of incarceration. Where a person who is accused of a crime is held, and for how long, is a factor in determining the difference between the two—and whether a person is held in a jail or a prison is largely determined by the severity of the crime they have committed.

A jail (or, for our British friends, a gaol) refers to a small, temporary holding facility—run by local governments and supervised by county sheriff departments—that is designed to detain recently arrested people who have committed a minor offense or misdemeanor. A person can also be held in jail for an extended period of time if the sentence for their offense is less than a year. There are currently 3163 local jail facilities in the United States.

A jail is different from the similarly temporary “lockup”—sort of like “pre-jail”—which is located in local police departments and holds offenders unable to post bail, people arrested for public drunkenness who are kept until they are sober, or, most importantly, offenders waiting to be processed into the jail system.

A prison, on the other hand, is usually a large state- or federal-run facility meant to house people convicted of a serious crime or felony, and whose sentences for those crimes surpass 365 days. A prison could also be called a “penitentiary,” among other names.

To be put in a state prison, a person must be convicted of breaking a state law. To be put in a federal prison, a person must be convicted of breaking federal law. Basic amenities in a prison are more extensive than in a jail because, obviously, an inmate is likely to spend more than a year of his or her life confined inside a prison. As of 2012, there were 4575 operating prisons in the U.S.—the most in the world. The country with the second highest number of operating prisons is Russia, which has just 1029 facilities.

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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What Do Morticians Do With the Blood They Take Out of Dead Bodies?
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Zoe-Anne Barcellos:

The blood goes down the sink drain, into the sewer system.

I am not a mortician, but I work for a medical examiner/coroner. During an autopsy, most blood is drained from the decedent. This is not on purpose, but a result of gravity. Later a mortician may or may not embalm, depending on the wishes of the family.

Autopsies are done on a table that has a drain at one end; this drain is placed over a sink—a regular sink, with a garbage disposal in it. The blood and bodily fluids just drain down the table, into the sink, and down the drain. This goes into the sewer, like every other sink and toilet, and (usually) goes to a water treatment plant.

You may be thinking that this is biohazardous waste and needs to be treated differently. [If] we can’t put oil, or chemicals (like formalin) down the drains due to regulations, why is blood not treated similarly? I would assume because it is effectively handled by the water treatment plants. If it wasn’t, I am sure the regulations would be changed.

Now any items that are soiled with blood—those cannot be thrown away in the regular trash. Most clothing worn by the decedent is either retained for evidence or released with the decedent to the funeral home—even if they were bloody.

But any gauze, medical tubing, papers, etc. that have blood or bodily fluids on them must be thrown away into a biohazardous trash. These are lined with bright red trash liners, and these are placed in a specially marked box and taped closed. These boxes are stacked up in the garage until they are picked up by a specialty garbage company. I am not sure, but I am pretty sure they are incinerated.

Additionally anything sharp or pointy—like needles, scalpels, etc.—must go into a rigid “sharps” container. When they are 2/3 full we just toss these into one of the biotrash containers.

The biotrash is treated differently, as, if it went to a landfill, then the blood (and therefore the bloodborne pathogens like Hepatitis and HIV) could be exposed to people or animals. Rain could wash it into untreated water systems.

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

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