Why Department Stores Reopened But Fitting Rooms Haven’t


If you’ve shopped for clothes since the pandemic began, you’ve likely noticed you can’t use fitting rooms to make sure those new threads fit.

When department stores began reopening, their fitting rooms stayed blocked off. A few stores made the decision to reopen them, but plenty have not.

This didn’t make a great deal of sense to me. After all, you go into a fitting room alone. It remains one of the few places in stores where people don’t congregate. You’d think, in a pandemic, that would be a good thing.

I’m in the process of losing weight. I’m serious about it this time because of a meeting with my doctor, which will be another post for another day.

In any case, I’ve managed to lose about 30 pounds since January. This creates a nice problem: my “fat” clothes aren’t fitting as well.

I wouldn’t call myself skinny by any stretch. I still have a long way to go there. But I have dropped two pants sizes so far.

Back to my “nice problem.” I go to a store to buy a new, hopefully better-fitting pair of slacks. I navigate past the “slim fit” options to sections of “relaxed fit,” “classic fit” and “straight fit.”

I know what “relaxed fit” means. That’s generally what I prefer.

But what the hell is the difference between “classic fit” and “straight fit”? The employee I asked didn’t seem to know for sure, either, so at least I wasn’t alone.

If the fitting rooms were open, it wouldn’t matter. I’d just try them on and immediately know which was right for me. Of the colors I wanted, one was only available in “straight fit.”

With no fitting room available, I bought both so I could take them home and learn whether I need to return them.

I did a little research about the closure of fitting rooms.

One concern, it turns out, is scientists don’t know how long this novel coronavirus will last on clothes. So if someone who is infected manages to get it on clothes on the rack, will it die in 6 hours, 12, 24, or 48? Or could it still be dangerous longer than that?

Well, inside a fitting room, the clothes will certainly come into more contact with a potential patient. Some stores that have reopened their fitting rooms claim that if a piece of clothing is taken in there and not purchased, they keep it off the sales floor for 24 hours. I don’t know how most stores could possibly police that.

But even outside a fitting room, when someone carries around a piece of clothing, holds it up against themselves in front of a mirror, then carries it as they browse further, it’s still getting plenty of contact. No one follows shoppers around to see which clothes they’ve carried around for 20 minutes and then put back on the rack.

Is that safe? I suppose it’s a matter of relativity.

Other concerns focus on the rooms themselves.

The Miami Herald reported that experts know those enclosed spaces “can harbor viruses on door knobs, walls and mirrors through frequent touching without proper disinfection.”

Who goes behind the shoppers and sanitizes every room? Easy answer: the attendant who lets people in and counts the articles being taken in. (Obvious choice, right?)

The employee should take in a can of Lysol and spray the room. Use a wipe on door handles and any surfaces that may have been touched. Again, that’s more sanitizing than is being done on the sales floor.

But what about taking the clothes home?

The alternative, of course, is to send the shoppers home with the clothes. If the clothes wind up being taken into a home of a COVID-19 patient, those same clothes are surely more likely to be contaminated. If the clothes are returned and we’re not sure how long SARS-CoV-2, the strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19, lives on the clothes, you’re putting at risk everyone who handles those clothes at the store.

Yes, if you have to actually buy the clothes before trying them on, there will likely be fewer clothes exposed. It just seems to me that those that are could end up more dangerous.

Maybe I’m overthinking this. I’d like to be able to shop and not waste time buying things that might not fit because I don’t have a way to verify it before I buy.

I’d like to avoid putting anyone at unnecessary risk for COVID-19.

And I guess, as a shopper, I want to know that the same fervor over protecting me from possible exposure in a fitting room is happening outside the fitting room.

I don’t see that part anywhere, whether it’s a store with fitting rooms open or closed.

Do you think fitting rooms should be open? If it’s so unsafe to open them, is it too unsafe to open the rest of the store?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.