Retail Hell: The Rae Dunn Epidemic

It’s noon on a Saturday. Here you are, a cog in the capitalist machine, trapped in the retail hellscape that is T.J. Maxx. The Christmas music blaring over the speakers overhead and numerous items coated in glitter throughout the store kind of makes it feel like you’re inside of a snow globe – except instead of snow there’s rain, because after all, we are in Oregon. Where there should be happy little elves skipping around, there are instead five different children crying because Mom refuses to buy the $39.99 toy that will probably break after an hour of use.

Making matters worse, you’ve been here since 7:30 a.m., and by no means were you the first person to arrive today, or even one of the first ten people. The first shift starts at 5 a.m., and the truck carrying about a million pounds of discounted designer clothing, makeup, and other crap you definitely don’t need, arrived about half an hour earlier. It’s barely light outside when you park your car and start walking up to the store entrance, and who do you see? Not one, not two, but a whole gaggle of blonde suburban moms and a couple men here and there tapping their feet, frantically texting, peering through the store windows, trying to catch a glimpse of today’s display of Rae Dunn pottery.

Now when I say Rae Dunn, I don’t just mean cutesy mugs, spoon rests, and cookie jars. I’m talking about an entire culture, a mindset, a lifestyle shared by a particular demographic of skim latte-drinking, yoga pants-wearing, thirty-two-year-old white women all over the country. These are people who drive between thirty minutes and an hour most days of the week to catch the opening of the nearest department store, sometimes hitting multiple stores over the course of the day to hunt down the particular piece they’re looking for. I mean, it seems totally normal to spend six hours looking for a ceramic container that says “FLOUR” on it in plain black lettering, right? Don’t even get me started on that “MILK FOR SANTA” mug – that thing is priceless. Who wouldn’t devote their entire weekend to that one mug? That’s completely reasonable.

Anyway, these women take hours out of their day to search for these hopelessly boring pieces of pottery that lack any artistic value whatsoever. Like vultures, they circle the displays with their shopping carts and pace around the store for hours with their eyes glued to the products, hungry for more “farmhouse-chic” pieces to stack onto their granite countertops and cram into their glass-plated cabinets. They are willing to wait all day for employees to put out those salt shakers they’ve been hunting for weeks, or the “NAUGHTY/NICE” mug set they’ve been seeing all over Facebook that they just so desperately need. Don’t believe me? Here are some testimonies I found from a few collectors themselves:

“My only strategy is to pick a store for a week and just keeping going even if you aren’t finding anything, you just gotta stick it out. I travel about 30 minutes to get to the nearest store and try and hit three stores a day. I spend about four – seven hours a day hunting for it. I probably spend at least 20 hours a week and that’s on the low side.”

“Sometimes… my friend and I will get up early to make it at opening time on a weekend – traveling maybe 30 minutes. I would say I spend pretty much 75 percent of my waking hours looking during a holiday, whether that be online, Facebook, or in the stores.”

“I would love to make a weekend going from Washington down to Medford and hitting all of the T.J. Maxx and Homegoods stores. I would say I spend at least two hours per day shopping in person and online for both products and ideas for new pieces and ways to display.”

Seeing these people in the store, you would think they might be reselling these products to turn a profit. However, truth be told, they are mostly just filling their boring houses with this stuff. It probably looks nice next to the 5.99 dollar “rustic” wooden panels with words like “Blessed” and “Family” written in cursive on them. The admins of the Facebook group “Real Husbands of Rae Dunn Addicts” (yes, this is a real thing) tell tale of their experience as witnesses to the consumerist craze:

“Have you ever seen the show Hoarders? [Our houses are] kind of like that but more organized. Our wives actually recently took a trip to Canada just to find Rae Dunn that you can’t find in the states. We have seen other wives do even crazier things though such as fist fighting in the store or diving across a floor in order to reach the bottom of the cart holding items. One lady took out an entire crowd of Rae Dunn hunters doing this. Another lady refused to take her child to the restroom because she would lose her spot waiting in line so the kid had to use the bushes outside of the store.” 

When asked why people are so obsessed with this lackluster pottery that you could definitely just make yourself, one Rae Dunner’s perplexing response is both hilarious and sad: “I chose this brand because I connect to it. I believe in the power of words and Rae Dunn is all about words.” 

We at The Advocate send our condolences to the Sharons and Beckys of the world. We hope they find something more worthwhile to live for. 


By Anonymous