ROPAS — What fun!

All over Costa Rica you see stores called ropas americanas. When I first saw them I thought they were a prolific chain store – on a much larger scale then McDonald’s – but I had no idea what they sold. When I finally went to one, I discovered that they sell used and new clothes and linens from the US. Some of the items still have garage sale stickers left on, some have tags from resale stores and some even have the tags from the stores in which they were originally purchased. Besides clothes, the ropas sell sheets, blankets, stuffed animals, rugs, tablecloths and more – catch as catch can. I consider a few hours of “ropa-ing” to be a form of relaxation and entertainment. Stores have “boutique” areas with items at higher prices (maybe up to $2), basic areas ($1-1.50 per item), areas where items are priced individually by someone at the caja (enclosed area where you pay) and areas where you climb through mounds of clothing on the floor. These areas are referred to as piscinas (swimming pools) and can be as large as 40 x 60 feet and up to 3 feet deep with clothing! Prices here are usually 25-60 cents each, but on some occasions the items are 20 for $2.00. While you are in a ropa, there is constant noise – loud music playing with someone talking over a microphone like a barker at the circus. On certain days, bags of specific items (all the items come in large bags), such as sheets, are dumped and people crowd around the area to try to get first grabs. They take anything they can, sort through the items and then throw back into the pile what they don’t want. It’s a feeding frenzy with considerable pushing and shoving. (I remain an observer at these times!) Many of the items for sale in ropas are high-end name brands. I have bought a Hudson Bay blanket in perfect shape for $2.50, an Ann Taylor dress for $1.00, a down comforter for $2.00, hand pieced quilts for $1.00, Ralph Lauren sheets for $2.00 and linen shirts for 25 cents. All ropas seem to have the same smell and the first thing I do when I get home with my purchases is throw them in the washing machine. Ropa-ing is great fun on a budget, but it’s not for everyone!  (Here’s a real estate bargain that everyone should enjoy.)

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