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“You guys have been here before, huh,” the man ringing us up at the Cabot Hosiery Mills sock sale said, punching the prices into the register.
“Actually,” my friend Dan answered, “this is our first time. But what makes you say that?”
“The military socks,” the man said, holding up a package of dark green Darn Toughs. “Most of the sock sale veterans have figured out that they’re the best deal.”
At $5 for a three-pack, they were the best deal, Dan agreed, while I stood there smiling about how there’s such a thing as a “sock sale veteran.”
This year was the 33rd year that Cabot Hosiery Mills has sold discounted socks out of its Northfield factory. The sock sale runs for two consecutive weekends in November, and this year, warm feet fanatics lined up as early as 4 a.m. on Saturday, November 10, in order to be the first in the factory.
On the following Saturday, November 17, Dan and I planned to arrive at the much healthier time of 8 a.m. To our surprise, we were one of the first groups in line, but we watched the parking lot fill up and the line behind us grow longer and longer as it got closer to the half-hour mark.
The doors opened at 8:30 a.m., at which time a man dressed as Uncle Sam and another dressed as Santa Claus escorted us down the hall and into the warehouse, where bins of brightly colored wool awaited us.
“Welcome to the sock sale,” Uncle Sam said.
Almost immediately, a large group gathered around the bins of Darn Tough socks, the factory’s newest, high-end sock line that many outdoor enthusiasts are saying is better than SmartWool.
As I sorted through the slightly irregular—half price!—Darn Tough socks designed for hiking, biking and running, I was pleasantly surprised to see the crowd behind the bins remain civil and courteous. People waited their turn to sort through the socks, or else they grabbed a handful and stepped aside to pick out their favorites, giving someone else a chance at a bin-side seat.
Maybe it was the rural Vermont setting or the smiles on the faces of factory workers turned temporary cashiers, but the friendly atmosphere at the Cabot Hosiery Mills sock sale was a far cry from the fearfulness of a Walmart electronics department on Black Friday, or other holiday sale stampedes.
And at the sock sale, there was something for everyone. While Dan—always the more rational shopper—went on to discover that the military socks were also made by Darn Tough (only without the fun patterns or colors) and cost considerably less, I debated over blue stripes or purple polka dots, okay with the fact that I’d be paying a little extra (priorities).
“Hey—those are cute,” I said to a woman holding a pair of light green, mid-weight hiking socks I hadn’t seen in any of the bins.
“Oh, here you go, honey,” she said, handing me the pair. “I don’t think a size small would fit me anyway.”