Amid Artsy Posters And Persian Rugs, First-Years Play And Parents Pay
Shopping in the Square
Every year a stream of unfamiliar faces and square brown boxes flows into Harvard Yard. But like most traditions here, eventually--and slowly--things change a little bit.
This September's first-year faces are a little more diverse, and the boxes, topped with computers and CD players, just a little different. No longer containing phonographs and wind-up alarm clocks, these boxes hide high-cost trinkets--the techno-toys of college in the '90s.
And as the Class of 1994 hits Harvard Square this week, consumer style, they take a flurry of new, stylized lamps and microwaves into the aging austerity of first-year dorms.
"I bought everything you could imagine," said Roger A. Fairfax '94. Although he purchased most of his amenities in his hometown, Washington D.C., Fairfax was sure to get what he wanted.
"I had a kind of ransom on my dad," he said. "It's their money."
And it's lucky for him, considering the bucks shelled out for a brand new television, VCR, compact disc player and radio. In addition, this first-year student says he expects to receive a new couch in the next few weeks.
For other students, particularly those who let Mom and Dad stick around to help unpack, patience is not only a virtue, but it often has its rewards.
At the Harvard Coop, as parents waited with wallets in hand, two roommates debated the relative merits of different lighting accesories.
"We are going to totally decorate our room," said Samantha A. Ettus '94. "We are trying to make it a fun room--a room that everyone will want to hang out in."
Still, as any first-year knows, a well-lit room is not complete without wall decor. Indeed, before they even approached the subtleties of lamp fixtures, Ettus and her colleague, Amy W. Stevens '94 had already negotiated the Coop's poster and print department.
And to accomodate any visitors who might drop by to appreciate their carefully-chosen furnishings, the two also opted for a fold-out futon.
And Gabe Jenkins '94, who bounded through this weekend's Coop crowds, says he and his parents also plan to stock up on goodies for his room. "We'll buy posters and some more furniture like a wardrobe and printer table," he said.
According to Coop salesperson Pam D. Byron, an avid watcher of student shopping, these first-years are not unusual, as parents often accompany undergraduates on back-to-school sprees.
"Sometimes we have a sale well over a $1000, and sales of about $400 or $500 are not uncommon," says Byron. "People come in with their parents and buy a TV, a VCR, a refrigerator and a CD boom box."
At Arise Futon on Mass. Ave., the story is much the same, says Laurean Osnato, a store salesperson. "A lot of students come in with their parents and get hooked up pretty well," she says.
Yet some students may want to save their parents' favors for Commencement bonuses. And for them, there are more economical alternatives.
Several used furniture stores dot the Square and its periphery, providing various options for dorm furnishing. The University's sparse standard issue--a bed, a desk, a chair, a dresser--prompted first-year student Frank Rochon to journey elsewhere.
Rochon recommends the local Salvation Army Family Thrift Store, where he found a $40 plaid couch. "For 40 bucks it's in great shape," he said.
But the urge to buy doesn't just strike newcomers to the University. Some upperclass students who have come back to Cambridge early are taking time out to shop.
They, too, it seems, have a parental charge card and are happy to use it in the spirit of back-to-school adventure.
Like her first-year counterparts, Courtney T. Pyle '93, a new Adams House resident, is also interested in lighting accesories.
"I don't really need [more lights], but since my parents have a charge card, I thought I'd look at lamps," Pyle said.