Much like the packs they bought, the shoppers came in all shapes and sizes: young and old, tall and small, svelte and rotund. But all were tinged with the unmistakable sun-kissed hue of outdoors enthusiasts.
A nondescript warehouse in the Cortez Industrial Park was host to Osprey Packs’ annual (sometimes biannual) locals-only sale Saturday.
Osprey employees courageously opened the warehouse doors to the eager hoards at 9 a.m. sharp. But unlike the voracious, near animalistic fervor that prompts Black Friday shoppers to claw and scratch at one other while seeking a competitive edge, these bargain hunters were, by most appearances, on their best behavior. Civility held sway. Little pushing and shoving was seen. On the few occasions when two shoppers started eyeing up the same pack simultaneously, it prompted not desperate tug-of-warring but instead slightly uncomfortable, passive-aggressive exchanges. Take the following:
“Were you, uh, gonna take that?”
“Umm, yeah ... maybe. You?”
“Oh, no. Go ahead.”
“Really, it’s OK. You take it.”
“Are you sure? I already have one of these. There’s always next year.”
“No, I insist.”
Taking advantage of the impasse, a third shopper, stealthy and unbeknownst, swooped in to steal the prize. The first two laughed, shook their heads, and set out to browse elsewhere.
Cathy Callahan of Durango woke up at the crack of dawn Saturday — she wanted a prime spot in line. And she got it. In fact, she showed up an hour early by accident.
“I need to replace my old pack. I might upgrade to something larger,” she explained.
A youthful specimen at 4 years old, Callahan’s current pack had been through the ringer, she said, including the Grand Canyon and a six-week, 500-mile trek up the Colorado Trail.
Farmington couple Stephen and Sarah Read and were notably heavy-laden, with packs draped from both arms and wheeled suitcases trailing behind. They had picked out six for themselves and another six for friends.
Stephen Read said they fell in love with Osprey packs’ comfort and durability while traveling in Europe and New Zealand.
“(Osprey) is a global company. I’m still a little shocked sometimes they’re (headquartered) in Cortez,” he said.
When asked their reaction to the almost-too-good-to-be-true sale, the Reads shrugged a tad sheepishly and gestured to the packs hanging from every appendage.
“I guess this was our reaction,” Stephen Read said.
For others, the quest for Osprey packs was simpler.
“It took me 15 minutes to get here. I’m one of the lucky ones,” said Gail LaDage, who lives near Goodman Point. She also was purchasing a handful of packs for loved ones, including her East Coast grandchildren.
LaDage is a retired counselor from Ignacio Elementary School and now volunteers with the Hisatsinom Chapter of the Colorado Archaeological Society. She loves ancient dwellings and artifacts, and keeps busy studying and writing about them.
“Instead of being retired, I’m mostly tired,” she said, laughing. “I’m busier now than when I was working. I take my Osprey pack along every step of the way. It’s always with me.”
Amid the perusing and inspecting, Osprey employees bustled about the warehouse answering questions. Matt Walker, a customer service representative, oversaw a fitting room where people could get advice on the right pack and accessories for their body type.
According to receipts tallied afterward, about 500 customers made purchases during the six-hour sale. A single “transaction” could be anything from one to 10 packs, the most allowable per person at once. With so much inventory to move this time, Osprey relaxed the rules and allowed people to make multiple 10-pack purchases if they waited in line twice. Previous sales had imposed a stricter five-pack limit to clamp down on eBay reselling.
Sales Coordinator Elaine Bridges said Osprey tried to improve customer traffic flow this year by moving to a larger building and adding more cash registers. Cramped aisles and long check-out lines had caused impatience at past sales.
“The mood has been calmer,” said Bridges, in her 12th year with Osprey.
“We’re happy to do this for the locals who are so loyal to us,” she added. “The area around Cortez is an excellent testing ground. We can hit every type of environment all times of year to see how (the packs) hold up under wear and tear.”
Discounted pack sales aimed at locals have been a hallmark of Osprey since the company relocated here from California in 1991. The impetus is part local appreciation and part Osprey’s need to unload merchandise that isn’t “first quality,” or salable in retail stores. This includes packs that are the previous year’s model, have been tested by athletes, or have minor defects. Depending on condition, the packs are marked down by between 20 and 60 percent.
“In some cases we’re losing money,” Bridges said. “But we need to clear product out of storage to make space.”
Osprey donated 5 percent of proceeds to two nonprofits, the Mountain Studies Institute and Four Corners Child Advocacy Center.