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May They Help You?

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Barneys' Fazel Dean can build a whole wardrobe around the right shoe.  

Fazel Deen
Sales Associate, Women’s Shoes, Barneys New York

What’s your domain?
The shoe department on the fourth floor is mostly where I am, though it’s nice to walk the entire floor with customers. I like to build a wardrobe around the shoe.

What do you love to sell?
Ooohh . . . Christian Louboutin. I love the Blahniks, and there’s a reason for that: The way he built the arch really changes your whole foot and leg. It makes you look very sexy. I tend to like more feminine, sexier shoes, like Dolce & Gabbana. Azzedine Alaïa is a little off, which I like. He makes his shoes interesting.

What do you love to wear?
Helmut Lang, Prada, and Jil Sander strictly for style. I’ll endure pain for a shoe—and I have.

What kind of discount does your store give you?
What do you buy for yourself? We get 35 percent across the board, and twice a year (in fall and spring) we get 45 percent off for a wardrobe. I’ve already claimed what I want. Navy and purple are my two favorite colors right now, so I just picked out a Michael Kors navy pant and a Helmut Lang violet shirt.

Where else do you like to shop on your own time?
I like Club Monaco and the Helmut Lang store downtown. I also wear a lot of Gene Meyer—he designs for Marshall Field’s.

What’s your pickup line?
I always greet clients by looking them in the eye and saying, “Hello, how are you?” Then I might follow them and ask, “Is there something I can help you find?”

Do you work on a commission?
Yes, we receive a base salary and commission, 5.75 percent.

How do you close a deal?
I can joke around with some clients and say silly things to them, but with others, I wouldn’t dare. With someone who’s in her forties and lives on Fifth or Park Avenue, I might be a little more reserved. I might say something like “I’m sure you’d be very happy with your selection.” I’m looser with younger, hipper clients that may live downtown.

Who’s your clientele?
A woman might come in wearing a T- shirt and jeans and you’ll think, Oh she’s not going to buy anything, she has no money, but then she’ll purchase the whole store! We have a lot of celebrities come in. Julianne Moore came in and no one really recognized her, but I have a really good eye for that. Her complexion was amazing. She wanted a Costume National shoe but we didn’t have it. I’ll have corporate lawyers or bankers who dress a certain way for day, but at night they’re totally different. Sometimes women come in with a chip on their shoulder. Maybe they’re going through a divorce. I’m human, and therefore I don’t always rise to the occasion. I try to turn them around, but by that time, it’s too late. If you come here in a bad mood, it’s just horrible and I can’t wait for it to be over!

What are the greatest lengths you’ve ever gone to for a client?
A client who lives a couple of blocks away from me needed shoes for that evening, so I delivered them to her home after work.

Oddest request from a client ever?
Women expect you to put a shoe on for them. We don’t really do that. We just hand them the shoe, but there are a few women who will just stick their toes out, and I’m like, “Okay, put the shoe on.”

Thing you would never tell a client?
If another sales associate is helping a client and the client comes to me and says, “Well, what do you think?” I don’t like to get involved and possibly ruin the sale for the other associate, who may have worked really hard.

Is it ever okay to lie?
Yes. If the client is not sure or insecure about something, but I know it’s going to work and I know it’s right, I’ll fudge it a little bit. For instance, if it’s down to two shoes and I know the other shoe is better, I’ll say we don’t have the other style or it’s not available in her size. By default, she’ll go for the other one, but it really is the best shoe.


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