Salespeople Now Kissing Up to Middle-Income Shoppers

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Next time you need a free drink on Madison ... Photo: Everett Bogue

You know that awkward feeling of walking into a fancy store, like Yves Saint Laurent, just to look? And maybe drool in private a little bit with the comfort of knowing you look too shoddy to actually buy anything and garner attention from salespeople there anyway? Well, these days, walking into fancy stores you don't belong in is getting even more awkward. Because in this economy, salespeople who might once have noticed your Swatch and Steve Maddens and ignored you will now practically try to make out with you. Eric Wilson writes in the International Herald Tribune:

Salesclerks, haunted by the papered-over windows of stores next door, are being trained to exude a level of customer service rivaling that of Disney.



...Any potential credit card holder, it would seem, can be treated like a star.


So he slapped on a $3 watch and dog-walking shoes and put imperiled sales clerks to the test. The result was a very awkward day of "just looking." At Chanel fine jewelry, a salesman forced him into a $4,500 black ceramic J12 watch within 30 seconds of having walked into the store, placing his Acqua watch on a velvet tray. At Emanuel Ungaro, he tried on a coat with side vents he didn't like. The saleswoman offered to stitch up the vents even though the piece was 60 percent off. At John Lobb on Madison, a salesman got on his knees to help Wilson's feet into $1,100 loafers. Wilson only encountered attitude at Gucci, where, as he left, a salesperson said, "You still here?"

But at Tom Ford up the street ("the most pretentious place on earth"), the clerks offered him a beverage. He asked for water, was served by way of silver platter, and then asked if he'd prefer lemon or lime. Wilson eyed some shirts, but left without buying anything and felt "rude for being so presumptuous." Which is why he should have asked for Scotch. Nothing goes better with awkwardness — or These Times — than a good, stiff drink.

Economy adjusts store relations on Madison Avenue [IHT]