Sometimes, Appearance IS Everything

Despite the fact that I do not have a “boutique” bank account, I do enjoy occasional boutique shopping. Every now and then—even for a Budget Boutiquer like me—I find that they are often the perfect place to find well-made and unique items to spice up the wardrobe.

But boutiques can be tricky. Not because of their shameless overpricing but rather their interesting employee/customer dynamic. Just ask Julia Roberts’ character Vivian in Pretty Woman. Do you remember the iconic scene? She arrives in her (a-hem) “street clothes” at a high-end boutique on Rodeo Drive with Richard Gere’s limitless credit card in hand, only to be swiftly sized up and turned away by the store’s snotty staff.

Of course, the joke’s on them (and their commission checks) later in the day when Vivian returns to the same boutique dressed to the nines in couture and loaded down with bags and boxes after spending obscene amounts of money at OTHER retailers… showing (and telling) them what a HUGE mistake they’d made in judging her earlier.

Now, I don’t own an outfit like Vivian had at the beginning of the movie. Trust me, no one wants to see THAT on ME anyway… but I have experienced a watered-down version of some similar treatment. A year ago, I visited an adorable boutique in a nearby small town. And while I browsed, dressed in jeans, sneakers and a fleece pullover, gently sifting through the $400 cashmere sweaters and equally expensive accessories… not one person in the store spoke to me. I left without buying anything.

This past weekend my parents came for a visit. On one of our excursions, I decided to take my mother to the boutique. Although the items inside were far more expensive than she or I would normally spend… I thought she might enjoy picking over the pricey offerings. After all, it never hurts to browse and one never knows what one might find hiding on the sale rack.

However, before we went inside I warned her that, in my experience, the sales staff was not so friendly. “Apparently,” I told her, “I didn’t fit their ‘idea’ of who should be patronizing their business when I showed up the last time. Don’t be surprised if you feel like Julia Roberts when you go in here.” My mother just shrugged. Now that she’s retired, she doesn’t let things like the obnoxious dissing by snobbish retailers bother her. One can only hope that such an attitude will rub off on me one day.

Much to my surprise, when I walked through the doors of the place (bracing myself for another cool dismissal) the sales woman practically tackled me once I was inside. I was looking at some colorful, all-weather, rubber boots and admiring them when she pounced. She asked what size I wore, demanded that I remove the boots I was wearing and try these new ones on. “They’re Danish, you know.” She said launching feverishly into her sales pitch while jamming my stocking foot into one of them… “They are VERY well made and worth every penny!” And she went on and on pointing out all of the features of these super trendy boots.

“Uh-huh…” I muttered while half-listening to her and subtly turning a pair over in my hands to get a look at the price tag on the bottom. $300. Yikes. I thought. “That’s a little too rich for my blood. Especially for something not made from an animal.” I admitted to her, setting them back on the shelf. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder… What in the world was the difference between my treatment a year ago and today? And I continued to wonder… that is until she inquired about the boots I was currently wearing.

“Well, what kind of boots are THOSE?” She asked, accusatorily and aggressively thrusting her pointed index finger toward my feet. Even as I KNEW that SHE already KNEW what kind of boots I was wearing.

To which I sheepishly replied, “UGGs.”  Referring to my somewhat costly, tall, fold-over, cable-knit sweater boots. They are my favorite fall and winter wardrobe item — a brand name splurge I afforded myself last season and by far the most expensive footwear I own.

Irritated that I’d turned her down, she smacked her lips and quickly snapped at me with the following… “Well, if you can afford THOSE boots… surely you can afford THESE.” It was precisely at that moment that I walked away from her, stunned at such a brazen attempt to get me into her fancy, Danish rubbers! How dare she try and bully me with my very own boots.

I guess I learned what the difference was. No matter your backstory… Appearance (to some people) is not only everything… It is the ONLY thing.

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18 thoughts on “Sometimes, Appearance IS Everything

  1. I find whenever I go shopping and I have my hair up (as in after I just got done at the gym) employees are always harassing more than if my hair was done, and I actually looked like a presentable human being. Just because I’m sweaty doesn’t mean I’m going to steal!

    • Thanks for weighing in Katie. It is so interesting the different treatment you can get based on simple appearance changes alone. It bugs me a lot to be honest. I wonder if I’ve ever done that to anyone. I hope not!

  2. I can approve this message because I was there. Yes, this DID happen and yes, the lady DID say that if you can afford Uggs, then you can afford the Danish boots! What a salesperson!!! Browbeat the customer into submission! Wow. I think I will stay with dept. stores and and Off the Beaten Path. (that is a small gift shop in our town that has all kinds of sweet gift ideas)

  3. How horrible! The worse experience I had was my 1st time out wedding dress shopping and the sales lady bluntly told me I was not sample size and should not bother trying ANYTHING on – How Rude and Insensitive. It took one of my bridesmaid to get me out there again looking and I think that was about 3 months after that incident. FIND A HAPPY MEDIUM & Maybe get to know the person that is the customer! Happy Tuesday:)

    • That is AWFUL Renee. I am so sorry that happened to you. Even though I wrote this post, I can’t believe how rude people can be. I’m glad you had a good friend to get you through and that you had an amazing wedding I’m sure! Happy Halloween… Have a great day!

  4. Claire Cappetta says:

    Great piece! I remember a friend asking me why I didn’t like ‘nice’ clothes with ‘nice’ labels… I told her it was because I liked my ‘nice’ money to remain in my ‘nice’ bank account!
    The perfect compliment came though t the weekend when when a flamboyant friend of mine was talking about clothing and that he admitted that he dressed differently to most… I, as a joke, wafted my hands around what I was wearing and laughed to which he smiled and said “Yes! I dress like you… witchy!” with such a serious face… Oh bless him! lol

  5. learnerwp says:

    Yikes. The world for women is very different from a man’s. Your firsthand report from the frontlines makes that very clear. Now, take that scene from “Pretty Woman.” I actually didn’t like the movie and I hated the scene, thinking that I would have thought she had real class if she didn’t do that. HOWever, now that I have a slightly better understanding of the world in which women must contend, I can see the appeal of the scene to women who have to put up with a different mindset than that which I do.

    I’m someone who appreciates it when the staff doesn’t approach me. (The quickest way to get me out of the joint.) If I need them, I’ll let ‘em know. Until then, keep yer mitts orf-in my freakin’ shoes – and everything else!

    BUT hah-hah, pushy service is unlikely at Wal-Mart, which is where I shop. Ha!

    • I shop at Wal-Mart too on occasion and yes… the non-pushy service is nice in that regard. It’s the crowd that gets me. Yes, I think women probably have a rougher time with this whole thing than men. Another reason to be glad you’re a man! 😉

  6. learnerwp says:

    I know I’m probably taking this whole “Pretty Woman” thing too seriously, but I’ve been looking at the picture of Julia Roberts, and I truly don’t want to see Anyone wearing that outfit — not even Julia Roberts. I don’t see anyone on Rodeo Drive selling her anything. Instead, I can hear them thinking: Lady, you can take your crabs, bedbugs, and lice out of here asap.

    Plus, can anyone who would dress like that really want to wear the fine garments?

    Well, it’s just a movie, but I didn’t get it the first time I watched it, and I still don’t get it.

    • learnerwp says:

      Well, what do you expect a kid wearing a paper hat to think. BTW, I guess you forgot my logo. ‘Tis your ol’ buddy Donald Miller here. WordPress demoted me to my original name after I deleted that blog.

      • I still knew it was you even though I didn’t address you by name in the comment. Your Calvin logo stayed the same but I noticed that your name changed back when I first discovered you deleted your blog 🙂 Do you miss it yet? Or has it been a relief?

        • learnerwp says:

          Oh. I wasn’t sure you recognized me, because I noticed you had called the others by name in your replies.

          About the blog. I can’t say I miss it. I comment on the Huffington Post, and always get some responses. The one thing I do notice though is the ol’ use it or lose it rule. When you’re writing regularly and seem to be on a roll, nothing can beat it. I wrote something a couple of days ago that I was very pleased with, but I took the precaution of setting it aside. I reread it last night and realized how horrible it was.

          So, I hope you continue your writing and maybe even branch out a bit like you were thinking about doing. It will keep you sharp – and you’ll continue to develop a fine body of work.

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