The Sales Associate

 


 

If you are a helpful, knowledgeable salesperson
reading this (and there are many of you out there and I thank you),
please cover your eyes and read no further. However, if not …

We’ve all experienced a few lemons in our time: Those store sales associates who
are either way too pushy (please don’t chase me down the aisle!),
not pushy enough (as in can hardly be bothered to approach you)
or are completely clueless. Such as when you know more about the fragrance/product than they do, or they tell you something doesn’t exist when you know good and well it does.
I always wonder why — after all, it is their job, for heaven’s sake. Although not an easy one,
I’ll admit. Some of the customers I’m sure can be royal
pains, and standing on your feet for most of the day
is not my idea of fun.

For the most part, I think they do try to be friendly and helpful.
This is in no way a slam against them, but I thought
I would share my most memorable SA moments.

Several years ago, I went shopping for a nightgown in a mainstream
department store. I saw one that I liked, hanging on the wall far above
my reach. I hunted down a sales associate and asked her
if she could please use one of those long retrieval hooks to get it down for me.
“Are ya gonna buy it?” she asked me, with a look and a tone that implied that she wasn’t
going to waste the time if I wasn’t going to spend the dime. I just gaped at her
in disbelief and left. Probably should have said something to the manager,
but I’m not big on confrontation, and I didn’t want the guilt of possibly
helping someone lose their job.

My other quite memorable incident occurred when I was in college, not far from a major
metropolitan area. I’d come in to the city to look around at one of the upscale department stores
and to stock up on my Clinique skin-care supply.
To my mind, I looked fairly presentable in my button-down shirt and nice jeans,
wearing makeup, and with more than $50 in my pocket, which back then would buy a decent
amount of product. Now granted, I wasn’t wearing a fur coat or
carrying a Chanel bag, but still, I was feeling pretty good about myself as I headed down
the elegant cosmetics corridor and stopped at the Clinique area.

I had a list of products and all I needed was someone to
get the items and ring the sale. Easy as pie, right?
Just down the counter stood a sales associate with no customers,
and who, as far as I could see, wasn’t doing anything. I pointedly looked her way
several times and … nothing. OK, I thought, let’s take the bull by the horns. I went down to HER,
stopped in front of her and asked in my most polite voice, “Could you please help me with some Clinique?” She looked at me, pursed her lips, and said, “I’m sorry,” and I
could have sworn she turned her nose up at me as she walked away.

Perhaps to her I did look like a college kid with very little money to spend.
Or maybe it was that the Clinique paled in comparison, commission-wise, with the La Prairie or other luxury lines that she normally sold. But sheesh, a sale is a sale, right?
As there were no other salespeople around, I walked
out and headed over to a mid-level store with a fully staffed
Clinique counter and was graciously helped.

Fast forward some 20 years later, and I’m in the same high-end store
looking at cosmetics, when someone behind me says,
“Madam, may I help you?”  There were a few more wrinkles on her pale face and she now wore glasses, but the prim, tight smile was the same — it was HER.
Despite the years, the sting of being so blatantly snubbed came back in a rush.
“Just looking,” I said as I turned away, trying to recover from the
shock of seeing her.

But the more I thought about it, the more irritated I became.
So I did something completely out of character for my normally peace-loving self.
I did an about-face and marched back to her.
“NO, you cannot help me,” I told her emphatically. “You couldn’t help me 20 years
ago when I was a college student trying to buy Clinique, and you certainly cannot help
me spend my money now on (brand X).”
She stared at me, looking stricken and even more pale, if that was possible. “I’m … I’m sorry,”
she stammered and then backed away (perhaps thinking I might
get violent?).
I felt a pang of regret for my outburst,
but I swallowed my urge to apologize and walked out.
I only saw her a time or two after that, and she
was very careful to avoid me.

Even now, I have mixed feelings about what I
did that day. But I do think that there comes a point
in most people’s lives where they’ve had it up to here,
and feel like enough is enough.

Anyway, I’d love to hear your memorable encounters with sales associates,
the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

P.S. In the above store’s defense, there is now an SA who works there who is the
epitome of kindness and professionalism, and she (and several others) have more than redeemed my bad experience there so many years ago.

 

photo: frame from Pretty Woman – one of the best Evil SA Comeuppance films of all time!

 

  • Nick says:

    The time to tell off that sales associate was the day she “snubbed” you, not 20 years later. This may come as a complete shock to you, but sales associates are people too.

    What if the last 5 customers she waited on were college aged & all 5 told her to go “f” herself? What if the day she “snubbed” you, she just found out her husband’s been 2-timing her? What if she had just received news that her child had a terminal disease?

    None of the above would totally justify her behavior, but it would at least make you more understanding. If you were displeased w/ her behavior, you should talked to a manager or someone higher up. Let her explain to that person why she acted the way she did.

    Most of the time, when people act in a certain way to you, it really has NOTHING to do w/ YOU. It has everything to do w/ THEM, and what is going on w/ THEM at the moment. Don’t be so sensitive that you let one incident 20 years ago sum up this entire lady’s life. It wouldn’t be fair if someone made a sweeping impression about you based on one article they read, now would it?

  • mary says:

    Late to this one– but just have to put in my $.02– I have met some truly wonderful SA’s– people who are warm, caring, educated, elegant and literate folks– I sometimes fantasize about getting a part-time job so I can hang out with them! Many SA’s I have met in San Francisco and Los Angeles are people with incredible stories and hearts made of gold. Back when I was a poor student, a Caron SA in the I Magnin boutique, who could see I could not afford much– helped me to make an extremely minimal purchase whereupon she slipped me a sample of En Avion– a big enough sample to carry me through a very challenging exam. Later when I was making a little money, I went back and bought perfume from her, and would run into her again through the years as she moved to different stores around Union Square. And, I have to say, my brand loyalty for Caron runs deep. And I still adore En Avion. If I had bad experiences with SA’s when I was poor, I really don’t remember them. And wonderful former Caron SA– if you read the Posse from New Zealand (see, I’m keeping track of you! :0))thanks again!!!!

  • london says:

    I never really think about SAs in the UK, mostly because I try and avoid them until I actually need to buy something which is simply because I don’t need any help and I don’t want anyone watching me. They are mostly inoffensive and just doing their job. I have a fairly simple attitude. The ones I love are the ones who genuinely love their product and that’s about 1 in 100 and that’s not necessarily a criticism of the other 99. Most of us don’t love our jobs all the time so why should they? The only incident I recall that really annoyed me was in New York at Barneys, I think, where I was looking at something next to Serge Lutens and the SA kept trying to push Chergui on me. I said that I already had it and she said I couldn’t have because it was exclusive to whatever the shop was and I must be mixing it up with something else. I tried to tell her that it may be exclusive to them in the US (I didn’t know one way or the other) but it was on sale in Paris in the Serge Lutens shop where I had bought it and I was pretty sure it was available in the UK as well. I didn’t mind that she had been given the wrong information, it was the fact that at the end of this little conversation, she was still looking at me like I was mad and she was right.

  • wendyb says:

    I must say, the people at the Perfume House in Portland (family owned business) are so fantastic, and will let you smell everything for hours. They are incredibly knowledgable and even (gasp) willing to suggest decants for things they don’t have. Its never very busy in there, and I live in fear that they will one day close down.

  • Winifrieda says:

    I’ve had a couple of trips to the ‘big smoke’ (Sydney) just to sniff ‘fume since I fell back into the hole, and they have been totally positive. Now I’m a rather matronly GREY haired part-time farmer, who will only wear sensible shoes when shopping etc.
    First stop was Mecca, to sniff the Malles. An absolutely brilliantly trained young man sat me down, never once shifting his attention to my daughter, and gave me the full Malle sniffathon. They were out of nearly everything, but I came away with the little set of Noir Epices.I said to him, ‘this time next year, you will be in Paris’.
    I then cruised over to Bondi Junction in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, where Australia’s wealthiest live, to hit the Chanel scent boutique for the exclusives. The mature impeccable saleslady was very good if a little intimidating, asking me what my favorite frag was – I felt a little guilty that it was Mitsouko (not No 5, say). She said, oh, its Coromandel for you…she was RIGHT! It is my favorite of this wonderful line. There was another Mecca there, with very young, super hip girls…I told them I was a perfume geek who had come in from the bush to smell the Lutens; THEY LET ME MAKE SAMPLES! Getting all the bottles they were out of, from a drawer where they were hidden. I wanted Datura but they were out of it too.
    Then on another trip I decided to prowl everything in David Jones ‘circle’ where they have the stuff that’s not a huge brand like Dior. Once again, young, hip, beautiful girl…I told her I was addicted to perfume, had been all my life; she just melted, she was too. It was memorable because she was obviously working at a job she loved, and it gave her pleasure. I remember another mum there with her daughter, intently passionately sniffing too, while this young lady looked on with enjoyment. I bought DK Chaos and Jasmine plus a candle, and I hope she got a commission! (But Australia has a lot of basic wage requirements that are different to the States). Then Hermes, where I discovered that not only was one of the lovely ladies into perfume but also HORSES, after I told my daughter that they make saddles too, did they have any she could look at while I sniffed everything. They did have both the famed jumping saddle and a dressage one. (We were right with our Keiffers, only half the price of a Hermes @ only 5K.)
    Because I do live in the bush though, the vast majority of my buys are thru’ the mail.

  • Kate says:

    I don’t mean to offend but I have a bit of an issue with people complaining about SAs. Why take these experiences so personally? I’ve had some exceptional service, mediocre to bad. If I really want to buy a certain fragrance and am not treated nicely, I’m probably still going to buy it. I focus on the product. So when I get really lovely service, I tell everyone about the SA and/or shop. But when an SA or shop is less than stellar, I just find another source.

  • Ann says:

    Hi, Julie! The few Hermes stores I’ve been in have been pretty nice about samples, as well. And Musette, above, found a bright spot in her store, despite a bad experience, so ya gotta love that.

  • Julie says:

    Have to say I’ve never had a bad experience with an SA, but have always felt nervous about shopping in high end stores, because I expected the snobby treatment. I avoided Neiman Marcus and the Hermes boutique for years because of this, but finally my desire to sample things without paying overcame me and I’m so glad I did! Every time I go to Hermes, I get 3 or 4 large samples – I asked for a sample of Voyage, they didn’t have any, but gave me the cutest little mini! And I didn’t even buy anything!

    Usually, the worst is just getting pushed with the same old stuff while I just want to sniff around. “Here, try this” – Pink Sugar, Light Blue or whatever popular things they think I would want.

  • Ruth Wernke says:

    Here is my story:

    10 yrs ago I was WORKING as a sales clerk for a low level dept. store in Michigan at Christmas time. A man came up to the counter in women’s clothing with a pair of leather gloves.
    Customer “I want to buy my wife some gloves for Christmas but I’m not sure if they are right, would you mind trying them on for me?”
    Me “Of course”
    The gloves were too small and I could not get my hand into them all the way. I looked at the man and said, “I’m sorry, these won’t fit me.”
    Customer “Great, I was hoping they wouldn’t fit, my wife is much smaller than you. I’ll take them.”
    I was in total shock and couldn’t think of a thing to say as I rang up the sale and he walked away!

    • Musette says:

      Men. God bless ’em. /:) That is PERSACKLY the kind of thing El O would do, then look totally mystified when a woman burst into tears – or looked as if she wanted to throw something at him!

      I’m willing to bet next week’s payroll he didn’t mean that in any rude way – come live in my World of El O for a week – you’ll see what I mean. 😉

      xo >-)

      for those men on here today who are NOT like that? Replicate. Please! ^:)^

    • Trina says:

      Heh. At first I misunderstood your “A man came up…” sentence to mean that he was *dressed* in women’s clothing :)

  • Kirsten says:

    I’ve had my ups and downs with perfume SA’s over the years.

    I’ll share a story about a recent trip my best friend and I had at Glasgow’s House of Fraser department store.

    We were sniffing around the Thierry Mugler counter, as my friend was looking for some Alien. There was an offer of a special gift set on Angel (about £150 worth of freebies) if you took out a store card. Well, I already had one, so I convinced my friend into taking out the card, as I knew she loved Angel and can’t resist a bargain, or a super-freebie. To cut a long story short, the application process was a disaster, (through no fault of the SA), the system crashed, the application got lost, the phones went down, and two hours later we were still trying to get my friend signed up for this card!! The SA had promised it would only take 10 mins!

    Anyway, the SA felt so guilty we’d been waiting so long, that when the card finally went through, she went off to find us some more freebies to make up for the wait. She came back with TM gift bags for both of us. We each got 100mls of Womanity EDP (refillable), 200mls Body lotion, and a dozen sample sprays of TM Cologne.

    In between all that, the three of us had a proper girly chat about Lady Gaga liking Womanity, TM Cologne and what the secret ‘S’ ingredient is, and a giggle about ELDO Secretions Magnifique.

    So, in way of return, I bought 2 bottles of TM cologne and shower gel for me and my friend, so she could get a little extra commission on top of the original Alien sale. At least I hope she did, ‘cos I know she stayed on way past the end of her shift to get things sorted out for us.

    Her name was Nicola, and she was a freelance SA. An absolute star!

    In complete contrast that day, in the same store, we popped in to the Hermes boutique. I asked for a price on Hiris, was promptly corrected on my pronunciation, then given the price with an icy “as if you could afford it…” look. At which, I sweetly said, “I’ll take one, and throw in the Pamplemousse Rose as well while you’re at it!”.

    • mals86 says:

      There are gems out there. When we find them, they should be celebrated. (and purchased from.)

    • Ann says:

      Boy, Kirsten, you experienced both ends of the spectrum in one day. Thanks for sharing your story of the wonderful lady who went way above and beyond the call of duty. Bless her! I know she really helped make up for the other incident.

  • minette says:

    wow! passive-aggressive behavior bubbles up after 20 years!

    i understand the urge to “pay her back in kind” but honestly, love, holding onto these little grievances only hurts you and your body. so i hope you learn to let them go. for your sake.

    it’s something i’ve been working on myself, so i’m sorta preaching to the choir here. i know what it feels like to hold onto the grievances, to let them go, and to do what you did. and i have to say, it feels best to let them go. you can use the “little buddha” method, in which you see everyone in your life as a little buddha with something to show and teach you, or just stop and take a deep breath whenever you feel that energy bubbling up.

    what she did all those years ago wasn’t the best thing she could’ve done, but who knows what was going on for her that day, and how differently things could’ve gone if you had calmly asked her “why are you sorry?” instead of feeling shame and walking away. that sort of confrontation would’ve been honest, and probably would’ve resolved pretty quickly. again, something i am teaching myself to do, since i’ve spent far too long doing the other.

    i wish you well in all of your encounters.

    and yes, there are SAs here who don’t ask exactly as i’d like them to (there used to be several at saks, but they’ve left with a new department manager), but the situations usually work out if i stay centered and in my truth — which is not an angry stance. i find that much of my interaction depends on how i’m feeling about myself at that moment, so breathing and centering help.

    enough lecturing. love to you.

    • minette says:

      oops… i meant “act” in last graph.

      • minette says:

        and… something just occurred to me… i’ve had some SAs who can’t help me because they don’t know the line in question or have access to the inventory… so this may have been the reason why she said, “i’m sorry.” it could have been that innocent. i hope you can go to her and work it all out, for both of your sakes, because it just seems like a big misunderstanding that festered.

        • Aparatchick says:

          I have to say that I don’t think there was anything passive-aggressive in telling the SA why she wouldn’t be buying from her. It was a truthful answer.

          If it feels best to you to let things go, that’s wonderful, and generally I agree with you – life is short and there are more agreeable things to do than let situations get to you. But there are also times in which calling people out on their unacceptable behavior is the best response, otherwise that behavior doesn’t change. It’s a judgment call – and sometimes a quick and unexpected one.

          In any case, I hope everyone at the Posse will be giving the good SAs a big “thank-you” after reading these stories.

          • Ann says:

            Thanks, A. That’s pretty much how I felt.
            I’m already looking to send thank-you notes to some lovely SAs
            that I know. And I try to take cookies, or some kind of goodies, in to them
            around the holidays to let them know I appreciate all they do.

            And M, thanks for your kind words. I’m a pretty balanced person
            and usually just let go of things like this, but I’m only human, too, and this was an incident in which I decided to
            be very frank with the SA. I think she has now retired and I wish her well.

          • minette says:

            my point is – the time to call her out or “be frank with her” was back then. it sounds from your story as if you hung onto her perceived slight for twenty years, then decided to unload it on her in one blast — the way you describe her physical reaction to you suggests it was not a gentle encounter. if others think that’s okay to do, that’s great.

            i’m all for taking a stand when one is wronged – but preferably at that moment – not after having nursed a grudge for years. if anyone would put themselves in the shoes of the SA for a moment, they might realize how shocking the confrontation must’ve been.

            and again, it all could’ve been a misunderstanding in the first place, but we never know the way it played out.

    • Queen Cupcake says:

      Oh how I loved reading this comment! Minette is really onto something here. My silent mantra for dealing with difficult people &/or situations is “compassion”. And, I didn’t see this observation anywhere in the other comments (sorry if I missed it), but: After 20 years, the SA did approach with a “Madam, may I help you” so maybe she learned something after all this time. I would hate to have to address all of the hurts I’ve caused people over the past few decades, whether or not they were intentional.

      • minette says:

        thanks, queen cupcake. i know what you mean by that last part – i know i’ve offended people over the years, and i always feel pain when i find out later that they were hurt – often by some off-hand and innocent comment i’d made. i wish they’d told me then, so i could’ve learned from it and healed the relationship. it’s funny that we think blasting someone years later is us being honest or speaking our truth and that we have a right to blast them because of that. but it’s more honest to deal with it – the shame, the fear, the anger – whatever it is that comes up – when it comes up, so it doesn’t escalate. unfortunately, most of us are not taught how to do that, so it’s scary to attempt. every time i’ve stayed present and done it (and boy am i still practicing!) it’s changed the dynamics of the situation in a positive, powerful way — even as my heart pounds like crazy because it’s so scary to do. peace out.

        • Wet blanket II says:

          Minette & Cupcake – You are not alone :) Although we are clearly the minority..

  • Aparatchick says:

    I’ve worked retail (and currently work part-time in a customer-service capacity) so I know well that there are a certain number of customers with mile-wide senses of entitlement and mile-deep insecurities. And yes, that coupled with minimum wage pay can be extremely unpleasant, but neither of those circumstances is an excuse for providing poor service.

    I’ve had very good service at Nordstrom over the years; the SAs have been pleasant people who know about what they sell. I blame the manufacturers and department stores for not providing enough training and information to their SAs. I’ve quit shopping Macys because the SAs I’ve encountered there seem to know nothing about what they stock or sell. “Do you carry X brand shoes?” I’ll ask. Blank look. “I don’t think so.” No offer to find out or ask anyone else.

    Or a more recent perfume-related example at Macys: I asked to sample Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess. “Oh you don’t want that one” she said dismissively, and brought out the flanker Bronze Goddess Soleil. “You want this one.” Uh, no I don’t. I want what I specifically asked for.

  • Suzane says:

    Ann, it’s always wonderful to see you here on these guest posts. Most of my experiences with SA’s have been good, but I find that I really like to shop in an unhurried, uninterrupted fashion, so I’m truly grateful for the Internet, where I buy just about everything these days except clothes. I even do most of my shoe shopping online. And since it is often difficult to get samples of perfumes at the department stores, I’m doubly grateful for the Internet (and for fellow perfumistas who will send/swap samples). I don’t think I would have gotten into perfume collecting if I had to purchase them at bricks-and-mortar stores for that reason alone.

    • Suzanne says:

      Oops, how did I spell my own name wrong? Must be one of those days…:”>

    • Ann says:

      Hi sweetie, thanks for stopping by. I second you — sending a big shoutout to all the sweet, generous perfumistas out there, many of them here on the Posse, who happily share their samples (looking especially at you, Suzanne and Musette)!

    • mals86 says:

      Amen, lady, preaching to the choir…

      Although I have to admit that the SAs in Belk’s are sweet, if totally clueless about what they’re selling. And there was that really enthusiastic male SA at Macy’s who was happy to let me wander around and sniff stuff. I’ve never actually been snubbed at any of my local stores, but they are not what I’d call high-end, either.

  • Tom says:

    Welcome, Ann! Great post!

    I’m going to preface this by stating that I have worked as an SA (not in perfume), so I know that there is little pay and some customers can be pains. But I actually enjoyed selling books to people since I liked being able to turn them on to new authors based upon what they liked already or new books about subjects (art, photography & Architecture was my section) they’re passionate about. I also enjoyed giving tips about the area to travelers since I love it here and like sharing places to go. Were there schucks? Sure. All I have to do is ring them up with a smile and think “a$$hole” all the while.

    I will say that there are several SA’s at stores like Barney’s, Saks and N-M in Beverly Hills that are true gems, and of course the kids at ScentBar are wonderful.

    I have only two stories about bad SA’s. One years ago at N-M who when I sprayed a tester onto a strip complained that i wasn’t supposed to do that because she had to breathe it. I commented that if it was that toxic why would I try it on skin, and walked away. The only other memorable one was when an SA in NYC corrected my pronunciation of “Poison” when I was picking up a bottle for a friend. I pronounced it in the American fashion and she raised an eyebrow and corrected me with the French “Pwah- ssauhn” I looked at her and said that the correct French would be “Pwah-sZauhn” unless she was ordering fish for dinner and went to another store.

    • Rappleyea says:

      I need the ROTFL guy! I had the exact same experience in D. C. many years ago with the infamous Poison. It was all I could do not to burst out laughing when the SA “corrected” me!

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Tom. I think it makes a difference if you enjoy (and believe in) what you’re selling. You’re right, if the customers are jerks, just ring ’em up and get ’em on their way ASAP.
      And all I can say is “Yikes!! on the Poison thing. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that correcting the customer is NOT going to result in anything positive.

  • maggiecat says:

    Such fun reading these stories! I’ve worked as an SA to get through college, so I know both sides. I’ve been snubbed – for not looking rich (college professors generally don’t) and lately, in Sephora and the like, for being “une femme du certain age.” OK, old. Middle-aged, really, and just the sort of customer with money to spend and a strong desire for anti-aging products. I walked out of Sephora once – left a basket of pricey goods right there on the shelf – after being studiously ignored in favor of the young and the fabulous. Of course, I’m also on their “spends a lot of money here so let’s give her a couple of perks” list, and I took the opportunity to write in on behalf of my myself and others who don’t think we’re over the hill yet. I’ve noticed a real change in their attitudes lately when I walk in – wonder if it helped?

    Hang in there y’all. Karma comes around, sooner or later.

    • Ann says:

      Hi Maggiecat, you really did “vote with your feet.” I’m happy to hear you’re seeing a change for the better, though.

  • rosarita says:

    Welcome Ann! This is a great post, and everyone’s comments are yanking on my maternal strings, wanting to issue a giant Posse group hug, and maybe cookies.

    I live in an area where there is one mall, an hour away from me, and their main dept store is a Macy’s; yeah, it’s awful. However, at one time I lived in Houston and was single and had money and shopped a lot. As a teenager and well into my 20s, I suffered from severe, worst case scenario cystic acne. (I’m old, so derms treated it back then with sun lamps and copious steroids, before I got on an experimental trial of Accutane.) Anyway, I have bad skin; lots of scarring, etc, but there was a wonderful Clinique SA at Foley’s in Houston who took extra time with me, helping me find the best foundations and other cosmetics. She had all my business until I moved where I am now, 20 yrs ago. I tried going to my crappy mall to buy my go to foundation, and was treated so badly and maligned for my *horrible* scarring that *nothing was going to help* that I was truly traumatized and never went back. I avoided cosmetic counters completely until, on a whim while shopping w/a friend in Indianapolis a few yrs ago, I had a makeup application done by the nicest possible Nordstrom SA at the Dior counter. She had approached us, and because of her kindness and my delight in the results, I bought everything she used on me that day. I still look her up every time I visit the city, and I always make a purchase (altho unfortunatly I can no longer afford to marinate myself in Dior cosmetics.)One more bad SA experience at my local Kohl’s store, which your post reminded me of: I went in to purchase a sweater last year. After searching, I found just the one I wanted, hanging high on a wall. I approached the nearest SA, which meant going back to the cashier line and finding a manager, and asked her if she could help me and get the sweater down for me. She sighed impatiently and said, “Aren’t there any hooks over there? Did you look? You can get it down yourself, you know.” I just stared at her, shocked, until I got it together enough to turn and walk out of the store. Haven’t been back.

    • Ann says:

      Aw, thanks, Rosarita. And yours made me want to give you a big hug, also! I’m so very sorry that you’ve had to deal with such, but very glad that you’ve found some wonderful people, too. Hats off to them!

  • Teri says:

    I was visiting family in Edina, MN one Christmas when I was about 14. My cousin (then 16) and I made a shopping trip downtown for the after Christmas sales. We stopped into what was a very high-profile department store in Minneapolis. We had been to a church function earlier that day and were well-dressed, well-mannered and well-spoken young women with money in our purses. None of the SAs would wait on us, none of them would even look at us, their glazes sliding over us from one adult to another as though we didn’t exist. Being polite young ladies, we didn’t raise a fuss. What we did do was find a telephone. My cousin’s closest friend was one of the great-granddaughter’s of the founder of the store. When she heard the story, she got her father on the phone. He told my cousin that we should go back to the fragrance counter immediately and watch what happened.

    It wasn’t long before a managerial sort came striding purposefully toward us, introduced himself and walked us up to the counter. An SA immediately rushed to greet him and was told to ‘extend these young ladies every courtesy’ by request of the owner. The look of horror on the face of that SA was worth all the previous humiliation.

    I’ve often wondered if she ever again ignored any well-dressed teenagers who came to her counter. I’m thinking she didn’t. :-\”

  • Gail S says:

    Really bad service has only happened to me once, but I did something about it immediately. I was in the perfume section of the only store in my area that has a decent selection and the SA was busy chit-chatting with a friend that I guess she hadn’t seen in a while. The friend wasn’t buying anything, they were just talking. And talking. And talking. I know she saw me but she couldn’t be bothered to stop her personal conversation. I started to leave, but then thought “No, this is my only place to shop for perfume, I’m not going to let her leave a bad taste in my mouth about it”. So I went to the customer service counter and asked for the manager and explained what had happened to him. As I left the store, I saw him talking to her so I feel confident that the situation was at least addressed. Stores are in business to make a profit and we do them no favors (not to mention ourselves) by letting bad service slide.

    But in good news, when I travel, I have had sooooo much fun at the perfume counters in Barneys (Dallas and Beverly Hills specifically). The SA’s I’ve encountered there have been very knowledgeable, enthusiastic and friendly.

    • Ann says:

      How true, Gail. But glad you’ve enjoyed your perfume travels. I love exploring fragrance in a new city.

  • Vasily says:

    The majority of customers SAs encounter are not perfumistas … most of the cusstomers want to buy something because they’ve seen it on TV, or because it has a cool bottle shaped like a naked torso or a brick of gold, because their friends wear it, or because it has that (fresh/apple cobbler/gourmet chocolate/you name it) notes that everyone at the clubs are wearing these days (assuming the customer even knows what a note is). They’re being paid their meager salaries to push products, and the few times I’ve tried asking one for a specific frag I want to try, she/he has said “we don’t have that, but here’s something you’ll like” presumably based on some imagined characteristic of a frag the SA has doubtless never tried. That’s why I buy most of my frags online.

    Regarding bad experiences having consequences many years later, in the late 1950s I watched my father humiliated as an insurance salesman refused him coverage because he was a professional jazz musician; he was told in essence they didn’t cover such because jazz musicians were mostly drug addicts and drunks. I never forgot that, and a few years ago I told a representative of that company (whose logo involves hands) that I would never ever have a policy with them as a consequence. Karma’s a b****.

    • Musette says:

      Oh, Good Grief! You’re kidding right? That stupid agent should’ve ^:)^ to your father – Jazz Musicians are a national treasure – in any nation! [-( Your father should’ve laughed out loud – in his face!

      If your father is still with us on this plane give him a 😡 for me!

      xo >-)

      • Vasily says:

        My father passed away in 1972, but thanks; I’ll give him a :x anyway. That was my first exposure in life to unfairness and bigotry … he was a good man who gave up a successful career (Latin American influenced progressive jazz trio) in the Washington DC area to raise a family in the Midwest.

  • OperaFan says:

    Isn’t it amazing how some of the worst SAs have the greatest longevity in a store? And how lucky that you were given an opportunity to “put things right,” so to speak.

    A few weeks ago, I took my teenage stepdaughter to NY’s SFA to see the big-name boutiques at the store. We were dressed for the theater that evening, yet there was a wide range attitudes – some with friendly, welcoming smiles to others who acted as if we weren’t even there. Clearly we didn’t have the tell-tale monied look about us.

    The worst though, was a couple of SAs in the OTR dress dept at BG (this was back in the late ’90s) while I was was trying on dresses for an upcoming wedding. Although on sale for $259, it was still the most expensive dress I would have purchased other than my wedding gown years later. These women were helpful until I asked about their return policy because I didn’t want to be stuck with the dress if I found something I liked better elsewhere. They scolded me and nearly chased me out of the store. Like Illdone, I was so humiliated and so hurt – all for asking an innocent question that I had to write a letter about the incident to the store manager. The letter was brought to the attention of the dept mgr who called me to personally apologize. Although I never went back there to shop for dresses again, I wouldn’t be surprised if those SAs are still working there.

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, OperaFan. Sorry that happened to you. Those kinds of incidents do help you to really appreciate good customer service when you experience it.

  • karin says:

    I had the surreal experience of moonlighting as an SA at the men’s fragrance counter at Filene’s in the Chestnut Hill mall in MA for 5 months in 2003/2004. OMG. The stories I could tell. First off, the men’s counter had the rare privilege of being next to the women’s cosmetics and fragrance counters (usually they’re tucked away in the men’s clothing depts). I worked with ladies who’d been working those counters for 12, 15, 20+ years! They were the funniest women I’ve ever worked with. They’d joke around and laugh ALL DAY. The culture was so different from anywhere else I’d ever worked. As the ladies there said over and over again, “we should write a book.” And well they should. Wish I’d had the insight to jot down their stories and get the thing going…

    From my short experience there, these are the stats – no training AT ALL. None. Zilch. Zippo. Pay rate is laughable (though the long term SAs made more than I did – about $15/hour to my $7). Hours change weekly, so there’s no way to organize your life properly. Mfgs give spiffs (incentives for SAs to sell their products). So SAs often push the products with the best spiffs so they can make more $. While I was there, Hanae Mori was giving $5 CASH (as in the counter mgr hands you a $5 bill) for every bottle sold. There was a guy who worked the women’s fragrance counter, and he’d only push Hanae Mori. Controversial, yes, but he made quite a few $ off of it.

    There seems to be an “us vs. them” attitude when it comes to the customer, which is really off putting IMO. There are so many SAs that don’t hide this well at all. They just want their commission, and if you don’t have $ signs on your eyeballs, they won’t bother. Thing is, they don’t realize that the best SAs are the ones who listen to their customers, spend time with them, and develop a relationship. Those are the customers who will come back. I know I do. I’m like Olfacta. I dislike the SA encounter – I much prefer shopping online! I can’t stand that fake “can I help you???” It seems that good SAs are rare, and that’s too bad. When you find a good one, tell all your friends and keep going back!

    OK…long post. ;-)

    • karin says:

      Oh, BTW, forgot to mention commissions. There are commissions on every sale in fragrance…not large, though!

  • Musette says:

    These are great, funny stories! I stay out of Macy’s for just this reason. SAs there are not about perfume – and let’s be honest: for most SAs it’s just a job like any other, where for us it’s a passion. Macy’s has The Worst in terms of aggression,imo. I’m pretty tough – but I’ve actually been chased out of the perfume dept at Macy’s!!! More than once! 😮

    I’m going to shout a flipside HOLLA! to some really fabulous SAs – not because they are fabulous to me (I don’t count because I’ve either been their high-ticket customer for 20+ years or they know I’m Posse/Chicocoa) – I spend a lot of hanging-out time in these shops and I watch how they treat Other Customers.

    Barneys – Bradley, Lydia, Marie, Christina (actually pretty much ALL of the Barneys SAs – but these stand out)….they sell the high-end niche lines – but you can come in there looking like The Last Nickel and they will still treat you like a Quing. Class acts, every one.

    Nordstrom – the vaunted Mohammed (more on him in an upcoming post) – in a store that is becoming stranger and stranger (as regards the fragrance dept) this man stands out as a beacon of civility and graciousness.

    Hermes 😮 (oh, be-have!). The Chicocoa Hermes experience was nasty, true. But Patty had her camera in a bag. The bottom opened up. In the midst of all that shriekage and bad behavior, when all the other SAs pretended we weren’t there, one SA took the time to make sure Patty’s camera was safe, then she gave her an Hermes shopping bag (much sturdier, ’tis true) to keep her camera safe. Olivia (I know I’m misspelling her name). Despite the ugliness, the Posse spent a lot of money there that day – and later, when Patty came to town, we went to town in Hermes. With Olivia. And when I have spendy friends who want to buy Hermes I take them to Olivia. And when I am refunded and go in to buy my Shoulder Kelly, I will buy it from Olivia.

    Chanel ( I know, I know – but I never have those issues in Chanel) – I went into the boutique a few weeks ago, looking like 10 miles of unpaved road b-( raggedy hair, etc – just looked tired…..and underfunded. My SAs are gone so this whole new crop doesn’t know me from Floyd. The 8 mos pregnant SA was extremely gracious as I rambled through the Les Es etc – she’d been helping 4 Omani women who were buying out the store (talk about vicarious fun! =p~ ) but she took time during a break to ask me if I needed any further assistance! 😮 I told her to get her pregnant self back over to those women so she could make her quota for the year (in one hour)

    xo >-)

    • Rappleyea says:

      In the same vein, I’d have to add the Guerlain SA’s at Bergdorf’s and Chuck at the Guerlain boutique in Vegas (there may be others out there, but he’s the only one I’ve dealt with). All very gracious and accomodating.

      • Rappleyea says:

        Ooops! Sorry – I realize I’m short an “m” on accommodating.

        • Ann says:

          Hear, hear!! There are some wonderful, amazing SAs out there, and I’m hoping to hear more about them today, too. I give a shout-out to some lovely folks at Saks and Nordstrom, too.

    • OperaFan says:

      Indeed – I’ve know some wonderful and occassionally very knowledgeable SAs as well. Love, love, love them. I’ve had wonderful interactions with some of the ladies at the BG Guerlain counter as well. One of the best was at the SFA Guerlain, but that was in the late ’90s. She got spirited away by EL for a plummier position at BG – gosh she was patient, non-pushy, and told me great stories about the classic perfumes.
      It’s great when you develop a relationship with SAs. They really do enhance your shopping experience and you keep coming back for more.

  • Not to be a pc wet blanket says:

    …but do consider that 20 years as a SA is not the most fortunate of situations…when I worked as an SA in my 20s none of us could even afford to buy what we were selling without a discount or deal of some sort, and the nice outfits/extravagant makeup of an SA almost always belie the actuality of their meager lives outside of the workplace.

    So these SA rants always leave me cold. These are basically near minimum wage workers…the snotty attitude comes from the drudgery of retail work plus the residue of the faked politeness required by these workers in order to deal with the *really* unmanageable high end customer. We might as well be complaining about TSA employees or DMV “***ches”. It’s sort of sad is all, the complaining about imperfect high end shopping experience as if there were a cabal of SAs set on giving us ladies who lunch indigestion.

    • mals86 says:

      So you’re saying that because SAs make minimum wage, it is okay for them to greet a polite inquiry of “may I smell that?” or “would you get that item down off the wall for me, please” with sneers?

      Because their lives suck so much? And those of us who may have worked minimum wage jobs in our lives as well don’t deserve polite service?

      Sorry, not with you there.

      • Not to be a pc wet blanket says:

        No, but one broad brush does deserve another, no? Because that’s what posts like these are, despite the “don’t read this if you’re a lovely helpful SA” disclaimer. And frankly the slam of the 20 year SA was pretty cold. As if being an SA for 20yrs weren’t punishment enough, lol. A lot of these people work on their feet 6 days a week nearly all year, serving almost exclusively, customers on the opposite end of the class spectrum. Yes that does affect one’s attitude, 100% polite SAs would be a bizarre phenom. indeed.

        On the flipside, and I’m not sure if the same exists for SAs, but there are many disgruntled waitstaff blogs out there that I’m sure would compare to the anecdotes SAs could give. And the online whining about SAs from perfumistas and makeup addicts pales in comparison to say the least.

        But now I’ll bow out, as I seem to be a minority of one. HAGD all.

    • Wet blanket II says:

      I’m with you Ms. Blanket. Let’s face it, both sides of the shopping experience suffer indignities. Buyers come across the occasional snotty sales person and the sales persons come across the occasional snotty buyer.

      A long time ago I decided to try to make the SAs my partners, not my servants. And while I’ve been on the other end of slightly insulting behavior, I haven’t carried it with me for 20 years only to lash out at some poor woman who is still working behind a counter so many years later. If she’s scared of you, you crossed a line far worse than whatever injustice you felt was directed at you. Who’s to say what happened on the fateful day, maybe she wasn’t allowed to sell from that counter, maybe she was having a bad day — we ALL have them.

      • mals86 says:

        True, everybody has a bad day now and then. I worked very briefly as a SA in Sears, years ago, on breaks from college. It was truly a pain in the fundament, from time to time.

        But the rudeness and the general unhelpfulness from SAs is one of the reasons why I try to buy online if at all possible. I just won’t put up with it. I don’t know why particular rudeness annoys me more: the outright snubs of potential customers who aren’t dressed to the nines and radiating cash flow, the ignoring of customers who need help, the pushing of whatever-it-is that isn’t what the customer wants, the… whatever. The list goes on.

        Some of this is clearly the fault of store management, for falling down on the training front, and for the pushing of a few lines or items at the expense of others. Or for the culture of spending SA time on people who look rich. Most of the millionnaires I know (yeah, I know three. They’re farmers) don’t dress like they’re raking in the bucks, and when they’re in a department store, they’re there with cash in their pockets ready to buy – IF they can get some help.

        It’s difficult to work with the public if it’s not something you’re good at… or if you’re truly ticked off that you’re still making SA wages after twenty years… but I still don’t think that rudeness is acceptable.

        Of course, you’re right – it does go back to the golden rule of treating people as you would like to be treated.

        • mals86 says:

          Sorry, “I don’t know WHICH particular rudeness…”

          • Ann says:

            Thanks, Mals, very well-said. And I know exactly what you’re talking about as I’ve heard several stories about millionaire farmers coming to shop in their overalls or work clothes and having trouble getting waited on. It’s never a good idea to judge a book by its cover.

        • Meliscents says:

          I worked as a SA for most of college and although I had to deal with some REALLY nasty, unhappy people, it only helped my weekly paycheck if I was nice most of the time. Plus, I have always tried to move on from a job if I found I was taking my bitterness out on the paying customers. If you hate your position in life… change it!!!:d

      • mary says:

        Twenty years ago, that SA may not have been feeling well– may not have been assigned to Clinique, may have just suffered from a a rude experience at the hands of a psycho customer,and had to go get a drink of water, may have just learned of a death in the family– I could go on, but you get my drift. Or, maybe she had Ann mixed up with someone who had done something mean to her years before, and so did not want to help her. Ann– what if you are mistaken, and this sales person is not the same person who delivered the “snub” years ago? Or what if she is the same person and has no idea what you are talking about? I agree with the folks here who think it is a shame to take out your bad feelings on a sales person. Even if you think she was less than polite on one occasion 20 years ago.

  • jen says:

    This was infuriating: I asked a SA in Bullocks years ago if she had any Casaque, and she said, “no, but I’ll find something you like just as much.” Nice, I dont know what I want, just let her decide how I will smell!

  • tania says:

    Welcome, Ann!

    I love your story. I wonder if she later remembered your vist 20 years before? Doubt it, it sounds like snotty was just her default setting….

    I can remember visiting the Santa Maria Novella store in London years ago, asking the price of a box of soap, and getting the reply ‘Oh, it’s rather expensive!’, complete with a patronising look, from the female SA.
    I bought it anyway, as I loved it and there wasn’t anywhere else that stocked it. (I also had a rough idea of the price when I entered).
    But the attitude really stuck in my craw. OK, I wasn’t one of the ‘ladies who lunch’ who frequent that area. I was clean and tidy and made-up, but in jeans, not designer duds. However, I was the most important person that woman could meet in her job – a customer. Am I right? :-)

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Tania! Sorry that happened to you. I’ve also heard another variation on what you mentioned: “If you have to ask, dear, you can’t afford it.” And yes, you should have been treated like a VIP, no matter what.
      I learned a long time ago never to judge anyone by how they look or how they are dressed. Just treat everyone with respect and you can’t go wrong.

  • Olfacta says:

    I don’t shop mainstream stores much, as I prefer the satisfying thud of a package landing on my porch to dealing with some snotty 20-something SA, but the few times I have gone perfume shopping on my own have supplied me with good material! One incident that comes to mind is the SA at a certain NY-based store beginning with “B” who informed me, after I’d sniffed some Chanel 22 and mentioned that I remembered it as richer: “Oh, that’s how they used to make perfume, with an eyeroll skyward and a disdainful shrug as in “You’re old.” Then there are the ones who chase you around hawking skin care products. I know it can be a tough job — I’ve done store work — but, geez louise! I’d love to be a fly on the wall at a perfume-counter SA training session, if there is, in fact, such a thing.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, lady! I’m with you on the package business (not to mention avoiding the horrific traffic). As for your snotty SA, don’t these folks get any customer service training at all? She’s going to give attitude to the wrong person one day and that will be that.

    • Vasily says:

      If you were a fly on the wall, you’d probably hear something like this: “I’ve written you guys’ sales quotas for the quarter on the whiteboard. I want you to steer customers toward X, Y, and Z because that’s what’s hot right now and the profit margins are HUGE on them. Try to cop a bit of an attitude with customers, that will build street cred with the perfume snobs and drive away the looky-lous who mostly can’t afford what we’re offering, anyway.”

      • Vasily says:

        (the problem in other words is with stores whose focus is solely on the bottom line these days rather than customer service … you’ll note that every reference to Nordstrom’s in this thread is positive; that’s because they’ve made focus on customer service their policy rather than a rare occurrence)

  • Trina says:

    I’ve only had memorable experiences since getting heavily into fragrance. The one that stands out the most is the year Burberry put out Brit Gold. I had been *dying* to try it since word went out on the frag board, and the first chance I got to hunt it down in person was at a Saks (or Neiman Marcus?) in Illinois. The SA looked at me like I was insane when I asked if they had it yet, and told me there was no such thing. I assured her that it was the latest offering/flanker, and she went through the motions of looking for it while simultaneously making it clear I was a sad, confused individual trying to buy a unicorn at the pet store.

    My only regret is that it wasn’t a store local to me, so I didn’t get to go back when it had been widely released to see the look on her face when she realized her “crazy customer” had known what she was talking about.

    I had a similar experience in NYC just before the release of Flowerbomb Extreme, but it was at a Sniffa and the SAs were clued-in to the fact that the customers that day knew way more about what was in the pipeline than the usual shoppers. They hadn’t heard of it, but were almost desperate to get my contact info, so that when it arrived they could call or email me and get the sale then. Much more gratifying :~D

    • Ann says:

      We perfumistas have run into a lot of that, haven’t we? You’d think the SAs would want to be on the cutting edge and have the latest info on releases, etc., but who knows? I wonder if they get advance notice of new stuff only a month or two before release, whereas the boards/blogs post it as soon as it’s announced, and the release date might be six months or more away. BTW, loved your “unicorn at the pet store” comment!!

    • OperaFan says:

      Hmmm… Well, I was at BG in NYC over the weekend, stopped by the Amouage counter to ask about the new Honor white floral, and the SA had no idea what I was talking about. She kept pushing me towards the bottle of Ciel until she gave up and walked away. Guess she wasn’t the regular Amouage SA.

  • Millicent says:

    I have found here in Southeast Asia that the SA’s generally are not trained to know much about what they’re selling, and they tend to focus on their top sellers. I’ve tried smiling in a friendly way and saying that I don’t want to smell like everyone else, but that’s what they’re told to say.

    On the other hand, I went to a Cartier boutique in Singapore back in April when everyone was raving about Fougeuse. The young man who worked there was really nice, and we had a nice chat, during which he told me all about how Cartier had put them all through “SO MUCH” training when the Les Heures scents came into the store. He said he hadn’t really understood much of it at the time and doesn’t really like any of the scents, especially compared to his favorite, Hugo Boss. He just puts on some of “the smokey one” to cover up the smell when he comes back from a cigarette break!

    Very nice experience.

    • Ann says:

      Millicent, so nice to hear you had a friendly, chatty SA who gave you a peek “behind the scenes.”

  • Illdone says:

    Hello Ann, welcome!

    SA’s can be a real pain un the A..
    As I mentioned before I’m European and 46 years old now. I was raised in a small town catholic school where, at that time, the last generation of ‘old school’ nuns were residing. As a rebellious teenager I hated the strictness and army regime but later on in life I realised I could talk to “beggars and kings alike” always knowing how to behave and to use the right tone. Not that it’s that important but I even now how to make “un petite reverence” just in case I ever meet royalty (very unlikley!)

    Back to the SA’s.
    At some point when I was 18 I wanted to buy some gorgeous designer pants in an expensive boutique in town. I tryed them on and saw immediatly that it really wasn’t my thing. The SA (too blond, too skinny and too much make-up) reacted in a sour tone : “oh well, if you can’t afford it…” I left the shop feeling humiliated and small.

    Years later I went back there and saw the SA again. I’ll be honest, I was out for revenge. So I tryed some stuff on and put it all back. Afterwards, when the SA opened her mouth for undoubtedly another sneer, I just quoted Edina (Abfab) : “Oh woman, lose the attitude, your only just working here as an SA”. You can imagine I left the shop smiling.

    By the way, normally I’m an easy costumer and I never let people run around for nothing or cause a ravage trying on nummerous items.

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, illdone! I say bravo to you, as that woman had it coming to her. With an attitude like that, it’s a wonder she was still employed anywhere (and in sales, no less!). I agree with you that your upbringing/education does make a difference. I worked at a bank as a teenager and they were very strict about how you treated customers. One teeny, tiny iota of disrespect and I would have been shown the door posthaste!!

  • hongkongmom says:

    Yay, I would love to entered in the draw and finally I will have a USA mailing address!

  • Francesca says:

    I find with the economy as it is, most SA’s are pretty helpful these days, though I did once get dressed down by my usual SA at some makeup counter at Saks for not asking for her. I was in a hurry, I didn’t see her. I never went back. I had a fun time with Dimitrios at the Makeup Forever boutique in the Soho
    Sephora. I bought more stuff than I needed, but I looked gorgeous going back to work after lunch.

    • Ann says:

      Yep, Francesca, the sagging economy has adjusted a lot of attitudes, I think. And the SAs getting territorial and even downright unpleasant if they miss a sale is an unfortunate side effect. I’ve seen quite a bit of it, too.

  • Madea says:

    [I’ve mentioned before that, due to health issues, I use a wheelchair regularly.]

    Stepmother and I went into a Sephora. The aisles are super narrow there, so SM was pushing me. I was looking for something specific, and flagged a lady.

    I said ‘Excuse me, ma’am? I’m looking for X.’

    ‘X? It’s over there.’ She ignored me and talked directly to SM over my head. I thought she was just oblivious somehow (and I was feeling feisty) so I raised my head and said clearly ‘I’m down here.’

    She dropped her head and got a look on her face that I can only describe as ‘annoyed’. I asked her some question about X. She looked at SM again and smiled.

    ‘X is on sale thirty percent off, and there’s a gift set.’
    I didn’t buy anything from her.

    • Musette says:

      :[email protected] “YOU’RE IN A WHEELCHAIR, MADEA! YOU DON’T EXIST!!”

      I’m sure you get the other weird ones:

      you ask a question in a normal tone of voice: they yell a response (you are in a wheelchair so you must be deaf)

      you ask a question in a normal tone of voice: they respond to you as if you were 18 months old (you are in a wheelchair so you are also mentally challenged)

      people are insane, aren’t they?

      xo >-)

    • Ann says:

      Oh, Madea, so sorry you’ve had to endure stuff like this (shakes head in utter disbelief). What is so hard about treating everyone you meet with dignity and kindness?
      And Musette, you are just TOO funny (and sadly, right on the money a lot of the time)!

      • maggiecat says:

        Indeed, you’re both right. I’ve been in an obvious back brace, on crutches, and otherwise visibly impaired and I’m always amazed at how people assume I’m not an actual person and that it’s all right to either stare or ignore me. My elderly (but still totally with it and quite feisty) mother uses a walker and gets the same response in spades. Sigh. Come to Dallas, Madea, and I’ll push you around gladly! (in the best possible way of course)

  • Jennifer says:

    A sale is a sale and NO SA should refuse service(get down a item/ring a sale).However from the SA side -some people are CRAZY!
    I work in sales and a woman kept the store open at Least 45 minutes PAST closing (9 PM)! for ONE! Shirt ($50 or less)by What aboutthisoneWhataboutthisoneWhataboutthison…………………..dithering between options .
    FINALLY she made a decision and bought a top .While being escorted out (front door was locked) she(a VERY healthy adult not a child and not a elderly lady) looks up at a display and said in a helpless breathy “marilyn monroe ” voice ‘Maybe that one would be bettah ?’
    ?
    I did not scream,pull hair (whether mine or hers)or any other nasty reaction .I just assured her that her choice was great and looked great on her and if she wanted to come back for the other top tomorrow and purchase or exchange that would be best.

  • Ann says:

    Hi Darryl, you’re so right, as there still seem to be some SAs out there who seem to think it beneath them to help you, the lowly customer. Watching “Pretty Woman” ought to be de rigeur for all sales staff. :)
    So sorry you’ve had to deal with the gender thing; you’d think we’d be beyond that by now. And in this economy (improving though it may be), who cares who’s buying what? A sale is a sale is a sale …

  • Darryl says:

    It’s funny how events so insignificant in the grand scheme of things can leave a mark, particularly when they stir up feelings of shame or inadequacy, socio-economic or otherwise. I, for one, applaud your standing up to the snooty SA. You didn’t yell or cause a scene, you didn’t get excessively snarky or personal, you just laid it on the line and stated the facts. Too many SAs need to be taken down a peg in the snob-o-meter (you’d think subsequent generations of them would have learned from Pretty Woman, no?).

    The worst SA experiences I’ve had have been mild in comparison: the standard Way Too Pushy Must Buy Something So She’ll Let You Walk Out Of Here Alive scenario, and female SAs flabbergasted at the idea of a male customer wanting to sniff some of the women’s testers for the sake of satisfying his own curiosity, if nothing else. I don’t want to WEAR the damn Shamilar, Glarey-Eyed Harpy, I just want to know what the legendary stuff smells like. (And if I do want to wear it, so what? It’s not Marc Jacobs Pretty Pink Pony Splash, it’s smokey, skanky, vanillic, dangerous Shalimar. Plus, it’s 20-frickin’-11, for damn’s sake, men and women alike can wear what they please.)

    • Darryl says:

      *end catharsis*

    • Joanna says:

      I love a man in Shalimar. Just sayin…

    • Trina says:

      And so what if you DID want to wear the Shalimar? Shalimar hates me, but if I could get my husband to wear it, I know it would be a dangerous success. That aside, why *wouldn’t* a man (or woman) want to sniff the perfume they’re considering buying as a gift? I’d never buy my husband (or anyone else I spend time with) something I can’t stand to be around. Is that idea really so revolutionary? It’s your money, presumably being spent on a scent you WILL have to smell at least once in a while.

      • Ann says:

        Exactly!! I agree with you 100 percent. And the bottom line is, it’s your money and you can spend it any way you want to.

    • kurt says:

      I wear no.19, IMHO unisex. Wearing it is the easy part. Buying it for MYSELF used to be the hard part. In my rebel-years I started a discussion with the SA on why I thought it smelled great on an man. Pointless of course. Nowadays I get it giftwrapped: “It’s a present for my wife”. BTW, looking forward to smell the no.19 update. :)

      • Ann says:

        You go, Kurt — wear it proudly! It’s a shame you have to do the “present for my wife” thing, but sometimes it’s just easier to take the path of least resistance.

      • Joanna says:

        Kurt have you tried DSH’s Vert pour Madame? I love no.19 in the bottle and on other people but no so much on me. I have read several perfume blogs that have mentioned Vert pour Madame being adored by the classic no.19 fans though.

        • kurt says:

          No, I haven’t but I must say the ‘vert’ sounds appealing. But why not choose a more neutral name: I feel like a genderbender with this ‘pour Madame’ attachted to it…
          Did you try the EDP or the EDT, they are quite different. I usually wear de EDT.

          • Joanna says:

            Kurt, I’m going to have to give no.19 another go in both EDP and EDT just to see if it makes a difference. Sadly the only Chanel scent I’ve ever been able to pull off thus far is Coco, (Okay that’s not sad as Coco is fabulous.)
            I agree with you on the gender biased name though. I’m always a little stunned when frags are marketed heavily towards one sex these days as it seems like most of us ignore the gender lines when it comes to scents anyway. One of my favorite scents is M.Micallef’s Black Sea and I had been wearing it for over a year before I realized it was a “Men’s” fragrance.

      • DinaC says:

        Glad to hear from another fan of No. 19. The edp is my all-time favorite, but I like it in every iteration. I’m eager to sniff the new Poudre flanker as well.

    • Aparatchick says:

      If it’s any comfort, Darryl, the Glary-Eyed Harpy has given me the “Don’t you know, that’s for MEN???” question when I’ve asked to try something from the men’s side of the perfume counter. Very annoying.

  • Joanna says:

    Good for you! I’m so glad you took a stand. I remember in college my roommate and I, both already well on our way to becoming perfumistas, would have a hard time getting the time of day while shopping at what was then Dayton’s department store. One day we were in a perfume induced hysteria at the counter when a SA approached us and handed us handfuls of free samples! We quit spritzing each other, opened mouthed and humbled by her kindness and she explained that she had college aged daughters herself and knew that SA’s weren’t normally very helpful to women our age. For several years afterward I made a point of always buying my products from her, (She eventually quit what had been her second job there was a SA.) My roommate went on to become a SA herself briefly and we both still covet those free samples.

    • Ann says:

      Yay, Joanna!! I love it — thanks for sharing. That is what you call good perfume karma. I appreciate it so much when an SA gives me samples with no strings (read purchase) attached, and I, too, try to give them my sales when I can (don’t have too many these days, but still …).