A Parisian Screwing: Part 1

I won’t lie… I love shopping.  I am a girl after all.  But before meeting BR, I had never experienced high-end shopping.  I just did what every other middle class girl did – I shopped at the mall in places that I could afford.

But much to my surprise there was a whole other world of retail out there.  A fancy world.  An expensive world.  A world where if you look even remotely out of place, you likely won’t be helped.  Do you remember that scene in Pretty Woman where those awful women in the fancy clothing store refused to serve Julia Roberts?  Trust me, that’s nothing.

When you go to these fancy establishments, you almost always get what I like to refer to as the “three-point check.”  They check your shoes, they check your bag, and they check your jewelry.

If you have three out of three – designer shoes, a designer bag and a giant rock on your hand, you can expect excellent service.  Wave a black card around and they will literally bend over and kiss your ass. Two out of three and you’ll get good service.  One out of three and you’ll get a polite smile and possibly a hello.  Zero out of three and you’ll get a sneer or be totally, blatantly ignored.  Or worse.

Me: Oh, excuse me, I was wondering if you could help me?

Snarky Sales Clerk: Are you lost?

Now I’ve gone into such establishments with anywhere from zero to three of the things mentioned above, so I can usually predict the level of service I’m going to get.  And as much as I sometimes resent having to dress up to go shopping, I’m also not super jazzed about the likelihood of getting treated like crap by some snarky sales clerk.  So I usually dress up a little.

But if you let your ego get in the way, you can really screw yourself over.  When a sales clerk gives you the brush-off, your initial reaction is to think, “oh really asshole?  I’ll show you how poor I’m not!”  And then you end up spending a jillion dollars on a bunch of crap you don’t need, just to prove a point.

It’s a brilliant sales tactic.

Like the time Lance (BR’s business partner and longtime BFF) spent a small fortune on the giant 3-storey display dragon in FAO Schwarz, because it “wasn’t for sale.”  Oh yes it was.  But then he was stuck with an absurdly enormous stuffed dragon.  And he had to figure out where to put it.

It was so big, in fact, that it took a team of people to figure out how to ship it to his house in Palm Beach.  Unfortunately they realized the only way to get it into the house was to remove the roof and lower it in by crane.  This was not ideal, so he decided to have it shipped to his summer house instead, which was in the process of being built.  They ended up having to ship it by sea in it’s own special crate – costing Lance yet another small fortune.  He hadn’t anticipated having a giant stuffed dragon in that house either, and was very disappointed to find out that it wouldn’t fit into any of the rooms.  Not wanting to add an extension onto the house for the sole purpose of housing a 3-storey stuffed dragon perched on a rock, he decided to donate it to a museum… and have it shipped half-way across the United States for the second time.  However, he ended up taking it back from the museum (and shipping it across the US to his summer house once again) when he realized it would fit in his indoor tennis court which has a 37-foot ceiling.  It is now living there happily ever after.  Apparently it’s getting quite good at tennis.

Seriously people, you can’t make this stuff up.  Lance said that even the shipping guy was overheard saying, “this guy obviously has more money than brains.”  For the record, Lance has lots of brains.  But this is what can happen when you let your ego do the shopping.

BR, however, doesn’t fall for that.  If you’re rude he’ll just walk out and vow to never come back.  And he doesn’t.

So about three years ago BR took me to Paris.  I had never been and I was very excited.  But before we left, an acquaintance of ours asked us if we could do her a “small” favour.  She had lost the hang-tag off her very expensive Birkin bag and Hermes wouldn’t send her a new one.  They said she would have to go to Paris to get a replacement.

That should have been our first hint.

Now for those of you who are unfamiliar, the Birkin is a ridiculously expensive purse made by Hermes that retails for several thousand dollars.  The hang-tag is just a small leather tag that hangs off the handle.  But according to Hermes it is a signature part of the bag, one that they won’t just ship out all “willy-nilly” to some random person who “claims” to own a Birkin.  So this acquaintance had to send them the bag’s serial number, a copy of the receipt, photo ID, and probably her finger prints along with a sample of her DNA, in order for them to send her a letter that said she could come to Paris to pick up a replacement tag.

If Hermes doesn’t excel in making exquisite leather goods, they certainly excel in excellent customer service.

So she gave us a copy of the letter, and asked if we wouldn’t mind stopping by Hermes to pick up her hang-tag.  Of course we could do that.  What could possibly go wrong?

At this point BR and I had only been living together for about a year, so I was still adjusting to this new lifestyle.  I wasn’t really aware of the “three-point check” because we hadn’t been to too many fancy stores, and I felt generally out of place in them anyway.  So after a day of strolling through Pairs we decided to stop by Hermes to pick up the infamous hang-tag.

And as usual, I looked like a relatively poor tourist.  Actually, we both did.  BR was wearing jeans, sneakers and a baseball cap and I had zero out of three on the “three-point check.”

As we approached the store, two tall, slim sales associates wearing slim-fitting Euro-suits and matching Hermes ties opened the doors for us.  We said thank you and they looked us up and down for what seamed like a painfully long time.  The store was enormous, stunningly beautiful, and very, very busy.  So BR asked them where we should go to pick up the hang-tag.

They smirked.  Then in their snarkiest of French accents, they responded.

Clerk 1: I’m sorry, I do not know what you are talking about.  Do you know what he is talking about?

Clerk 2: No.  I also do not know what he is talking about.  Sir, what are you talking about.

So BR briefly explained the situation.

They smirked again.

Clerk 1: Sir, I believe you have to pick zhat up in zhe lezher department.

BR: The leather department?

Clerk 1: Yes.  Zhe lezher department.

BR: Where is that exactly?

Clerk 1: I do not know.  Perhaps you can ask someone else.

Oh.  Well that’s a bit weird… but ok.  So we set off to find someone else who could tell us where, in this enormous, glittering store packed full of super-rich tourists, we could find the leather department.

We were blatantly ignored by the first three women we approached.  They knew we were there.  We stood at three different counters, said excuse me multiple times (very politely by the way), and none of them would address us.  One lady just stood there cleaning a bag.  Eventually she rolled her eyes, turned around to face the wall, and just kept cleaning it until we sheepishly walked away.

This was proving to be far more difficult than we expected.  We just wanted to pick up a stupid hang-tag and we had now been trying to get someone’s attention for 30 minutes.  I don’t do well in crowds and I was starting to get hot.  And frustrated.  Finally we cornered a woman on the floor and asked her where the leather department was.  She looked annoyed, dismissed us with a wave of her hand, and said it was probably upstairs on the second floor.

So up we went.  When we were finally able to get someone’s attention, BR once again asked where we could find the leather department.  The sales clerk started laughing.

Clerk 3: Zhe what?

BR: The leather department.  We need to pick up a hang-tag for a Birkin and we were told to go to the leather department.

Clerk 3: HAHAHAHA!  Zhere is no lezher department here!  HAHAHAHA!

Umm… pardonne moi?  And as we turned to one another, obviously confused, we noticed those two snarky little sales clerks who opened the doors for us, standing in the corner, snickering and pointing.  Those little douchebags in their stupid matching ties were screwing with us.  They had watched the whole thing.

HOW EMBARRASSING.

I was mortified.  BR was mad.  But we had made a promise and he was determined not to leave without this stupid fucking hang-tag.  So back downstairs we went.  We found another counter with yet a another sales clerk standing behind it, so we walked up.  This time politeness was not on BR’s priority list.  He got straight to the point.

BR: We’re here to pick up a hang-tag for a Birkin.

Clerk 4: Excuse me?

BR:  A HANG-TAG.  FOR A BIRKIN.

She looked us up and down.

Clerk 4: Is it for you?

BR: No.  It’s for a friend of ours.  Here’s a copy of the letter she received.

Clerk 4:  Well, uh Sir, I cannot just accept zhis copy of zhis letter and just give you zhe tag.

BR:  Why not?  It says right here that we can come to Paris to pick up the tag.

Clerk 4:  Hah-hah-hah… NO.  It says zhat she can come to Paris to pick up zhe tag.  Not you.

BR:  Are you kidding me?

Clerk 4:  No, I am not kidding wizh you.  Zhis piece of paper means nozhing wizhout some type of identification.  Do you have a copy of her passport?

BR: Uh no, I have a copy of the letter.

Clerk 4: Well, zhen zhere is nozhing I can do for you.

And she abruptly walked away.

At this point I think it would have been easier to purchase a handgun.  In Canada.  We had been jerked around for almost an hour and it was painfully obvious that they were not going to give us this small piece of leather that retails for a mere 50 Euros.  So we basically had two choices: buy ten Birkins to “teach them a lesson” or hang our heads in defeat and do the slow walk of shame out of the store.  We chose the latter.

And who was there waiting to open the doors for us?  The same two little jerks who initiated this Parisian screwing-of-a-lifetime in the first place.

Clerk 1:  Au revior!

Clerk 2:  Have a good evening!  HAHAHAHAHA!

I was so mortified I thought I was going to barf on the sidewalk.  BR was furious.  But being a man who is true to his word, he actually felt bad about not getting the tag.

BR: Do you think we should ask her to send us a copy of her passport?  Then maybe we’ll still be able to get the tag for her.

Me: Are you kidding me?  NO!  I’m never going back in there again, that was horrible!

BR: You’re right.  What a bunch of assholes!  From now on I am boycotting this store!  I AM NEVER SHOPPING HERE AGAIN!  I’ll show those douchebags what they can do with their Birkins!  Now at least I don’t ever have to get you one of those stupid bags!

Me:  BR, those bags are thousands of dollars.  I’m pretty sure you would never get me one anyway.

But I didn’t care.  In fact I totally agreed with him.  And to this day I will never wear or purchase anything from Hermes.  In fact whenever I see a Birkin I have a mild urge to grab it and fling it across the room.  And stomp on it.  And then set it on fire.

But the sad part is, Hermes probably doesn’t care.  In fact they’re probably still laughing at us.  But at least we didn’t end up with ten Birkins.  Or a 3-storey dragon.

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