Shopping for me is always an adventure. Once I begin my journey, I never know where my stilettos will take me. I can end up in the funky vintage stores of downtown Manhattan, or I may find myself wandering in and out of the chic boutiques with the uptown crowd. I love these shopping jaunts. But in the back of my head, I know that danger may lurk in these excursions. No, not the danger of going deeply into debt (more on that later). I'm talking about the danger of being confronted by the evil salesperson diva.
These are the women I want to avoid at all cost. They either shame me by their perfection, making me feel like I don't belong, or they latch on to me and urge me to try on apparel that's way out of my price range.
You would think that since shopping is my favorite pastime of all, I would be "over" salesperson intimidation. But the truth is, no one ever gets over it. I have had some experiences that have almost sent me into therapy for an extended period of time.
The trouble usually begins in the most exclusive stores. On the rare occasion that I actually want to try something on, I suddenly become aware that I haven't applied lipstick in an hour and that the cover of Madame Bovary that's deep in my bag is tattered. Obviously, I say to myself, I am not perfect enough for someone to waste her time on me. But eventually I drag myself from the dimly lit corner of the store where I have been cowering to the salesperson. By now, of course she is convinced that I must be trying to steal something. To cover the fact that she's been watching me like a hawk, she completely ignores me. Sometimes I will stand my ground. And I will beg her to open the dressing-room door. But most often I will run out of the store in a cold sweat and make my way to the nearest place where I can eat doughnuts and ice cream, together.
The second scenario is much more common. In this one I am cornered like a wounded animal by a flesh-eating salesperson out for blood. These are the most dangerous scenarios of all. She usually follows me around and pulls things off the racks that are way out of my price range until I finally relent to get her to back off. Once I am in the dressing room, there is no escape. If her pricey pick fits me like a glove, I am in big trouble '- for two reasons. First, I have to come up with a perfectly good lie about why I am not buying it. (Admitting that I can't afford it is not an option.) At this point, I've been known to call a girlfriend and have her page me in the store under the guise that someone in my family is sick and I must leave the store immediately. Or, the second option is I actually fall in love with whatever I have on and suddenly the salesperson has convinced me that I can't live without it and it would be better to be homeless and look great than to walk out of the store without it.
To help deal with this kind of salesperson encounter, one of my girlfriends has adopted "the buddy system" when she shops. If she senses she may be going into a store in which she finds herself in over her head, she has her shopping buddy wait outside and then come in and check on her after about 10 minutes. As the saying goes, there is safety in numbers!
What is it about these piranhas that can make even the most confident woman quake in her Jimmy Choo boots? Does it date back to junior high school when the bossy popular girl picked on someone until she burst into tears? Why can't we just tell them to back off and let us shop in peace? I'm beginning to think that there should be a defensive shopping course to prevent the increasing number of casualties that result from salesperson intimidation. For example '- if we see our attacker start to reach for a dress we can't afford, pull the fire alarm to distract her and run like hell. It's all about the preemptive attack.
My goal for next season is to shop without fear. The next time I'm browsing way, way out of my price range, I won't try to hide it. If one of these evil divas tries to shame me into buying or terrorize me while I'm browsing, I will throw my shoulders back, stick my chest out, take a deep breath and tell her that I'm on a budget and if I should see anything that I would like to try on, I will let her know. And I won't apologize for it '- in fact I'll be damn proud of myself. And then I'll eat doughnuts and ice cream as my reward.