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Welcome back to the Retail Diaries, in which an anonymous sales associate at a high-end Manhattan department store reveals what it's like on the other side of the cash register. Note: Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the innocent.
Photo by Bairachnyi Dmitry/Shutterstock
"I need help finding a dress," she said. We'll call her Marisol, but that wasn't her name. Marisol was 5'9", a size 2 with a modest bust, generous hips, and broad shoulders. Her perfect skin complemented her big, inquisitive hazel eyes. In short, she was the perfect candidate for a dress. And I had a slight girl-crush.
"What's the occasion?" I asked, and surveyed her outfit. Tank top, leggings, sneakers, Coach purse. My mind was flashing one word: "SALE."
"Well, this guy is bringing me to a wedding party, and I told him I have no dresses. So he sent me here."
Game-changer. "What does he do?"
"He's in the music business," she answered.
Just the answer I was looking for (the only one better is "He's in finance"). I told her to walk around while I grabbed some things from DVF and Alice+Olivia. I decided on blush tones for the wedding, to really bring out those gorgeous features, and stuck with drapey, chiffon fabrics.
But as I was returning, I stumbled upon her with a handful of dresses in BCBG. I scanned the merchandise in her hand: Tight, black, bedazzled, and sexy. I bit my tongue and waited for her to try on in the fitting room. Hopefully she wouldn't ask for my opinion.
None of my options satisfied her. "These dresses aren't sexy enough," she said, handing them back one by one. Same with the BCBG dresses. Not sexy enough. "Don't you have any other suggestions?" she asked.
I told her to hold tight—I knew the answer to this one. Hervé Leger: the label usually tried and trusted by Eurotrash and any girl in the Meatpacking district who was clearly begging for male attention and wanted to leave nothing to the imagination. When I returned with a slate-grey, strapless bandage dress in XXS (yes, that's a real size in Hervé world), she squealed. It was perfect!
Next her shoes, which were simple: purple suede Louboutin booties. "I just love the red bottoms," Marisol said, "you just know it's Louboutin." This word, she stumbled over, pronouncing it closer to "Louis Vuitton." I pretended not to notice.
Her damage was around $3,500, which wasn't bad for a couple hours of work. She begged me for my card upon her departure to cosmetics, where I had set her up with a makeup application.
"Have fun with your boyfriend!" I said, exchanging cheek kisses.
"He's not my boyfriend," Marisol answered. "And I don't think his wife would want to hear you say that!" she laughed. I smiled nervously.
The next day, I got an e-mail from Marisol. She sent me pictures of herself at the party, saying her man loved the look! She promised many of her friends would be coming my way for future events since she handed my business card out to admirers at the wedding. A small part of me died inside.
Like clockwork, two hours later, the dress and shoes were both returned. I replied to Marisol, asking her what the problem was, and she wrote back: "Sorry, he doesn't let the girls keep their clothes, I guess. His assistant must have brought them back. You don't work on commission, do you?"
When I explained the story over post-work drinks, one associate gave a knowing laugh. "You got an escort," she said,"happens all the time. Sometimes they get to keep the clothes, other times..." she drifted.
"So what do I do?"
"Well, you could look up her phone number in the system, and call and thank her for coming in to shop with you," she said.
"Why the hell would I do that?" I asked.
"No, not Marisol," she replied, smiling. "His wife!"
Update: In case you're curious, here's an explanation for how Marisol was able to return a pair of worn Loubs.
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· An Anonymous Luxury Department Store Staffer Tells All [Racked NY]