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Department Store Dispatch: Secrets of the Shoe Section

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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

"Saw this pair of Chanel wedges. All black. Gold captoe, do you have? Xx"

So read the text from a regular client. It appeared while I was running sizes for a particularly difficult women who refused to see anything that wasn't discounted 40% off yet had very specific demands. I breathed a sigh of relief.

This particular regular, who works in finance, recently invested in an all-black Rag & Bone long-sleeved dress with the cobweb-lace back. The wedges in question would be perfect with the dress (and a pair of opaques). I admired her taste.

The fabulous thing about Manhattan is that most women know the value of a good shoe. We walk everywhere, which means Steve Madden, Aldo and the like are ruled out by the quality principle (a good pair of pumps needs to last me more than one treacherous pass through West Village cobblestones), and the constant shoe porn once exhibited by Carrie Bradshaw has now trickled down to everyone from Connecticut mothers to corporate attorneys.

Because of our increasing obsession with designer footwear, the gentlemen on the shoe floor are what we call a "million-dollar-book." Meaning their net sales are worth more than one million dollars. Commission on designer shoes is also higher than Ready-to-Wear. That means that some of these guys are bringing home six-figure salaries.

They usually are guys, by the way. There are few women who ever sell shoes—I wonder if there's something sexy or Cinderella about a man giving you a pair of stilettos. They're also notoriously aggressive—rude, abrupt, and not willing to help unless you split the commission.

To their credit, their floor is always an area of pandemonium. On any given day, employees are buzzing about, grabbing sizes in everything from $1400 Chloé riding boots to the more standard (and often sold out) Louboutin, which often begs the question: "What recession?!" Once there, I wrestled myself away from glittered Miu Mius and patent Tributes and surveyed the Chanel section. Success!

In the stock room, people were rushing to and fro, boxes piled up past their heads. "When are you going to be done? I need to get in the next aisle," one Prince Charming barked at me.

I look up at the boxes. I'd forgotten the code for the shoe. Shit. "Do you know the number of the Chanel wedge?"

"I'll help you, I just need to grab a size." I slid out of the way, he grabbed his pair, and ran off before I could finish my sentence. So much for the glass slipper treatment.

I climbed the ladder and rustled around until found my client's shoes. Later, I'd send them to her apartment, where she would have her own, private Cinderella moment. Even if I wasn't her own fairy godmother, at least she would look the part.
· Department Store Dispatch: Mother's Helper [Racked NY]
· Department Store Dispatch: Pretty Woman in Léger and Loubs [Racked NY]
· Department Store Dispatch: Two Salesgirls and a Funeral [Racked NY]

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