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After so many years now, you know what to expect at the Barneys Warehouse Sale, but what do you think it's like to work there? Because getting a job after college is hard, and because the discount was just too darn tempting, Racked reporter Tiffany Yannetta did a few stints (about six, actually) as a Warehouse employee. Her behind-the-scenes account, which includes too many personal purchases and a few tears, follows.
A Phillip Lim cape and a royal blue coat at this year's sale
Tip #2 in this year's Barneys Warehouse Sale survival guide was "Be nice to the employees." You know why we included that one? Because up until less than a year ago, I used to be one.
If you're a regular Co-Op employee like I was, the Warehouse turns your world upside down for about three months, which includes setting it up, the sale itself, and then breaking it down. To watch your average-size, quiet-ish store turn into a massive shopping frenzy is intense enough, but what's even more intense is that you—the employee—are the one responsible for the transformation.
Ever wonder how all of the full-priced shoes make their way off the floor, to later be replaced with marked-down Louboutins? We're the ones that make it happen. Just how many Fiorentini + Baker boxes can be lifted at once? I capped myself off at five, but the big guys can do seven, no problem. For a job which usually requires no manual labor more difficult than finger spacing a rack or dressing a mannequin, the Warehouse Sale is kind of like the MXC of the retail world.
What I've Done
The staff that sets up the Warehouse Sale is drastically smaller than the staff that flies in to work it, and mostly it consists of Co-Op employees, their managers, temp workers, and a handful of other managers who come from other stores. Which means that there's only so many hands to stamp designer price tags with red stars. On top of that, there's racks upon racks of designer clothes, and maybe three stamps. And every year something changes, so on the first day of set-up all bets are off. Like last winter, when the women's department was downstairs instead of upstairs where it is now. But hey—at least it keeps things interesting.
When you stand by one rack for long enough, though, stamping the price tag carefully as to not stain a white Givenchy blazer with red ink, you become a little attached. And then on the first day when you see said blazer trampled, your heart breaks a little. And every time a Vionnet gown gets dragged on the floor, you die a little bit inside.
But the Warehouse Sale isn't all tears. I spent a good portion of last winter's sale in the stockroom, which trust me, is the best place to be as an employee. Why? Because it's like Christmas. Imagine how you felt as a child when you ripped open a box that you knew was going to have the best Barbie ever in it. Now imagine you're an adult, that box is marked "DESIGNER BAGS," and there's a mustard PS1 just sitting in there. This is why I owe more to Barneys than I do in student loans. Granted, I went to a city school so we're not talking tens of thousands of dollars here, but the statement alone is worth a reality check. When making rent is a struggle but you don't think twice about racking up that Barneys charge in the employee-only line, well, it's time for a new job.
What I've Seen
Enough bragging about the items that would have ended up in my grubby little hands instead of the sales floor if I still worked there: What about those items that are just too ridiculous to buy? Going into it even as a shopper, the sale is inevitably going to conjure up the thoughts of Why the hell does this cost so much? and What is wrong with people? Remember that vintage Black Panther shirt spotted last winter—the one that cost either $2,199 or $219? I'm pretty sure it was $2,199, on sale. And the same knitted-and-beaded Balenciaga bolero that came in at around $30,000 or something ridiculous like that a few sales ago is probably still sitting there. But then you see someone buy their wedding dress (yup) or a gagillion Christmas gifts for their friends and family, and all seems to be right with the world again.
Well, almost all. That sign that says "No fist-fights, no elbowing"? I've (unfortunately) never seen a fist fight, though I'm sure it's possible that one could have happened. But yelling, screaming—sure. And elbowing just happens naturally when five women both want the same pair of shoes. Of course, there are people who try to steal, whether by putting something on and attempting to wear it out, or by mixing up the price tickets. But by now, every staffer knows the difference between a couple-hundred-dollar Marc Jacobs dress and an under-$100 Marc by Marc dress, so sneaky thieves beware.
What I've Learned
The real feat of any Barneys employee isn't just to score the best goods—it's to learn how to become patient and tolerant. I'm short-tempered at best in sale scenarios, but the Warehouse Sale can put a strain on anyone's decency. Imagine being asked at least twenty times a day if a perfectly good pair of $69 J Brand jeans could please be reduced further, or if something could just be given away for free since there's no price tag on it, while there are legitimate damages hanging on racks, with their accompanying damage discount.
Overall, though, surviving the Warehouse Sale makes you feel accomplished, because you know what—it's a pretty amazing sale. Hell, we've been covering it for forever now, so braving the first-day crowds must not be that bad if we keep coming back. For most shoppers—myself included—the Barneys Warehouse is a little bit magical. Since the Mark Lee era began, the company has seen a lot of changes, and the fear that this might be the last Warehouse Sale was only heightened when Barneys announced that it would be about a week shorter this year. All I can say is that after doing about five or six of these, I'd be legitimately sad to see it go. After all, where else can you buy Jonathan Adler fondue sets, a Lanvin gown that Jennifer Aniston wore, and (maybe for the first time ever) a solid selection of bags? Plus, the people-watching is priceless.
I'll be the first to admit that the Warehouse Sale is not all peaches and cream, and I can't really recall a time where I've treated a customer like they were shopping at the Madison Avenue store, but a little kindness can go a long way. Because after all: If I ever came off short to a shopper, it was most likely because ten minutes prior I was bullied by a toddler who was dangerously prancing around in a pair of Balenciaga heels, or stuck in the middle of a horde of stripping women in the haphazard fitting room, all while just trying to put some clothes away, do my job, and go home. So with that, folks, we hope that you fully enjoy the last two days of the sale—because if it ever does leave, it will be truly missed, even by the employees.
· All Barneys Warehouse Sale Coverage [Racked NY]