For years I’ve been harboring a grudge against Neiman Marcus. I know! And I’m sure they’ve felt it in their bottom line. My grudge is not just because back in 2003 their Christmas Book’s most expensive gift was a Learjet 60 ($12-million) in complete opposition to my preference for Gulfstreams. No, my dislike of Neiman Marcus stems from how I was treated one day many years ago at their store on Michigan Avenue.
I was in the market for a new perfume, because my beloved Albert Nipon had been discontinued— just tossed aside like a favorite shade of lipstick or running shoe. (Big huge companies, why do you do that? Do you want consumers to hate you? Yes? It’s working.) During my hunt, I’d pulled a few of those scratch ’n sniff paper samples from the Sunday Trib and decided I loved Cool Water by Davidoff. Downtown later that same week, I popped into Neiman Marcus on Michigan, figuring I could buy my new perfume—if not Cool Water, then maybe something else.
When I entered the store, I asked a butterball of a man working the perfume section if they carried Cool Water. And this is where my story goes all Pretty Woman. In the bitchiest possible manner he dismissed me: elevator eyes, a fey humpf and a “No. It’s been discontinued.”
Back in the early nineties, I wasn’t the richest chocolate in the box, and even though I was wearing jeans, I had all my teeth. Plus, they were straight. I was also a little naïve, intimidated by these fancy stores. At the time this happened, I didn’t understand the expression on the face of the saleswoman standing next to him, but I'll never forget it: her mouth agape, her big-hair at attention, as if it too couldn’t believe what roly-poly boy was telling me.
I said something like, “Discontinued? Really. Aw, that’s too bad, but it just figures.” Then a beat. “Wait. There was just an ad for Cool Water in last Sunday’s paper. Why would they still be taking out ads for a perfume right before they were going to discontinue it?” I may not have been oozing money, but I’ve always been pretty quick on my feet.
“Oh,” snooty-man lectured, “they have to take out those ads so far in advance, you know how it goes.” Saleslady next to him, still gaping. Still speechless. And yeah, a co-conspiring bitch for not stopping pinhead at his game. Davidoff never discontinued Cool Water and is still making it to this day.
I started to put it together the following Sunday when I saw yet another of their ads in the Tribune, the final pieces falling into place over the course of the following weeks and months when I found stockpiles of Cool Water at Field’s. And Lord and Taylor’s. And Carson’s. The sales guy’s dismissiveness that day did have the effect he desired. I left Nieman Marcus. And never, ever went back. Ever.
Arguably, the only thing worse than being mocked, is being mocked and not knowing you’re being mocked.
I know I shouldn’t give a crap about what some rude, condescending sales asshole said to me twenty-years ago. And honestly, I don’t. Today I send that poor man love and light. Although getting here took me a long time. Ditto before I could walk past the Michigan Avenue Neiman’s without staring daggers at it. (Once, I even refused to meet a friend there for lunch, suggesting RL instead.) And while I haven’t achieved the kind of fiscal, shall we call it abundance, that Julia Roberts achieved in Pretty Woman, let’s just say if I chose to shop at Neiman Marcus today I could. But I don’t. And I won’t. On principle. I don't need to give my money to an establishment that treated me poorly. I may have forgiven, but I haven't forgotten.
Although a part of me does want to pop in with a bunch of Anne Fontaine bags just to say, “Big mistake.”
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