This is what a saleswoman on the designer dresses floor at Saks announced to her co-workers gathered near the escalators two Saturdays ago as my friend Lisa and I shopped for her 30th birthday party dress. I don’t know the background behind her statement, but it characterized the attitude we felt on that floor. The dresses on the 3rd floor are gorgeous, but the attitudes of its sales staff, not so much. Our own saleswoman avoided our eyes and pretended to be busy after giving us the bare minimum of assistance. Lisa, who carried a real Gucci bag over her shoulder, blamed it on her flip flops.
Once we escaped to the 4th floor, however, a woman named Donatella gave us her full attention. She helped Lisa try on dozens of dresses and even talked her out of buying a second one. It reminded me of my own good experience when I tried Shoshanna dresses there last January. I didn’t buy a thing, but the saleswoman remained gracious throughout. From the dress department, Lisa went on to pick up three new pairs of shoes from an amazing salesman in the shoe department.
Here are a few of my thoughts on the experience. Feel free to chime in with comments.
1. Strong friends are a wonderful support in places like this. As we left the 4th floor, Lisa said, with a look of distaste, “I thought it would be this way.” She didn’t internalize the woman’s “loser” comment or her own saleswoman’s dismissiveness, and Lisa’s attitude gave me the energy I needed to talk myself out of the temptation to do so.
2. It may be a while before I re-visit Saks’s 3rd floor because I am learning to avoid negativity. I do realize it’s just a business. The salespeople on that floor make money on low volume, high cost sales, and they automatically size up potential customers to determine if they will be worth their time. But being treated as if I’m invisible is hard on my self-esteem. I can only take it in small doses.
3. It was worth it to keep going. I’m glad I didn’t pigeonhole all Saks salespeople as snooty and leave. This was a big reminder to stay positive and to give people a chance. I find this happens at networking events as well. Just because one person seems cold doesn’t mean the next person will be.
4. I’m continuing to think about what it means to “dress the part”. I mentioned image issues a couple of weeks ago and am definitely not finished with the topic.
5. I’m also thinking about the difference between only looking classy and acting with class. The 3rd floor saleswoman who made the “loser” comment wore an expensive suit and had perfectly coiffed hair. If I knew the back story to her comment, I’d probably be sympathetic to whatever frustration caused her to say it. However, to actually say something like that within hearing of other customers was not classy. Classy people know how to bite their tongues. If you’re in the presence of a truly classy person (like my husband, for instance), you have no idea that’s what they’re doing.