“Can I help you?” sneered the sales representative. Maybe my imagination was running rampant, but I could have sworn that her upper lip was curled in utter disdain. Sure, I wasn’t dressed in my best “Jones of New York” outfit, but I was clean and basically presentable. Be that as it may, I obviously wasn’t up to “snuff” in this upscale women’s clothing store and was feeling more like a supplicant than a buyer.
My hackles were rising and my face was getting redder as I recalled my mother telling me that I should always dress up before going shopping. “People treat you better when you look nice” she would say. But a piece of me has always resented that sentiment – why should respect only be rendered on the hem of a dress from Holt Renfrew?
Resentment or not, the mentality of some retail sales clerks is a pathetic reality, neatly portrayed in “Pretty Woman”. In the movie, Julia Roberts (dressed in her working girl clothes) goes shopping with the largesse of Richard Gere in hand – only to be rebuffed and humiliated by the pretentious sales clerks in a women’s boutique.
Later, when Julia Roberts has undergone a million-dollar transformation and returns to the scene of the crime, the same clerks fawn and salivate over her trying to get her business – only to be rejected by our modern-day Liza Doolittle.
Oh the delicious retribution! Anyone of us who has ever experienced sales clerk snobbery cheered at that part of the movie, savouring the revenge that accompanied her verbal slap in the face.
But back to my personal remake of the movie which is closer to “Presentable Female” than “Pretty Woman”. The sales clerk is giving me that swift “up and down” look, rapidly assessing my total net worth – and finding me short a few thousand dollars. With her left eyebrow raised as if she was actually interested and her mouth turned down in obvious disapproval, I began to feel like a naughty child who has just ripped a fart in front of her Grade One teacher.
Then a thought struck me – perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps the sales clerk actually OWNED this store and she did not really want to sell any clothing. That must be it. The store was really a front for a money laundering operation and clerks were only there as part of a cover. The real objective was to get rid of people as rapidly as possible so illegal activities could resume, unimpeded by annoying drop-in customers.
Alternatively, if I wanted to buy the services of a hit man or a thug, this might just be the place to do it. Certainly the fake sales clerk had all the attributes necessary to freeze the blood in an unsuspecting victim. She could stop unwary people dead in their tracks – if you will excuse the pun – and then the rest of the team could finish off the target.
Forget the little black dress – what we had here was a full-service, for-hire hit shop. Fashion accessories probably included .38 calibres and silencers as well as glittering scarves and Gucci purses. Spike heels were really disguised switchblades and star-shaped earrings were deadly six-pointed shurikens.
With that revelation, I became grateful for the withering glare that warned me to get out while I still could. Immediately relieved that I had uncovered the situation for what it truly was, I smiled.
Taking my silence as confirmation of my unworthiness, the sales clerk repeated “Can I help you?” and I could hear her thinking “What are you, stupid??” With knees shaking, I attempted to brace my shoulders, looked this ersatz assassin in her narrowed gaze, and mumbled, “No thanks, I’m just looking”.
Lacking any wittier rejoinder, I wrapped my dignity around me like a bullet-proof vest and hoped the sales clerk did not decide to gun me down for target practice. I then turned and nonchalantly perused the clothing racks, not wanting to beat a hasty a retreat that revealed I knew what was really going on. Finally I exited the store with a barely concealed sense of relief.
Let that be a lesson to you all – next time a snobby sales clerk asks if she can help you in that acidic, superior way – be grateful for the warning and get out while you still can. Better to abandon your pursuit of that drop dead dress than be pursued and dropped dead!