One Thousand Scents

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ask And Ye Shall Receive

And then a couple of hours after my success at Hermes, I ended up at Bloomingdales.

We had walked past it on the way to Hermes, and tucked into the back of my brain was a little voice going oh shit oh shit oh shit it's Bloomingdales and it's famous and you REALLY have to go in there you know but I ignored it because it wasn't on my list and I had already tortured Jim enough. (On Friday afternoon I went to Bergdorf Goodman on my own while Jim went back to the hotel; I told him I would be back in about fifteen minutes, but it was actually three quarters of an hour, to the point that he was starting to get worried, not because he assumed I would get stabbed--it is New York, after all, where there's nothing but crime and death, if you believe the TV shows and movies you see--but because I have an almost supernaturally bad sense of direction, and it's not impossible that I would walk out the wrong door and get entirely turned around* and thoroughly lost. When we went to Hermes on Monday, I promised up and down that I would take no more than five minutes, and took less, but even so he'd suffered enough, since he hates fragrances altogether and would gladly lose his sense of smell, so you can imagine what living with me must be like for him, not to mention putting up with my persistent desire to visit every fragrance boutique and department store I see**.)

And on the way back--we walk just about everywhere we go in New York, resorting to subways only for forbiddingly long distances--I said we ought to take a different route since if I walked past Bloomingdales I was pretty much going to have to go in, and I meant it, too, and so we did take a different route. Eventually, when despite having taken another route we were about a block from the store, Jim said, "Bloomingdales is a proper department store with a men's department, right? Not just perfumes and women's clothing?" I assured him that it was, which meant two things: he was willing to go into the store and kill a few minutes in the men's department, and I was going to get to go to the legendary Bloomingdales.

And it was just horrible. Worse even than Macy's. The fragrance department had as many salespeople as customers and possibly more, and every single one of them was in attack mode. I didn't even have to stop to look at something: as soon as I was within five feet of them, they'd swoop in and ask me if I needed help finding something. Once again, I had to go on the defensive, and soon I was saying, "JUST LOOKING, THANK YOU" in a determined and, I am afraid, not particularly polite manner. I wished I were wearing a large sign, possibly in neon, reading IF I WANT YOUR HELP I WILL ASK FOR IT SO LEAVE ME ALONE TO SHOP IN PEACE GODDAMMIT. Although that would probably take too long for clerks to read, so I might need to edit it down a bit. Possibly to BACK OFF, YOU.

Does Bloomingdales or any other department store think that this is how customers want to be treated? Why have they set up a system that is guaranteed to anger, irritate, and alienate shoppers?

When I spotted the Clinique area of the store, I did a quick visual skim of the fragrance counter in search of Wrappings, the third Clinique fragrance (after Aromatics Elixir and the long-discontinued Tailoring for men). It's kind of still in production, but it's not available anywhere, exactly, except that every year at Christmastime they put out a gift set with the perfume spray and the body lotion. The distribution isn't wide (I haven't seen it in Canada) and it doesn't seem to be advertised; there aren't even any displays or testers (at least not by the time I got there). It just kind of appears, and the cognoscenti swoop in and grab it. Since I didn't see what I was looking for, I made a beeline for a woman in a white lab coat (they still make them wear that, which is unconvincing but sort of cute, like a child wearing princess dress-up clothes) to ask her if they carried Wrappings.

The doctor-coated saleswoman made a little swooping gesture with her index finger--follow me!--and headed off into the Clinique section, where she opened a white (of course) cabinet and lifted out the holy grail in a shiny silver-and-green gift box.

And that is how I came to get my bottle of the strange, baffling Wrappings, about which you shall hear in a few days, after Jim goes to work and I can douse myself with the stuff and get properly reacquainted with it.

* And in fact this did happen; the fragrance department is a basement maze of Thesean proportions, with multiple minotaurs in the form of all those well-educated sales clerks, and after defeating them I came out pretty much completely opposite to where I went in. Fortunately, I have gotten to know that part of Manhattan pretty well--all the streets are straight lines--and sorted it out very quickly.

** If I were in New York on my own with a lot of money, I would go to Frederic Malle and Takashimaya and Barney's and Le Labo and some Sephoras and probably Aedes again and Etro and Bond No. 9 and Caron and Bergdorf Goodman yet again and, well, just everywhere. I would exhaust my nose. I would have the time of my life.



  • I'm interested to hear what you think of Wrappings. It's a truly weird one.

    By Anonymous moongrrl, at 2:25 PM  

  • I'm interested in Wrappings, too. Whenever I ask for a tester at the counter, they never seem to have one.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 9:34 PM  

  • Nice Blog :)

    Cheers From Portugal

    By Anonymous Pedro, at 8:52 AM  

  • I agree. SAs who react to browsers like sharks to a swimmer's paper-cut are totally offputting. Who on earth thinks up these sales tactics?

    I adore Wrappings! In fact, this post has just reminded me to dig it out for it's annual rotation. Thanks!

    By Blogger Tania, at 3:49 PM  

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