Have you ever seen Pretty Woman?
Remember the scene where Vivian (Roberts’ character) goes into a boutique, dressed in her street clothes, and the saleswoman immediately judges her? The saleswoman says, “I don’t think we have anything for you here. You’re obviously in the wrong place.”
In New York City, discomfort caused by others seems inevitable—especially if you walk into an environment where you are the minority.
I visited a sample sale in a building on 57th street , between 5th and 6th, earlier this week. In case you don’t know the area, it’s below the Upper West Side, so it’s a little more upscale than your typical neighborhood.
I strolled along the street, happily taking a break from the office to walk in the city and learn about something new to write about. I was excited about this sample sale in particular, because they were supposed to have brands such as Gucci—brands that are well known enough that I had heard of them. I’m not really a fashionista, in case you couldn’t guess.
Once I found the building, I entered and was immediately face to face with a man at a desk. Was I supposed to sign in to shop? The man at the desk asked if I worked in the building, and I informed him that I was there for the sample sale. He directed me where to go.
I went up the escalator to the little shop and cautiously stepped inside. It was no bigger than a nice-sized office. I skimmed the first rack of sale clothes and then ventured a little further into the first racks and around the corner of the store.
There were about four other people there and a saleswoman or two. The main group in the store was a mother, daughter and the daughter’s toddler son in his stroller that was sitting in the middle of the small space.
The mother and daughter talked with the saleswoman about their choices and the different languages they spoke. They tried on clothes. They gave each other advice.
“Try this one on…Please. Do it for me. Just try it.”
“I really liked that one on you. It was cute!”
“Should I get these shoes? How much? They’re 250….I’ll get these shoes and those two bags and…”
Meanwhile, I walked in circles around the room, curiously picking up this shoe or looking at that skirt’s tag to see how much everything was. I was hoping the other customers would leave so that I could talk to the saleswoman about sample sales in New York City.
They never left. So, I continued looking. I found one skirt I liked, but it was a few hundred dollars. It wasn’t my size anyway.
The longer I stayed there, the more uncomfortable I got. I was completely out of my element. I finally went back to the original sales rack near the door. As I looked through the articles of clothing, I heard the saleswoman say to another customer, “Let me know if you want to try anything on.”
I’m sure I had been there for a good half-hour. I was never acknowledged. No nods as if to say “Hey, I see that you’re in my shop. Welcome.” No “Hello, how are you?” No “May I help you?” Nothing.
It made me feel kind of awful. But mostly, it was frustrating. I was going to go back to the office without a good story. I was uncomfortable and had an inferior feeling running through my veins. It was my very own Vivian moment.
But, by all means, explore sample sales. If you have a few hundred dollars to blow, you’re a size 6 and you look like you belong, go have a blast.
If you’re like the rest of the world, check out the other sample sales. On my way back to the office, I was handed a flyer for a sale in the fashion district where everything was $1- $30. That sounds a little more like a sale, right?