One should never underestimate the power of accessories. Not only can the right bag change an outfit, but it can make you sit up a little straighter, smile a little brighter and have a better day. I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me! Bags: They’re like self-esteem that you can buy.

Ok, sarcasm aside (and yes, that was absolutely sarcasm), this conversation is one that I’ve had with several friends recently: Do sales associates in high-end stores treat us differently when we’re carrying our fanciest bags, as opposed to bags that are just regular-fancy, or is it all in our heads? In a feat of journalism that would likely impress absolutely none of my college professors, I put that question to the test. The results? Not all that surprising.

I tested my theories about “status bags” and shopping earlier this month at several of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue flagship department stores. I won’t name names because I feel as though singling them out is unfair – the treatment gap happens at almost all luxury retailers based on anecdotal evidence, not just the ones that were conveniently located for my completely unscientific test. First, I went in carrying my normal day bag that I use for errands, which is a small crossbody from a popular contemporary brand that retails for around $400. By all measures, that’s quite a nice bag, particularly relative to the average accessories carried by American women.

But it’s not an It Bag, and it’s not a brand carried by these particular stores. I was also wearing an outfit that I would normally wear for errands, including flip-flops (much to everyone’s horror, I’m sure). During my time in these stores on that particular day, I was spoken to by precisely no one who worked there, even though I saw several employees glance at me and then apparently decide that I wasn’t worth the effort to greet. Being silently watched by a bunch of unbusy salespeople while you’re in a store is not only awkward, but after a certain amount of time, it edges up on creepy.

And although they were right that I wouldn’t be buying anything that day, and in fact they did an excellent job of exhibiting the behavior that I was hoping to test, I became a little exasperated that no one could even spare a “Let me know if I can help you.” It’s not like had stumbled in off the street, smelling of garbage, reciting nursery rhymes to myself and carrying my belongings in a Duane Reade plastic bag. I was freshly showered, wearing nice casual clothes and carrying a $400 handbag. At least a “hello” seemed in order.

A “hello” never came, though, so I went back to my apartment and returned the next week wearing a similar outfit (including my flip-flops, I know, horror of horrors) but carrying my Celine bag. There were about as many shoppers and employees in both stores as there had been during my previous visit, but suddenly, everyone fell all over themselves to ask how I was doing, if they could help me and above all else, where in the world did I find that bag? I was not dressed any more expensively – in fact, I was wearing a $45 dress from ASOS, if I remember correctly – but the bag was the only thing that anyone could see. If I had been naked and carrying Celine, I don’t think anyone would have asked me to leave.

Of course, this was a strictly informal and non-scientific test, and I’m sure that the sales associates at either store would have been happy (or at least compelled, if not enthusiastic) to help me when I was carrying my regular bag, had I approached them. Both stores also face the challenge of being in tourist-heavy areas, where they likely get a lot of foot traffic just because people want to visit them as New York landmarks instead of as shoppers; a tricky road to navigate for associates who make a living on commission and for whom wasted time might mean lost income. I’ve worked in high-end retail before (although it was electronics, not clothing), so I, too, have likely dismissed people when I shouldn’t have. Plus, an expensive bag sends one very obvious message: That I’m willing and able to buy the things that the store sells.

But the message the these SAs got from my bag was likely the one that a lot of us are hoping to send when we make choices about how to present ourselves: That we’re people worthy of positive attention and interest by others. To paraphrase Ron Burgundy, that we’re kind of a big deal. And understanding that how you dress has the ability to affect how others perceive and treat you isn’t silly or shallow, it’s smart. In a perfect world, we’d all be judged for our minds, but society isn’t without its flaws. For the time being, I’ll settle for the perfect handbag.

  • Lulugurl

    i have had this happen so many times its not funny! ya gotta love it, there have been many times that i refuse to even spend 20$ in store because they couldn’t give me the time of day.

  • michelle

    What color was the celine bag that you were carrying ?

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      It was the red one I posted earlier in the week.

  • Pe.Riche.

    You are completely right in your assumption!

    I recently made my very first designer handbag purchase (an LV 30 cm Speedy Damier in Ebene). While walking through the rest of the mall, sales associates seemed to jump at the chance to help me, even when I politely stated that I was just browsing. Initially, when I walking in the stores before my LV purchase, I was just glanced over, or given a painfulI “I know she’s not going to buy anything” smile.

    While I love my LV purchase, sometimes I find myself refraining from carrying it, because I don’t want people to treat me better due to something so materialistic (I know, I’m contradicting myself. One may inquire if it is so vain, why buy it, right? Well, it’s sooooo pretty!!! And I am a handbag whore. There, I said it).

  • lucy

    I absolutely believe this is true and I do think the biggest reason is that they peg us as people who have and will spend money. It’s their job to sell things, so this shouldn’t be a surprise even if it irks us. And while I get the point that we carry nice bags somewhat for this reason, I really do it because they are beautiful and I get pleasure out of carrying a beautiful thing. There are plenty of “It” bags that I think are ugly and I wouldn’t carry, much less buy, although they might impress someone else. So aren’t we really mostly indulging in the pleasure of pretty things?!

  • barbara

    The SA’s at my local Chanel boutique never gave me the time of day, but then one day after purchasing my Lindy at the Hermes boutique I decided to go in with my huge orange shopping bag. I was wearing flip flops, shorts, and a $20 tank top they all flocked to help me and were are smiley and nice. I didn’t buy anything of course I also rather buy my chanel at SAKS

  • hockey mom

    so I’m guessing, Amanda, that your experience was at Barneys.

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      I went to several UES stores. I live in the neighborhood, so they were the ones convenient to me. I’m not naming them because I fully believe that I could have gotten the exact same results at boutiques in Soho or Meatpacking, if those had been convenient for my little test. It’s not the culture of those specific stores that creates this phenomenon, it’s the culture of the luxury retail market as a whole.

  • Julie

    Tragically, I think your story and ‘theory’ sadly too often rings true! Even if someone is carrying a pricey handbag, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have money. I know many extremely wealthy individuals who have sick amounts of money, but wouldn’t think twice about spending it on a handbag and are just as happy carrying a $20. pleather purse from Target. I also think many who do carry very pricey handbags, buy beyond their means and have gone out on a huge financial limb to do so…

    • Brenda

      This is very often true. But you have to remember from the Sales Associate’s position — the less affluent person has already shown an affinity for luxury items and a willingness to spend. The wealthy person has outfitted him/herself in such a way to be perceived as frugal and thus will not likely buy something luxurious (and expensive). Now while this is not always the case and the wealthy but frugal person is likely in a much better financial position than the poorer (and possibly in debt) counterpart, the latter will seem (and may even be) more likely to charge the cost of a new luxury bag.

  • gpc

    I have a very simple wardrobe – nice jeans, lots of black and white tees and shirts, nicely cut jackets and my shoes are usually ballet slippers (tory burch) or boots (isabel marant), and yes, flip flops (Tkees), but where I spend my money is in my handbags. I have experienced very good service when I carry my Celine and Chanel, but when I carry my Roger Vivier geometric hobo and even my Nightingale, not so much and maybe because these are not as recognizable as the other two. Anyway, I prefer to not be bothered at all by sales associates unless I seek their assistance. As a Sociology major with an emphasis on research & analytical methods, I would take a good guess that these results would hold true under a controlled and thorough research project!

  • Kass

    Its so true. Here in Paris is same. Except Japanese, these ones even if look completely like tourist sometimes- thats the group of people who wait in lines for Louis Vuitton and buy at least one bag! Despite it, even if you carry Speedy you are not treated that good, if you carry Birkin-you are very welcome. In hermes they are so high, but in Louis Vuitton they are really nice for everyone. At Jimmy Choo even if is really so small shop- no one bothered to ask me anything…
    At the other side, if they are more busy, its better choice to try to sell to someone who looks like can afford something from this shop.

  • Rah

    Throw race into it, and then you’re really scratching your head as to why they are ignoring you. I will say, that I had one of my greatest shopping experiences in the Hermes store. My boyfriend and I (both African-American) had just gone in to look around, and we were helped and greeted without being hounded, or stalked by the SAs. I was really surprised because this was greatly different from our experience at the Gucci and Chanel stores that same day. I really think it depends on the individuals rather than the stores.

    • fuchsiafury

      I’d add age into the mix as well. I’m in my late 20s, and I definitely get a lot better service at department stores and boutiques now than I did in my early 20s.

      I remember going into Cartier to look for a gift for my parents, and the SAs were insufferably snobby. But I went in WITH my parents the following weekend, and they were taking out items from the back to show us.

    • Purse Mommy

      I’m also African American and I used to get the side eye when I was younger, but now that I’m older and rappers are spending cash on labels, it’s way easier to get help no matter what I’m wearing or carrying. I used to work retail and what I would tell younger girls is that money is green. A sale is a sale. I shop(look) first then I buy. Be mean and I won’t spend my money with you. Period.

  • Jen

    I think that this is true in the vast majority of cases – department stores (anywhere from Macy’s to Neiman’s), boutiques, etc. However, ironically, I do not notice this type of discrimination when I go to very, very high-end stores, restaurants and hotels. Maybe it is because they are better trained? Hire classier staff? Or maybe it is because they well know that wealth comes in many different packages.

    • Mariah

      I’ve noticed the same – the best customer service I’ve ever received was in very high-end jewellery boutiques. I guess it’s a combination of the things you mentioned – the staff is better trained and know that not all wealthy people spend their money on expensive clothes so they don’t treat you based on the way you’re dressed.

      • Desma

        I agree whole heartily! I went to Tiffanys to buy some perfume, with no purse. I had on ripped up jeans, flip flops and I had to re-schedule my hair appointment (eek!). They treated me with respect from the door! And no differently when I pulled out my Platiumn AMEX, from my back pocket! They know that I’m there because I wanted to buy something.

  • Viper

    Ok. So I love my Longchamps handbag. No, it’s not an expensive handbag but I carry it often and I love it. I recently felt like looking for a new handbag and I went into LV. ( I’ll preface by saying, this particular store in NJ-in the mall- in Paramus-has done this, to me, before. But, I just wanted to look.) All 3 of the SAs looked at me like I smelled. No one spoke. I was offended. I was going to write the corporate office but I figured it would be better for me to show my anger by not supporting this label financially. So, I took my happy hiney to another store and purchased a Celine Phantom. How you like me now! Lol

  • mandy

    I’ve definitely experienced this phenomenon. I live in a smaller city in the northeast, and we have only one major luxury dept store. The SA’s really look you over to determine the possibility of a sale before bothering with you. I know they’ll take my money whether I’m dressed for the occasion or not, so I normally don’t care too much. I recently purchased a beautiful luxury bag from this store, and it was funny how quickly the SA ran to assist me once she realized I was serious. She had been watching me from afar with disinterest until that moment. I’ll be sure to carry it the next time I go back!

  • Jan

    Living in Atlanta and shopping at Phipps Plaza you see this phenomenon a lot…wear a pair of jeans and go casual-they don’t pay any attention to you, which is a hoot. I can carry any one of many pricey handbags and they are snooty. I have to say the kindest SA’s I’ve met were shopping in an Hermes store-apparently they are taught that what someone wears or what they look like has no bearing on one’s financial status. I refuse to shop with SA’s who are snooty and rude. I’d give my business to anyone else!

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      I’m from Atlanta, and I have to say that the treatment I received at the ATL Hermes store was always exemplary, even when I was 20 years old and was clearly in there just to gawk at all the beautiful things. The employees were always very attentive and kind.

    • Purse Mommy

      Hermes Beverly Hills was also very nice to me. Chanel Beverly Hills was the complete opposite.

    • Tara

      Sadly, ive found this to be true as well. In my experience, the rudest SAs are at the lower end stores at Phipps. The SAs at Tory Burch and Cole Haan refuse to speak to me even when I’m wearing their brands or when I’m wearing much higher end brands! I can’t tell you how many sales they have missed out on for being so rude, even when I approach them. I’ve also had terrible experiences at LV at Lenox, even when carrying an expensive LV bag. The LV at Phipps, however, always has the friendliest SAs, in my experience.

  • Gabrielle

    This happens to me all the time! I get treated way differently when I’m wearing a $1000+ Louis Vuitton bag than when i’m wearing a $145 longchamp bag in certain high-end department stores!! It’s really sad.

  • pixiegirl

    This is SO true. Whenever I carry a well known designer bag I always get way more attention from SA’s than when I carry a “cheap” bag like a coach(l quoted cheap because I dont’ consider $450 cheap but compared to the high end stores bags it would be considered cheap by their standards).

    One time I was in Nordies and a SA totally ignored me and she must have been new, the more seasoned SA told her that my bag was a Balenciaga and that she should go see if I need any help. I’m a total jeans & tshirt kind of girl. I will also mention I was wearing flip flops so they had the horror of seeing my barney rubble feet(wont someone please think of the children?!?) lol. That experience made me LOL I don’t know why I just found it so amusing.

    Whenever I go in to Barneys with a bag from a line they carry(still in jeans, tshirt, & flip flops) all the SA’s about fall over trying to help me. When I go in with a non high end designer bag they don’t even acknowledge my existence.

    I’m not trying to “out” either of these stores I’m just posting my personal experiences I spend quite a bit at both stores(more than I’d like to admit). I know it can happen at any store, it has happened before, and will happen again. I know that SA’s are working on commission and I don’t believe in putting down anyone who works.

  • l92125

    I own several higher end handbags, including a Birkin. On weekends, I’m generally in casual jeans and a casual shirt, or a Juicy outfit. No matter what I am wearing, if I walk in carrying an of my other luxury bags, I won’t even get a “may I help you” but when I carry my Birkin, sales associates fall all over me, even if I look like a total schlepp for the rest of my outfit.

  • Diana

    I suppose it can be true. But, I certainly wouldn’t blame the store. If the SA’s are rude on purpose than that’s their problem not yours or which bag you’re carrying. I refuse to approach first & the lucky person who helps me totally reaps in a fat commission. But, since I don’t go to those boutiques or designers (why enter when you can’t buy? It’s just depressing)…..I go to Nordstrom- where there’s always someone to say hello to me if I’m carrying a Target bag or a Super Fab Designer bag. :)

  • Phlishy

    U should’ve named the stores & the SAs regardless, this behavior needs to stop!

  • bls

    it happens alot. and not just in high-end stores. i frequent goodwill and thrift stores as well and they will immed. mark up prices when im carrying lv. since fakes are rampid in my area, if im carrying a speedy…they dont pursue as much as if i were carrying my neo or some other bag. my attire is not typically a factor b/c i am almost always wearing something casual but it indeed does happen

  • Rachel – At First Blush

    So I’ve been a purse lover since I was little, and when I was about 14 I was in Saks Fifth Avenue waiting for my mom googly eyed over Kate Spade. I was looking for a birthday bag but could not get anyone to look my way – so I decided to ask for the manager. My mom was very proud I stood up for myself – and the manager was horrified the salespeople did not even say hello. I’ll just say that it’s been about 15 years, and I will NOT shop at that Saks for that reason!

    • Purse Mommy

      You’re like me. I will hold a shopping grudge for like forever.

  • claudia

    I had a similar experience with Barneys this Spring. I was looking for an Alexander Wang ‘Bucket Bag’ they retail around $800, certainly not cheap but nowhere near the expensive designers like Celine or Hermes. When I couldn’t find them anyway and asked a SA – she never bothered to look at me but waved her hands in the general direction of upstairs where they apparently keep the ‘cheaper’ lines. I bought the bag at NM after I couldn’t even find a mirror anywhere near the desiger in Barneys… I can’t remember what bag I carried but I have several YSL and there is a clear difference in treatment compared to other lesser designer backs. The funny part? When visiting NYC in May, I had serveral SA at DKNY stop by and asked if they could touch my A. Wang bag :) c’est la vie!

  • http://www.purseblog.com/ Vladi Dusil

    Great article Amanda.

    This reminds me of a story that a friend told me several years ago. His neighbor was a very wealthy man who was intending to buy a new German luxury sedan. With check in hand, he set off to the dealership.

    Being the very casual type, he waltzed into a Mercedes dealership with flip flops on, jeans and a normal T-shirt. No SA bothered to pay attention to him, so after 10 minutes of waiting, he took his business to the BMW nearby and drove off with a brand new 7-series.

    If sales associates only realized how much commission they are losing by selecting which customers to pay attention to…

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      Something sort of similar happened to my parents, who are casual and very friendly folks (Hi mom and dad), when they were looking at a Mercedes SUV when I was a kid. They both drive BMWs now.

      And I actually had a fairly terrible experience myself at the flagship Bloomingdale’s on Lex & 59th two weeks ago trying to buy sheets. The woman was so rude and condescending that after I got all the way to the subway, I was so mad at how I had been treated and spoken to that I turned right back around and returned the sheets. I’m 25, I was dressed in kind of a trendy-casual outfit and I have purple streaks in my hair, I’m sure she assumed I was a moron who couldn’t actually afford nice sheets. But I can, and I bought them elsewhere.

      That experience was much worse than the treatment I received during this test, and it will be a cold day in hell before I ever give any money to Bloomingdale’s again. I’ve never been treated like a paying customer in any of their stores, no matter whether it was in Atlanta or NYC.

      • KoutureCrochet.com

        You are both correct in how much SAs loose in stereotyping and type casting customers. Money is green not matter what you wear or what color your hair/skin/flip flops are!
        And there is another point, someone can be looking and be unable to afford a drink at starbucks today, but lord only knows what the will be tomorrow.

        Oprah told the story of a woman who embrassed her and treated her rudely because her card was declined when she was still up and coming! I would hope that every SA hear that story and learn it’s lesson. A prepaid visa today can easily become an Amex Black Card tomorrow. :)

    • DL

      My uncle experienced the same thing, but he choose to rub it into their faces that he can afford the car. He knew what he wanted so he just went up to a SA and said that he would like to purchase a particular car and paid for it in cash. He was in Asia and from my experience, a lot of the older generations (asians) still carry a lot of cash around when they shop. He is the no nonsense type and he almost never dresses up. He does not think it is necessary to be someone he is not and he doesn’t care about clothes. He chose to find it funny that people ignore him when he ventures into a high end shop. I still remember the time when he went into a LV shop with my aunt, got ignored of course, but then preceded to buy 6 to 7 items and paid for it all in cash. By then, they were treating him like a VIP, asking him if he wanted something to drink and fawning all over him. It was very sad to see all the SA doing an 180.

  • housewivesfan

    I have no doubt that sales people size you up based on the way that you are dressed, your accessories, the car that you drive up to the store in, etc. This mentality carries across all levels of retail, too, not just high end designer shops. I was recently in Sephora, looking at moisturizer, carrying my LV Alma bag. I asked a question about an expensive cream ($175/jar) and all of a sudden the manager was there to help me. When I asked for a sample, she opened one of the packages and gave me a generous one. I know that they give samples if you ask, but I don’t feel that I would have been treated the same way had I been carrying a bag from Pennys or Target (then again, maybe it was just the fact that I actually was considering buying a jar of cream that cost $175!).

  • Deborah

    It has been my experience not only with the bag that I carry but the jewelry and shoes that I am wearing. Most notably my handbags tend to receive recognition from sales associates in high end stores. However, that stated, usually once we get past the bag and strike up a conversation I tend to get to the real substance of the individual. Some are really genuine good people and some are just surface and shallow. It is a toss.
    Good post!

  • Sanmantha

    It depends on each individual SAs. Some are so ignorant and stupid no matter how expensive your bag is. I went to an high end boutique shop recently carrying my Hermes Birbin. My regular SA wasn’t there that day. I ended up working with another SA. She was ok at first, saying “Hello”, at least, and introduced herself. Few minutes later, there were two males customers walked in. One of them carried a Balenciaga Giant. Since then all her attention was with those two. I mean all attention. She keep talking to them non stop. I was waiting for her to assist me to the fitting room, but she was just keep talking talking talking without even looking that I need her help. Until the guy with Balenciaga purse saw it. He finally told her. Well, what should I say. She just lost it. I will never work with this SA. I rather wait to work with my regular one.

  • kouturecrochet.com

    This is 100% true. When i wear hermes silk the doors seem to open themselves up but other times is just UGH!

    While some places are “worse” than others but this can be downright insulting at times. I was at the Brooks Brothers on 346 NYC and it was HORRID. We were two relatively young black women wearing LV (that they must of assumed fake) but no hermes that day and we got treated like scum. not only did they not ask us if we needed anything they downright glowered at us. We were dressed in BROOKS BROTHERS own smart casual!

    I love taking my bags out. However, there are none too few times when I WISH SAs would just check their assumptions/stereotypes at the door. When these issues of spending power are compounded by issues of race/age/gender it can be downright distressing. And you dont know if you are being paranoid or if its more perceived buying power than race or if it even matters. And then I sometimes feel like i am beating myself up for not having the personal fortitude to “Just get OVER it, or ignore it”.

    Some days its enough to make you want to bolt the door and stay home. I havent been inside a brooks brothers since. I just dont cant be bothers.

    http://www.kouturecrochet.com

  • Erik

    This is VERY true, i am a fan of Ferragamo shoes, and being 18 I could say I’m lucky to have a quite decent collection of Ferragamos.. I was on a trip to Greece some time ago and had gone sightseeing all day.. i walked into the Ferragamo store and I didn’t even get looked at, next door was Dolce&Gabbana but they had already closed, the next day I went inside the Dolce store bought a pair of shoes and my mom wanted to buy a bag at Ferragamo, so we went inside again this time with my giant Dolce bag… and we were treated very nicely by the SA so i think that this happens EVERYWHERE and it’s just very annoying!

  • chloebagfreak

    Amanda, Great article!
    I think it is a sad state of affairs for the customer who ventures into these stores. what if they are traveling and left their best bag home?
    An interesting thing to ponder…What if we are telegraphing more confidence when we wear those particular high end bags? Confidence is always sexy and gets the attention.

  • Annabelle

    so true. I couldnt have agreed more Amanda!!! Its so funny…this happens in different countries too haha All I can do is laugh

  • Lydia M

    I know what you mean and I agree with Annabelle that it happens everywhere, not just in here (USA). Sometimes though there is an advantage of being ignored by SA because that means no one will bother me with their questions.

  • Rach

    if the store is quite empty and no one wants to help, then it’s definitely wrong. But in busier stores, i don’t think the SA’s have a problem, the commission system does. think about it, they have no choice. their time is limited, and they are trying to make as much money within this limited time. of course they can only select whoever they think will help them make an earning based what they know, and what do they know? nothing, except for your outfit. it’s a business with asymmetrical information.

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      I purposefully went into the stores during off-peak times so that I wouldn’t run into this problem, because having been an SA, I agree that when it’s busy, all bets are off. But both times, the stores were fairly empty by Manhattan standards – certainly more SAs than customers.

  • AJ

    I used to wait tables at this really busy place in the Pike Place Market, here in downtown Seattle. After work, I’d walk over to Nordstroms and Barney’s sometimes to go bag browsing/shopping, usually still smelling of the restaurant and sometimes still wearing my apron. Always exhausted and never looking my best. When I was carrying a regular contemporary designer bag (like Rebecca Minkoff or Treesje), no one even batted an eye- I was never spoken to once. The times when I carried premiere designer bags (at the time I had a Prada and a Celine), I was ALWAYS greeted, right as I walked in the door, even though I was wearing the same ratty work outfits I always did. It’s crazy and true and you can’t really blame them, as their salaries are dependent on commissions.

  • DL

    Not too long ago, I had a bad experience at my local Neimans. My birthday was coming up and I wanted to treat myself to a Balenciaga City. There was only one SA around the Balenciaga area and she was helping a couple. I have to give her some credit and say that she did asked if I needed any help and I did say that I was interested in the city. She said she would be back after helping the couple. 15 minutes later, she hasn’t returned. 30 minutes later, still no sign. A little bit after that, I decided to leave. There was no other SA around that I could asked for help and there really wasn’t that many people in the store. When I was walking out of the store, I spotted her in the Dior counter talking to some other SAs. The next day, I put an order in at Aloharag for a city. I think it is quite rude to tell somebody that they would be back and then have them disappear on you. I think I would rather have her ignore me in the beginning; I would have no expectations from her and thus wouldn’t have been so hurt. I was dressed like a college kid that day with jeans, shirt, baseball cap, and just carrying a RM bag. However, if you look at the other accessories that I have on, you would never say that I look like I couldn’t afford things at that store.

  • zaali

    Amanda…loved your piece on the SAs at the higher-end stores. It is sad but true and it is the same everywhere on planet Earth. I have had the same experiences in London, The Hague, Paris and Dubai. In USA, I have always felt that they (SA) are really nice but they can ignore you or even jeer behind your back when you are not looking. First impressions are based on what you have on and what you are carrying with you and it is how they decide if you are worth the effort. I also did a similar test in Boston and had a few SAs share some funny looks while I asked a question regarding the leather used at the Gucci store. I felt them do it and I saw it and I knew what was going through their minds. The sad thing is that they are also like us- normal, working class SAs and sadly they do not own the companies they work for. They do not have huge amount of monies at their disposal. But I guess they live under some kind of illusion that they are above us and they can get away with this behavior. It is sad and it is their LOSS.

  • Musette

    The absolute best treatment I’ve ever received (other than my vaunted SAs at Barneys Chicago, who are incredible!) was at Graff. The first time I went in was to look at an 11cwt emerald-cut solitaire. I told the SA, Ed, that I definitely did NOT have the money to purchase. His answer: “that’s fine. you will have it later. And even if you don’t everyone should have the opportunity to try on something as beautiful as this”.

    I’ve never forgotten that and will be buying my solitaire from him.

    • Mandy

      Love this. Similarly, i have always been treated very well at the high end jewelry stores in Vegas, even when only browsing. One SA told me that they never know who might win big, and they want you to go back there when you do!

      • Lori

        I agree about Las Vegas. I was treated like sh*t at Hermes in Beverly Hills when I was in the market for a Jyspier (sp?) bag. I think I was carrying a LV at the time which retails for $1000, so not very high end, but also not chump change. I had to ask to be helped and finally did get a woman to spend 3 seconds allowing me to look at a bag. I decided to walk out and go to Hermes in Vegas the following week. The minute I walked in, carrying the same LV, I was approached by a very sweet and warm SA. I ended up getting a bag that day and will always make my purchases from that store and that SA, if possible. I will window shop in BH, but never purchase simply based on how I was treated.

      • Purse Mommy

        Vegas is the best with customer service. I’ve never had problem with window shopping there, most of the staff at high end stores are nice.

  • Mirna

    My husband never gets good customer service. Just something about him lol. When we went to NY this past winter no one looked his way in the high end stores the first few times. Right before we left I bought a huge LV and he carried the bag around while we finished shopping. He couldn’t believe the difference in the service he got. It is sad bc $400 is not cheap. I bought my first LV for $500. Society is so messed up!

  • bb

    Great article!!! This has happened to me soooo many times. I have decided to make a game of it. When I shop with my so called “lower end” bags….let’s say less than $1000 which I usually carry when in NYC. I like to carry them when there because I worry less about where I will have to sit them down during a long day of shopping. I just love seeing the SA face that doesn’t bother with me when I start throwing my money around. Kinda like the scene from Pretty Women ” very big mistake”!!!!!! HUGH MISTAKE!!!!! Let’s face it I’m shopping and YOU are working….hummmmm. Who has the money??? You just never KNOW!!!!! Never judge a book by its cover!!!!!!! : )

    • Ashleyg

      I think you summed it up best with “i’m shopping and YOU are working”!!!

  • Amy

    I live in a midsize Midwestern city where all the ‘wealthy’ ladies carry Coach bags; there’s a little bit of LV and Gucci is rare (no local stores sell these brands). I’ve always loved bags and I travel a bit and tend to come home with LV or Gucci; MbyMJ is my casual line because it’s not Coach. (it’s not that I hate Coach – it’s just what it implies around here…). Anyway, shortly after getting my LV Monty a girlfriend and I stopped by a trendy new wine store in town. They have a circular tasting bar that was surrounded by a bunch of well dressed (for my city) ladies who obviously hadn’t been working that day (it was late afternoon) who had planted themselves around the tasting bar for free drinks and were taking up all the good real estate. Basically we couldn’t get a seat or even attention from anyone behind the bar and were thinking about taking our business elsewhere. And then I noticed an open spot at the bar and plopped my LV smack in the middle of it. My friend actually commented and still laughs about how quickly we got attention once they saw the bag. The only reason why I sometimes carry logo bags is to mess with the locals. ;)

  • Brigitta

    I live in a state where there are no high end stores, so when I get to Chicago, I’m there for some serious shopping. I have to admit it but I purposely carry a higher end tote so I CAN get better service from the SA’s. My time is limited, I want to make the train back home on time, so I try to insure that I get prompt attention at the better stores. Do I like it, putting on this act? No, but we’ll never change human nature. I think if I lived in a city where I could establish an on-going, in-person, sales relationship with a SA, I’d wear whatever I wanted, as he/she would know that I’m serious about making regular purchases.

  • Niar

    Amanda, it is unfortunate that most SAs have forgotten the number 1 rule in retail: The customer is king. Anyway, I have found the best solution to those annoying SAs: Online Shopping! From Celine to Louboutin, I got them all through the website. I’m one happy shopper once again.

    • Chrissie Penney

      I agree. I live in the bush, about 600kms from Sydney and 450kms from Brisbane so I always shop on line. My favourite is Aussie farmed ostrich leather which is so unique it turns heads at the races. For shopping I have a beautiful calf leather tote. I love purse shopping on line because it’s cheaper and I can get some one-offs at ridiculous prices.

  • somethingbags

    we live in such a double-standard world. we say we all want to be treated equally but deep inside we really dont.

  • Alexis

    this exact same thing happened to me at the Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC. I was going to purchase a Gucci leather tote bag for myself but i was trying to get help from a SA but none of them helped me. I am a somewhat casual dresser (jeans, cardigan, graphic t-shirt and a pair of pf flyers i’m a guy btw) and i guess they assumed i did not have that kind of money for that bag. I was so mad that i just walked out of that store and went to the flagship Gucci boutique where there actually asked if i needed help and the SA was very kind. will definitely go back.!

  • susan

    I have had this happen I went in to buy a LV carrying my Coach and no one talked to me. It was like pulling teeth to look at any bag. I left not buying anything. I then went to another store on a different day carrying my MJ and everyone was all over me. The price difference was maybe 500.00 but what a difference. I did buy my LV but I was shocked at how I was treated. I know Coach are not high end and I use them as my everyday bags but you would have thought I was toting a Wal-Mart special. I do think it’s funny that you can dress how ever you like but if your bag is the expensive piece you get treated like a queen.
    I did go in a LV store carrying a Coach and they could not have been any nicer to me. I think it’s about the town, the SA and the purse. I think they look at the purse, the shoes and the jewelry.

  • mochababe73

    Being treated unfairly is the reason why I don’t shop at Neiman Marcus. Ever. Period. End of discussion.
    I never get upset by rude salesperson, but those SA made me feel so bad. My husband had NEVER seen me so angry.
    For my birthday/Mother’s Day (always @ 2 weeks apart), I went to the handbag section and the sunglasses were in the general vicinity. I really wanted a bag, but I was also looking at the sunglasses. I waited. I waited. When another woman came up to the counter, she was asked what she wanted immediately. No waiting involved. I just stood there in shock. Mouth open. None of the other three salespersons even bothered to help me either. I had my Coach bag, jeans, blouse…
    I fixed them. I complained to the corporate office. I was offered free lunch for my husband and me at the Neiman Marcus Cafe and a personal shopper. That was fine, but I didn’t want it. I just wanted it acknowledged so I politely said thanks but no thanks.
    This has not ever happened to me at Saks or Nordstrom’s.
    And, this happened to me at a watch store in which I was there to buy my son a G-Shock. Expensive for a 13 y/o. This time, I spoke up. The manager even tried to get me to come back. I flat out refused.
    My husband used to work at Foley’s. When you first start you don’t earn commission. You’re just paid by the hour. Two of the SA wouldn’t help a man who had on a white t-shirt, sagging jeans, and sneakers. My husband helped him, and the man spent $800 cash. My husband told them to treat everyone with respect, and that a commission was lost. None of the items were ever returned.
    So, yeah, I think that what we wear matters to alot of SA. But like my husband says, you never know what someone may have.

  • missy1234

    I live in Australia and I always shop in Chanel store. Most of the times when I come in for a browse, I have always been greeted by the SAs despite walking in with t-shirt and jeans. I’ve been looking to buy a pair of chanel ballerinas. It was a busy sunday noon and all the SAs were serving their customers. My favourite SA noticed me and told me that she will get someone to be with me as soon as she’s ready. It turned out to be an Asian girl who served me. She looked at me top to toe (mind you I was wearing a black burberry jacket and carried my Speedy bag). When I told her I wanted to try the shoes on and asked for different colours, she was reluctant to show me and told me to just try on the displays and only if i was interested in buying she will get the size. I walked off, really angry because I was interested to buy that particular pair. As I walked off, my partner overhead the SA saying I told you she’s not worth my time. The next day, I walked into a different chanel store, bought my flats and left the shop happy because the SA was really nice and helpful. All I can say is what goes around comes around. Karma will get back to that snob!

  • Dayzley

    Just bought my chanel recently at one of the flagship stores in HK. During that time I was only wearing a casual polo, jeans, ballet flats and a longchamp le pliage bag, and surprisingly the girl who attended me was very nice and accomodating. I’m glad that ive been treated good despite my very casual look. Shes been very pleasant, patient and helpful all throughout that made me buy the bag.

    Maybe because at that time, i also did my assignment on tpf that though im a newbie to chanel, i know what im talking about. So i guess thats a plus point for the good treatment that i got to that store.

  • Judi

    There’s a Youtube guru named lanaindiana and she actually filmed her experiment. She wondered if she would be treated differently because she wore a full on Chanel suit and literally all these sales associates complimented her.

    Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TU0nh7awjPs

    It was so bad that even the mall cops were involved. Why should a woman wearing a Chanel suit be treated differently than a woman in sweats and flip-flops?

  • Lorraine

    Yes, sadly it is pretty true no matter which part of the world you live in. I stay in Singapore and I’ve been ignored just because I look too young to afford anything in the boutiques and I just happen to walk into the boutique when I am carrying a functional but very much cheaper bag. Esp in such a hot tropical country, it is just crazy to dress to the nines and jeans give me awful heat rashes.
    That said, there are boutiques that entertained me no matter what I wore. The worst would be in Paris, where i was totally ignored, until my friends showed up with their haul from gucci and LV. Lol.

  • rose60610

    I’ll add my 2 cents: I used to be a teacher (in a low-income district, not a high-paying job). On the side, I drove 50 miles to an expensive resort to work as a cocktail waitress and made more than I did teaching. I bought cars and everything else with cash because I was cheap in a lot of other ways. I was treated like crap by a lot of customers because they assumed “I was only a waitress”. I was SO naive back then.
    Fast forward: I also loved investing and went into the financial world where 100% of my pay was commission based. I did well. Most of my serious investors looked like something the cat dragged in. I was leery of the people who looked dressed to the nines because their net worth was usually very low–all image and no cabbage. (Amanda’s philosophy in reverse.) The financial advisors who did best in the company were those that worked in blue collar neighborhoods-the plumbers and other tradesmen, small business owners, widows who saved every dime–knew that there’s no free lunch and saved their money. Many of those people could buy the whole damned Hermes boutique!!
    I know I get treated better when I carry Chanel bags vs. “only LV” here in Chicago.
    My message: Many SA’s are SO, SO, SO stupid! If they’re so damned smart, they wouldn’t be WORKING for a living. YO, when you have to rely on a JOB to make ends meet, you can’t AFFORD to look down on anyone. Wake up! There IS such as thing as dividend income…

    • housewivesfan

      Agreed. My husband used to be a contactor in a very old money part of our city. Think large estates with stables and out buildings that have been in the family for 100+ years. He discovered that the people with great wealth were the ones you’d never suspect were wealthy. He had one client who turned out to be worth an estimated $100M, yet he drove a 10 year old Volvo, and wore old cords and battered sweaters around town. Not a designer dud in sight! It goes to prove the old adage, never judge a book by it’s cover. Of course, try telling the SAs that!

  • Bagolicious

    I’m out and about and shopping a lot here in L.A. and for me it really doesn’t matter if I’m carrying one of my low-priced T.J.Maxx bags or one of my very high end bags, as I still get waited on.

    On a scale of 1-10, and with a good 35 years of shopping here, in my adult years, I would rank my own shopping experiences around an 8.

    Of course there are a few irritating things that I’ve experienced in various stores, but overall I can’t complain. I find the salespeople here very approachable and nice and I love shopping here at home.

  • VOR

    rose60610 is soooo right.

  • Liz

    i hate snooty SA’s. So true though, most of them will give you the once over, catalogue what youre wearing (be it jewelry, handbag, outfit) and make a judgement based on that.

    i used to stay quiet and just leave when snooty SA’s stare condescendingly at me if i happen to stroll in dressed very casually or using a non premier designer/it bag, but now, I find i cannot tolerate their attitude anymore. I will either call them out on their rude behaviour if its very obvious, or i will simply request another SA even if that person does not work in that particular department.

  • Priscilla

    Amanda, I liked you before, but you totally won me over with the Anchorman reference :D I love that movie! Anyway, to add to this, I feel exactly the same way when I go to stores in Chicago or New Jersey. When I am in my local Saks in Alabama, everyone is super duper nice and always asks me how I am and what I am looking for. Same thing goes to Atlanta.

  • kelly

    Love this post!

    Sometimes i avoid carrying my nice bag out to shopping so the SAs will stop being “nice” to me and i won’t have to pull out my amex~ =D

    The ones that are nice to you no matter what you wear or carry, those are the shops who I will pull out my amex for~ =D

  • Demi

    I’m usually treated nicely when I shop, no matter what bag I carry! I don’t think it’s the bag or the outfit that makes people be more nice towards you, it’s simply the “air”, know what I mean? If you walk into a store dressed simply but chic (without labels poping out), but you walk in with self confidence that’s when they pay more attention! If you walk in like you don’t believe in yourelf, your looks or what ever, that’s when they don’t pay much attention! I recently walked in a Marc Jacobs store toting a red DKNY bag (approximately 300 euros) and I was treated really nice by the emploees, they paid much attention to me just because I was looking for something to buy! Plus, nowadays with the financial crisis and all that employees tend to be really nice and helpful, because they actually need you to buy something!

    • http://www.purseblog.com/ Amanda Mull

      I tend to be a person with something of a “presence.” Or at least others have said that to me – I don’t take a lot of bullshit, I expect to be treated with respect, I’m very clear about it if I need or want something. I’m also extremely friendly to SAs – I’ve been there, done that, I know it makes your day to have a friendly customer. So while I’m usually treated well, I’ve still noticed that a recognizable bag makes a big difference. As someone mentioned earlier in the comments, I think age also plays a role – I’m 25, which probably makes some SAs automatically assume I’m just looking and will never buy anything. But they’re wrong.

  • Ana

    Hey! This happened to me once! I wasn’t conducting an experiment or anything, but I happened to visit the same stores twice within the week. The first time I was in a hoodie, jeans and sneakers – and got either silence or indifferent remarks from the SA’s. The next time I happened to have my YSL Rive Gauche and Joie leather boots and wouldn’t you know, the exact same SA’s were suddenly VERY interested in helping me out.

    Although – to be honest, most SA’s in these high-end designer stores tend to be really rude if they don’t think you can afford the items. (Which is weird because hello – I’m shopping here, YOU are working.) As a result any time I’m about to make a big purchase, I tend to dress down as much as possible and see who’ll actually be nice to me. They’re the ones who deserve the commission!

    • tex

      I also dress down when I am going to make a big purchase. The one that helps me is the one that gets my money. I actually dress up when I go browsing because I know they are not going to kick me out for looking. There are stores that I will never buy from because of the SA attitude but it doesn’t stop me from browsing in the stores. I just buy the product somewhere else or online! I’ve been treated badly all of my life because of my race, age, and appearance so the ones that treat me kindly are the ones who deserves it. I treat all my customers the same way, no matter their age, gender, race, or appearance because of all the disrespect shown to me while I was growing up.

  • alice

    I agree 100%. I made the same experiment last year here in Milan (Italy) where, being honest, fashion and well dressed women are everywhere, but the right bag makes ALWAYS a big difference. it’s all a Buongiorno Signora, Signora, Signora… I think a wonderful bag can make you feel better and let me say that, make them treat you like a Signora…

  • Merve

    Reminds me of the pretty woman scene where Julia Roberts says ‘I was in here the other day and you wouldnt serve me…(holding up shopping bags) Big Mistake…i have to go shopping now” Fab scene. I have to say that I havent experienced this because i always have the haughty snobbish air around me and steely eyed stare that makes sales associates treat me pretty decently. Although people who meet me for the first time say im stand offish which couldnt be further from the truth. Although it is true that i get extra special attention when im carrying a Birkin.

  • bisbee

    I have absolutely found this to be true…and so have my friends. It is extremely frustrating – in fact, it happens very often at the branch of a very high-end jewelry store here in Maryland. When I had been ignored by the salespeople one time too many, I marched to the desk, told them very politely what I thought of their attitude to a potential customer, and left. I now patronize another branch, and when I told the salespeople in that branch why I no longer go to the other store, they told me that had heard the same story from several customers.

    I just don’t get the haughty attitude – I’ve seen it from sales people at Barneys in NYC – not all, of course, but from a number of them. And – I resent it! What gives them the idea that they are better than the customer – who may or may not be able to buy and sell them mutiple times over? There is nothing wrong with working in a store, but that’s it – they are working in a store trying to sell merchandise. I don’t care what store it is – the SAs that consider themselves better than the customers that come into the store have an attitude problem that can be quite ugly!

    • SS

      I was just reading this thread and loving it! I happen to be from Maryland and I am now a handbag/jewelry designer out in LA. So, I thought I would write you and say hi. I am in MD from time to time and would love to connect with you when I am home at mom’s visiting. xo

  • AstaK.

    Its true, but you surely can take a look from other side:)
    When Im going ìncognito`, Im NOT even expecting some salesperson to come breath to my neck but more like wanting to just do what ever Im there for, like going to ladiesroom,lol…
    But with high maintenance, I am really expecting some service and attention. I think this is perfectly natural and its vain to complitely accuse SAs for thinking what that customer needs, that is their job.
    I dont really think so called normally dressed people even want same sort of attention than someone whos use to have it. Surely saying hello is for everyone, but hey, be realistic. Those salespersons are there to sell things, not for kissin asses.

    • bisbee

      I don’t expect any salesperson to kiss my ass, whether I’m dressed in jeans and a t-shirt with a $20 bag, or I’m dressed in designer duds with a $2000 bag.

      What I expect is a salesperson to ask me if I need any help. If I say no, then they can leave me on my own to browse. Anyone who walks into a store should expect to be waited on, no matter how they are dressed. That is the job of the salesperson – if they don’t approach a potential customer, how do they expect to sell anything? And everyone who walks through the door is a potential customer!

      • Purse Mommy

        Ass kissing is part of the job.

  • Mia

    I’ve sort of done this experiment myself, but not necessarily on purpose….once in Beverely hills I was visiting and VERY BADLY needed an amazing dress and shoes for a big even I was going to…I was willing to spend…but, instead of going to the room first to change I went to a couple stores dressed in my airplane attire, and brought a little crossbody with me as well…not a soul even smiled at me. When I did ask for help they said they’d “be with me in a moment”….but were doing nohing but chatting with eachother,…The next day I went in dressed slightly better but still casual and wore my chloe bag and all the SA’s wanted to be my best friend. Happens in NY as well. Crazy world we live in and its easy to feel a bit offended…

  • Desma

    Do you consider Michael Kors bags to be high end?

    • Loree

      NO

  • nychic1114

    Great article! Generally speaking I agree that your conclusions are pretty on point. With that said I personally had a few different experiences. I also live in NYC and I go shopping to lots of different stores. Just yesterday I went into Miu Miu boutique looking for a pair of shoes that I’ve been eyeing on NAP. I was wearing a suit by Theory, Chloe flats and carried my Chloe Paraty. NONE of the SAs asked me if I wanted help they all just eyed me from head to toe in an extremely judgemental way. I immediately proceeded to the exit and bought the pair on NAP instead. I am disgusted with such behavior. With that said I’ve had great experiences with SAs in other stores when I didn’t carry the “IT” bags and I still received GREAT service. It’s all very dependent on SAs themselves.

    • whateversu

      I was worried about going to the Miu Miu in Soho because it was pretty empty and it was a cold miserable day so of course I was dressed to reflect that. My beat up converses that are literally falling apart, my comfiest Seven jeans, shiny puffer coat from Uniqlo and my Prada nylon back pack. I was for the most part kindly helped out. I even left the store and returned after I couldn’t decide if I liked the wallet enough or not, since they didn’t have the color I initially wanted.

  • babe

    and could this attitude express some frustration on their side as they
    can´t afford what they sell?

  • Liz

    I find this true as well (the more high-end your bag is, the more attention you get) in general. HOWEVER, I have been pleasantly surprised by several SAs in Balenciaga and Miu Miu. I was carrying a Longchamp Le Pliage bag (retails around $120), but I got tons of attention and respect.

  • lchua

    Unfortunately it’s true. And it’s not just your purse that gets judged. Classic example: Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. To all the SAs who have mistreated customers “Big mistake! HUGE!”

    • Kathy

      This has been on my mind throughout this whole discussion!

  • Mona

    I think it depends on the SA. One time I was treated very nicely at my LV store when I was wearing my student bag and outfit, which looked kind of run-down. The male (maybe that says something?) SA was very friendly and even enthusiastic about the bag I ended up buying.

    Next time I went in, I was dressed up and was treated quite rude by an obviously annoyed/bored SA….

  • Bir

    Hmmmmm at stores yes especially if I walk in with a birkin or Kelly but……mostly I get compliments and some odd comments but I have noted it depends where I am in new york no one notices my bags, in Texas they are very undefthe radar in Paris and London though people know!!

  • Blaine

    Salesclerks in Marin notice the details – because most women here wear no make-up, tracksuits & messy hair … they look basically homeless compared to Dallas – but they WILL carry an expensive bag, diamond earrings and high-end watch.

  • The Girl Next Door

    I used to work in Midtown and would browse the 5th ave flagships and Saks during my lunch hour. My experience with SAs was the same. When I had a nice bag they would offer to help me but I’m the kind of person who likes to shop around before making a purchase. I can’t stand being followed or having someone breathe down my neck when I’m trying to shop.

    The weirdest thing I experienced was this: most of the SAs who made conversation with me (most often at Saks) asked me what I did for a living. Isn’t that kind of a rude question? Looking back I wonder if they thought I was a prostitute because I was 24 and had a nice bag. Seriously though, the snobbery really amazes me. You work in a store, you have no business turning your nose up at me.

  • Leda

    I was in Venise, not a very long time ago,and, as a tourist, Ihappend to make some shopping in the “right” stores of Calle Larga and San Marcos´s finest boutiques.So I went to Fendi in San Marco, I was shearching (excuse-me for my english ortographie) for the new Silvana bag the one with a crocodile part on it, a special kind of Silvana bag.I was dreassed in a confortable way , becouse I was pleaning to walk all day, just like all tourists do when they´re on trips.Flats, bermudas, white shirt, sunglasses , and imagine that, carring no bags at all, onçy a map of Venise, and just like it happens in all Fendis around the world I was trated like I was Madonna, or Princess Kate Middlelton, or somo one else at this level, due the attention to my request, since that there wasnt any Silvana bag in crocodile, only in Milan, and that would take more then my 3 days in venice to arrives in. and much more, i clould not only make the comande , but pay and receive it at any place around the world where could exist a Fendi store. Some says it´s got to be something in the attitude of the costomer, but it has to be more them this, it´s the philosophie of the best treatement that keeps the client forever, it´s people great mind that got into commerce , people who lead these grands marks, the rest is mere vulgarity and mediocriti

  • suz

    Love this discussion….this conversation has been going on forever….

  • ana

    I walked into a CL store in NYC on Madison Av dressed very sporty – running sneakers, comfy cotton pants and a hoodie (I’ve been walking around for days and sightseeing, my legs were killing me and I’ve learned my lesson in London about those activities and dressing up nicely – they don’t go together in my case…) and the SAs couldn’t have been nicer and more helpful. They approached me, they chatted, never got the “scanning look” or anything. I’ve tried on like 5 pairs and walked around the store and they were really helpful. Finally I bought a pair, even though I didn’t really think I would :)

  • Me

    This happens with designer jewelry also, I love David Yurman and and can truly tell the difference in the customer service if I’m wearing my DY jewelry or not.

  • Barros

    Does anybody know about what was the inspiration for the Paraty bag name? From Chloe? Thaks..

  • Barros

    I mean…thanks. :-)

  • Jacqueline

    I have never had these experiences happen before! Recently I was in Chicago with my family a my mom would walk around dressed in Jean shorts, sneakers, and a regular shirt, but would carry a vintage Prada backpack and be decked out in diamond necklace, diamond studs, rolex, gucci glasses, and her huge ring she was treated so kindly in all the high end stores. Even when she went into LV in juicy sweats the SAs were pretty nice because she was looking at an almost $4,000 dollar bag. When we went into Barney’s in her usual outfit they treated her so kindly and she ended up buying a Balenciaga bag that had only came in that morning. The SA looked a little shocked because she was dressed so casual but when she took out her platinum Amex be understood that jug because you have money doesn’t mean you have to flaunt it. And then he noticed all her diamonds Lol. When carrying the Balenciaga the rest of the week she was treated even better! And when we went to NY in the spring my mom would wear the same backpack and then 7 jeans,northface coat, and boots she was still treated very kindly. It was surprising! She was actually treated better at Barney’s than a high profile model who is very young and the SA must of thought couldn’t afford the Celine wallet she was looking at.

  • Kate

    I experienced this sort of behaviour myself this week, I was in the Prada store on Bond Street in London and 2 SA’s immediatley looked me up and down as soon as i walked into the store I smiled but didnt recieve one back, I was dressed in skinny jeans, a blouse and carrying a Mulberry messenger bag £410, so not a low end handbag. I picked up a handbag from the shelf and the assistant shouted £820 from across the store then continued talking to another assistant. I automatically put the bag down and started to walk out then a very nice male assitant joked, if you buy that bag you get the wallet for free! this cheered me up so i said ill take it, the two previous assitants looked annoiyed when he asked one of them to wrap it whilst he took me to the lounge area to deal with the payment! I smiled at the assistants again as I left the store holding my purchase! They lost out on commision so the jokes on them!

    • Lisa Healey

      omg love this just out the the pretty woman movie

  • Colin

    I am a young adult and both of my parents livelihoods have allowed me to maintain a large amount of spending power. However, I find that while I am in higher end stores I am ignored due to my age. I spend a lot of money with my SAs so I find it disgusting that when I walk into a store that I don’t frequent I am completely dismissed. SAs should keep their minds open to both age and image because it is often that those who do not look like they have money, have the most. ex Bill Gates

  • TBM

    I can honestly say, I have never had a problem with shopping; rather it be at Barney’s, NM, LV to Marshall’s and Target and there has been times where I have worn jogging suits, jeans & white tee with flip flops to a expensive suit LV bag. I really believe it is all about your personal swagger.
    I remember when I was recovering from surgery and was feeling a little down, my hubby wanted to cheer me up with a trip to my favorite mall. I wasn’t looking or feelling my best, yet, I need the exrerise and what could be a better way in doing that by going to my favorite mall. Once there, we went to Tiffany’s and LV. Now, the way I was dressed which was jogging suit and Tory Burch flats and hair pulled back in pony tail, and you would have thought that I would be considered invisible Yet, when I walked into the boutique, I knew that I belong there and that feeling translated over to the SA’s. They were helpful and kind and my hubby did buy me a little something to make me happy. I really hate to hear from friends about their horrible experiences in high end stores and their refusal to enter them again.But I am so posivtive that it you walk in with an air of confident I am so sure that you experience will be different.

    • teri

      Excellent! you know who you are and you know how you feel about yourself. I allow no one to look down at me nation. No matter what I’m wearing!

  • Vintage Leather

    I would be interested to find out of if you would be treated differently if you were carrying a high end bag – but not such a new bag.

    Let’s face it – those SAs know that you are spending money NOW! Your gorgeous Celine Luggage is from the last year, obviously expensive, hard to get and very coveted. They are going to fall over you!

    I think you mentioned in another post that you have a 4 year old Balenciaga bag – Will those same SAs still be interested if they know you have spent money in the past, but you aren’t as obvious about it?

  • LP

    I’ve been a Madison Ave window shopper for years, and never gotten any sort of attention in shops before. Not that I needed it, since I’m not buying. But found it interesting.
    Then back in April, I brought along my newly bought (Dec/10) black Birkin. How funny to see the difference! SA were literally falling over themselves to help me. I had just been to NY in Dec, and was in all the same stores. Miss B was getting shipped home so I didn’t get to window shop w a giant orange shopping bag. It was holiday season, but during the week. Not an ounce of attention.
    This time, I got a private tour of the Chanel jewelry store, along with the SA’s card. She was very lovely, and I was thrilled (and very polite and thankful) to see all the beautiful things. Further down Mad, and onto 57th. Wanted to look at coats at Burberry. On the first floor I asked a SA where were the trenches. “Oh, come with me”. To the back couches “sit right down, can I get you something to drink? You’re a size 2? (um, no, more like an 8, but thanks!), wait right here, I’ll be right back”, and she came back with about 5 coats for me to try. As I was trying, several other customers came up to try, and she directed them upstairs (3rd floor?) to find the coats.
    Oddly, the worst treatment I received that day was in Hermes. I was looking for a twilly for my Birkin, and they couldn’t have been bothered.

  • i need coffee

    Great article in USA Today about this very subject!

    “Can a Birkin bag get you special treatment?”

    http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/fashion/2008-04-21-birkin-main_N.htm

  • pink carnation

    I think its really hit or miss with the store and individual SA’s. When I was living in London a few years ago, I was window shopping and decided to go into the Harry Winston store. There was no one else in the store and the SA was super nice and even let me try on one of their wreath necklaces! I was dressed very casually and obviously was not going to buy anything, but she was really great. Of course, it could have been a different story if their had been more serious customers there at the same time, but the fact that she went out of her way left such positive impression.

    Like others have said, sometimes its more about the attitude and air you exude, because I have friends who have gone out browsing with me to nicer stores, and when they act nervous I think the SAs pick up on that and assume it means that you won’t be buying anything, and has less to do with what outfit or bag their wearing. I try to act like I can afford anything in the store (even though I can’t) and smile and be friendly to the SAs and have never had a totally terrible experience at any store.

  • ??

    i’d fire any SA who treated customers poorly on entry in my store. you can’t tell who has money these days. the label whore can look rich, but piled up with credit card debt (or working as a hooker to fund her ‘first impression’) and the shabby dressed girl, an owner of an impressive bank account and property portfolio. everyone is a potential customer. a business cannot afford to staff stores with morons with no idea on how to treat/sell to people

  • blkladylaw

    One of my Neiman Marcus SAs tells me that one of her best customers is a plumber who has his own company. He lavishes his girlfriend or wife apparantly. Other SAs didn’t give him a second glance.

  • Ky

    Of course one is treated differently based on what one is wearing, and as a woman of color in NYC I always have to think about where i’m going to decide what i’m going to wear depending on whether I want to be invisible and reviled or acknowledged and assisted during my shopping excursions.

    But, for better or worse, NYC has the lovely added element of ‘bag-brand behavior’ from SAs. I have certainly been treated differently more than once based on what handbag i’m carrying on a particular day. And a gorgeous handbag can at times cancel out a so-so outfit and “earn” better treatment. And wouldn’t you do anything to have fewer sales associates following you around like your brown skin is an orange jumpsuit!

    That’s why I hate when people judge women (and especially women of color) harshly for being “overly-materialistic.” Its crazy, but an authentic LV Speedy or Chloe Marcie will get you better treatment everywhere from Bergdorfs to Trader Joes!

    You only need live in this city to totally understand the women I see who wear what is clearly a $1000+ handbag with their reef flip flops and $30 H&M dress.
    Only in New York!

  • JJ

    I think the SAs “judge” on the overall appearance. I’ve seen plenty of people carrying Birkins but still ignored because their outfit du jour was truly horrid.

  • Casey

    When I was in Las Vegas, we walked into the Chanel store at Wynn and multiple sales associates blatantly stared at my mom’s bag before saying acknowledging her. One stared at it for a good 3 seconds before looking up to ask if she needed help.

  • Jodine Ibeme

    I was treated different because of my spiked hair. People looked like they were afraid of me.

  • Jodine Ibeme

    I get wows over this one old bag I have. It’s simple and stylish, but it’s really old.

  • Amanda

    I’m 12 so I never have that problem, sales associates always greet me, probably just to be friendly because I’m a kid. I don’t think they really expect me to buy anything but sometimes I do.

  • Ariana

    I think it’s all about your air. You have to have confidence when you go into high end stores, like it’s where you belong.

  • lolalalo

    Yeah, i try to dress up nice and bring nice branded bag, and i have full confidence, when i enter the store. That is how i respect people. So they all respect me too
    in the store. If they ignore me, then i will not buy! Their lost!hahaha

  • cherrie

    I had an experience but not with shopping. I had met a young guy in an old Range Rover that day and we exchanged numbers, I had just purchased my new and expensive car. When he called me he kept asking me “how are you able to afford that nice car?” I told him about my grand father and what his occupation was, so I told him about the bank. He asked me “what was the name of the bank” I was thinking how could he ask me such things he hardly knows me we just met. I was eighteen at the time and a very naïve eighteen year old. Now I would never even think of doing the things I did back then. But that just shows you, you cant just talk to anyone and you have to always keep your guard up for anything. (excuse my English Im Lebanese)

  • Bella

    I come from the Philippines and there are upscale malls where they don’t let you in if you look suspicious, don’t follow the dresscode. or if they feel like you won’t be able to afford anything inside the mall.

    I’ve experienced something like this before. I was just wearing a very casual summer outfit (I think a shirt, denim shorts and sandals/flipflops) but was carrying a leather tote bag (can’t remember which one). The mall guards greeted me and let me in without bothering to inspect my bag (yes, they do that here). Meanwhile, a group of about 3 friends were refused entry; they were dressed similarly but weren’t carrying pricey bags.

  • Marsha Jaffe

    What is this nonsense all about?…. Women who are insecure about themselves need approval from their friends, associates, business partners, etc.. by sporting these “Designer labels.” So this is my take on the whole thing.. You buy that Prada, Gucci, Tory
    Burch,etc. bag, belt, shoes, etc. Do you know that not only are you paying a premium price for that logo that you are happily flaunting around town…. You are also advertising for free that designer label ?!!! Think of how much $$$$ is spent by these companies to pay advertisers for a spread in a magazine (Town and Country, etc.), The New York Times, etc. to get their word out. Now they have you, the consumer, doing this for free. Mercy!!! The people I choose to keep close, are the ones who don’t need to stick these things to flaunt in my face to silently tell me how “wealthy” or successful they are. They are the friends whose labels
    they wear on the inside. These women are confident in themselves and choose the things they wear or carry around with them, because they really love them. I love the designer Michael Kors in many areas of fashion.
    He has also gotten into the big MK gold symbol labeling his shoes and handbags to compete as a marketing ploy. I have a lovely tote for the summer by him. How did I select it? Loved the real patent leather. Where is the big MK? I took it off. Thank you, Micheal, it’s removable………………. Last on my list if anyone remembers… Jordach Jeans? Everyone had to have them! Brook Shields did a grand advertising campaign for them. They were all the rage because of the advertising. The brainwash will work girlfriends if you let it. 8-)

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