Friday, May 23, 2008

Are you talkin' to me??

A couple of years ago on a trip back to Raleigh, I was buying a shirt at The Limited and the girl ringing me up took a look at my Coach handbag and said "Nice bag.  Bet it was expensive."  I just stood there.  What in the world are you supposed to say to something like that?  Finally, I said "Well, it was a treat."  She comes back with "Wish I could afford treats like that." Silly me. I thought the first comment was impossible to reply to.  

Later, I was telling Jason about it and saying how I was so offended by the whole encounter and am I crazy or is that not incredibly rude?!?  He agreed that it was incredibly rude and  gave me the perfect response:  "Well, I work (1) very hard to be able to afford nice things."  It's not aggressive, but it firmly puts the offender in her place and (unless she's thick as London fog) lets her know that it's not really an appropriate thing to say.  Especially to a paying customer.

If only I could have remembered all this on Wednesday when I was assaulted outside Selfridges while waiting for a bus.

A lady sidles up to me and makes a seemingly innocent comment about needing a bus to Victoria.  I, trying to be the ever-helpful Londoner, look over, smile and say "Number 73". Apparently this is an open invitation to a lecture on luxury goods and classist society.  

She runs a hand over my Louis Vuitton bag and says... 
"That's a nice bag."  
"Is it one of the real ones?"   
"It must have been really expensive."
"It was a gift from my husband so I don't know."
"Well, they're all expensive."
"I suppose."
"I think it's nice they have the fake ones because it gives people who can't afford them a chance to have something nice"
"They're not nice.  They're illegal.  They're either stolen or produced in sweatshops and the sales of them fund organized crime."
"Well, that's easy for you to say.  You rich people can buy whatever you want."
"Just because someone can afford a designer bag doesn't mean they're rich."
"I know this brand of bags are at least 500 pounds and if you can pay 500 pounds for a bag, then you're rich, lady."
I choose to ignore this particularly stupid observation.  Yet she continues.
"And anyway, why's a rich lady like you taking a bus? Can't you afford a chauffeured car?"
"Everyone in London takes public transport."
This is where she starts to go off the rails.
"None of the rich people live in London anyway, except maybe Chelsea.  They all live out in places like Hampstead and (get this) Richmond 2."

Believe me, I knew better than to open my mouth at this point and even though she was still flapping her yapper, I promptly put in my earbuds and switched on my iPod.  Who knows what other verbal diarrhea she spewed while I was listening to Jack Johnson.  

What I would really like to know is this: When did it become okay to comment on people's belongings and the cost thereof?  Where have manners and common courtesy gone?  To the way of ladies wearing hats and gloves I imagine.  Relegated to the pages of vintage issues of Vogue and Good Housekeeping.  Tragic.

1 I pointed out to Jason that I'm actually not "working hard" at the moment but he reminded me that I was the breadwinner at one point in time.  I graduated a couple of years before him and, with my job at Tommy Hilfiger, was the sole source of income there for a while.  Some time after that, I had a ludicrously overpaid job as an inside sales rep for a tech company.  So, I suppose he's right...

2 To be fair, does actually describe Richmond upon Thames as a "fabulously wealthy suburb".  But that doesn't mean everyone who lives here is fabulously wealthy.  Sure, Mick Jagger has a place up the street from us.  And Pete Townshend lives a few doors up from there.  But I guarantee you that they own their entire building and don't rent a flat at the top of one like we do.


beth said...

Lets organise a crusade to bring back hats, gloves and appropriate small talk between strangers!

Noël said...

The most amazing part is that the 'bag lady' initiated and carried on a conversation at the bus stop for that long. Highly unusual London behaviour, esp in the centre of town!

Suze - Manchester UK said...

Tell the next wack-job that if they want a nice bag, they can stop spending their cash on crack save up like the rest of us.

People like that shit me, honestly. That half-assed begging for spare change when I walk past irritates me like a urinary tract infection. No, it's not spare, it's all allocated thank you for asking.
Do you think for a second they would want my job? Do a swapsies with me? Would they take abuse in the commercial world on a daily basis and put up with client demanding they spend every night working until 11pm just so they have something to put in a freaking management report for some bald guy at the top to ignore??
Didn't think so.
You enjoy your handbags, you stylish cow!

Catherine said...

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that conversation. Or at the very least an expensive LV wallet inside your expensive LV bag.

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

Oh I feel your pain. Nothing is less appropriate or more uncomfortable than talking about money with strangers. Ew- just tacky! My friend's sister-in-law says that junk all the time and we never ever know how to handle the conversations. The comments just throw you so off gaurd.

Just found your blog- very cute!

A Novelist said...

One thing about living in NYC, you can carry nice handbags such as Gucci or LV and you're admired, not questioned. But when I do go other places, I get the third degree. Once when we went to visit John's parents in Ohio, I was carrying my Louis Vuitton bag and people were looking at me like I was The Pope. It's crazy. But that 'fake' comment the lady gave you would have really pissed me off. I think people should keep their comments to themselves. Whether you receive a luxury item as a gift or work hard and purchase it yourself, you should have the right to own something and not get the third degree!

Janet said...

I got the third degree from a lady on the till at Sainsbury's in Oxford once. She asked if I have children. I told her no. THEN she asked, "Why not?"...and looked at me like a was a freak or something.

I'm used to getting that look occasionally, by those who think an American accent is alien. But it was the first time I'd been quizzed like that in the UK. (That's the kind of thing that happens ALL the time in Singapore!!!!)