This is a sad post and my heart’s breaking as I write it. Today, after 10 years, it’s official — my devotion and love of Chanel handbags is over. All this time, I’ve been faithful and devoted even as the quality of workmanship dropped significantly and the prices skyrocketed. I’ve long suspected mistruths and secrets but didn’t want to dig too deeply. The tags say “Made in France” or “Made in Italy” yet the quality says possibly made in China then assembled in France or Italy.
But yesterday, I was confronted with blatant differences in treatment while out shopping that I compel me to act.
My first stop was Ralph Lauren. A brand I long poopooed, assuming there was nothing for me there. We walked through a plant filled foyer into a store designed more like a east coast home than a store on Rodeo Drive. Two employees were chatting as we entered but stopped to say hello as we walked past. My friend found a salesperson to help us and we ushered into a comfortable setting area and offered a beverage. The irony was I told my friend as we walked in that the YSL in NYC is my favorite place because they offer champagne while you shop and I didn’t think another brand would compare.
I was wrong.
The employees of the Ralph Lauren store in Beverly Hills were friendly, hospitable, gracious. As if I was a guest in their home. I apologized to the sales associate for my mistaken impression of Ralph Lauren and said I’d be back.
2nd stop — Chanel Beverly Hills. If Ralph Lauren was a welcoming oasis in shopping world, Chanel was the Arctic in January. We were let in by a stony-faced security guy (so I assume because of the wire going into his ear). The store had less than 10 customers browsing and approximately 7-8 sales associates. As far as I could tell, only 2 were assisting customers and 1 was on the phone. No one spoke to us as we walked in and past them to the back of the store — matter-of-fact, no one looked at us. Finally, after standing for a minute or two, I turned to another stony-faced man (security?) and asked if repair was open. All he said was “someone will help you.” Really? and who might that someone be because from my vantage point no one seemed interested in helping. I walked over to an associate who was intently packing clutches back into their boxes and asked her if repair was open. She didn’t look up as she said, “we have to call them down.” I need to ask you to call them? Ok, I can do that.
Should I point out that I’m carrying a HUGE vintage Chanel bag on my shoulder? And I am familiar with Chanel repair. One might conclude I am a returning customer… if one cared.
My repair (as an aside, let me say I dropped it off in Sept 2011 and to this day, no one from Chanel called to say it was ready) was brought down and I paid $265.00. The associate who came down with my bag didn’t say hello, just directed me to a register, told me the amount due and asked for my license with my credit card. Wow. Just WOW. Done.
I walked out, never to return.
You see, I love myself more than I love a brand. it took the Ralph Lauren experience to clarify for me how a customer should be treated at high-end stores. I don’t need to frequent a company whose employees act as if they are doing me a favor, especially a company who wants its customers to pay $3,000-6,000 per bag!
To the shop clerks at Chanel – Beverly Hills: you work in a store, selling fabric and animal hide. You are not researching a cure for anything or bringing about world peace. Your salary is dependent on taking people’s money for those pieces of fabrics and animal hide. You arrogantly take my money without so many as a smile or thank you.
I got your message loud and clear — I’m not a valued customer. I’m not a celebrity or supermodel (although they probably get their bags for free.) nor am I young or trendy.
Rather, I’m 50, financially secure with disposable income AND a history of buying your animal hide. I hope someone got a good look of my ‘hide’ as I exited the store.
If you look for it in the future, it’ll be seated at Ralph Lauren up the street, enjoying amazing service and a nice glass of wine.