Aug 12, 2008, 05:37AM

The Influence of Anxiety

"How many of you have ever avoided going into an exclusive boutique because you weren’t dressed right or because you just felt plum uncomfortable since the environment was so intimidating? Every time you do, the more you stroke luxury’s hard-on."

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A typical Bergdorf Goodman store window. Photo by Ralph and Jenny.

I fucking hate Bergdorf Goodman!

It’s a glorious day in New York and my friend Casey and I are currently shopping along 5th Ave., doo-too-doo, when he decides that it’s time to pop into Bergdorf’s.
“Am I wearing the right outfit for that?” I’m say.

Casey. “You’ll be fine. Just don’t look at the price tags.”

For those of you trapped in flyover country, Bergdorf’s is the grand wizard of stuffy Manhattan luxury shopping, especially for older people who love spending $400 on a pair of socks and who get completely off on being scowled at by a team of dominatrix sales staff.
We’re combing through the men’s rotunda and I’m hoping that one of these ugly ass deer things doesn’t smack me in the head. I’m trying really hard to resist the urge to mess some of this fugly shit up. Like what if I brought in a Louis Vuitton suitcase and concealed in it some kind of device that, once remotely activated, would destroy their vast inventory of country club clothes? It’d be so Bret Easton Ellis. I fear that at any moment I will be captured and forced into a pair of blue seersucker pants, a pink polo (collar popped, obviously) and brown flip-flops. My. Worst. Nightmare. As we work our way up the stairs, which are made to feel like those in an Upper East Side townhouse, we enter the “contemporary” men’s section and are completely ignored by the sales staff. But they don’t just ignore us: this one queen actually rolled her beady eyes at me, virtually stabbing me with them.

Pull out hair extensions. Take off earrings. “Bitch WHAT! You don’t know me!’ That’s how I retaliate in my own head. While we continue looking through this dungeon/country club, I’m wondering: Why on earth do people shop here? What do people get out of luxury and exclusivity?

There is something about feeling like your purchasing power is invincible. It’s like the more you buy, the bigger your ego gets. You get off on it. I grew up partly poor/working class and lived between my grandmother’s blue-collar house in one place and my mother’s $$$ house and lifestyle in another. When I was a kid my grandmother collected pennies and coupons. Mom, on the other hand, had fancy purses and fancy pumps. Nowadays I find myself squandering money on ridiculous things that I never would have even five years ago.

“Hi, Madison Moore! Welcome to conspicuous consumption!”

A long time ago, like in 1899, this one guy Thorstein Veblen wrote a little something about how people try to out rich one another by buying a ton of shit. The more shit you can buy, the more power and social status you have to others. So true.

But shopping in these fancy exclusive boutiques is a completely different story. People who shop at the exclusive places feed off the energy the luxury boutique promises. How many of you have ever avoided going into an exclusive boutique because you weren’t dressed right or because you just felt plum uncomfortable since the environment was so intimidating? Every time you do, the more you stroke luxury’s hard-on. The more intimidated you feel, the longer and wider its cock gets.

People think luxury goods are about specific items. Wrong. A luxury boutique’s main asset isn’t a purse so expensive it makes your AmEx bleed. It’s anxiety. Anxiety that you’re not good enough; that the bag is not expensive enough or that perhaps it’s too expensive. Or that because it’s the last one in the world; if you don’t buy it right now all of your friends will know you’re poor, you plebian fuck.

Nobody wants a Hermès Birkin bag just because; they want it because it’s almost impossible to get one. The more luxury tells us “no,” the more we’re like “OMFG PLEASE GIVE ME MORE!”
Luxury is a big top. And we’re all getting raped.

Last summer Casey and I were at Dior Homme participating in this “secret” sale and I wanted to try and get some cool pieces while they were only moderately, as opposed to astronomically, outside of my price range. Dior used to be my favorite designer until Hedi Slimane quit last year and the suits at LVMH decided, idiotically, to hand the label over to Kris Van Assche WHO DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO DESIGN. Anyway, I’m in the all-black store and I see this super fierce shirt that I want. Retail: $250. Sale: $100. I nervously take the shirt up to the register, and instead of saying “That’ll be $105.99” or, you know, otherwise telling me the price my Citibank card is about to bleed, the bitchy salesman whose eyebrows have obviously been recently plucked says, “How will you pay today?” I plop down my card; he turns to a computer, types some shit up in there and hands me the bag.

I’m so excited about my first Dior Homme purchase! Until I look at the receipt and see that he charged me the full price. “Casey, he charged me the full price! What do I do what do I do what do I do?” That’s me. Casey: “What? That’s sooo wrong. There’s a sale! It’s secret, but there’s a sale.” “Is it okay if go back and ask him to change the price? Can I get a refund?”

And there I was, paranoid and completely intimidated to go back and ask for my own money. You better believe that at any other store I’m the first to be like, “Nah, hold up, bitch. The bright ass orange sign says these dildos two for $24.”

That’s how luxury works, though. It’s all about making you feel useless, powerless, like a complete fuck. Anxiety controls all.

  • Aside from the slur on "flyover country," Madison Moore is right on target about the obnoxious luxury stores in mid-town Manhattan. I can't afford Bergdorf's, but have been there for small items on sale and get treated terribly by the staff. One men's clothing store that takes a far less snooty attitude to customers--probably because the men and women working there aren't aspiring artists--is Paul Stuart on Madison Ave. It's pricey, too (but what isn't in Manhattan), but they have frequent sales and you're treated with respect.

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  • madison, bergdorfs has the best shoe section south of barneys. i used to wear jammies to go shopping and all of the sales people were always very nice to me. having said that, i agree that while some sales people can be intimidating, you can always leave. there are a million stores in nyc, try another one. one more thing, you should always get your money back. lvmh is an enormous company, they want your return business. be super fierce yourself, madison, never be too intimidated to ask for your money back.

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  • melissa: oh dont you worry, honey! i went back up in there and claimed my $150, okay!!! i see your point about bergdorf's having the best shoes and all. i mean, with carrie bradshaw shopping there all the time, it must be kinda fierce. but i've never been treated worse than at bergdorf's. you know, i've been to countless other luxury boutiques in the city (mostly downtown) and have been treated extremely well. but everytime i go to bergdorf's, it's like i'm going because i'm dying to get spanked or something. peeps are way nicer at barney's.

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  • "Just don’t look at the price tags.” In a store! Madison knows that I don't walk into luxury stores, because I can't afford anything. The salespeople know it. I know it. So I decide not to play the game. Madison is dead-on. Luxury is not about the products, not even the prices. It's about making you feel insecure. Which isn't to say luxury is all bad. Luxury products ARE better, so I think it's important we all call them out on their bullshit so we can buy nice things in piece.

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  • peace.

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  • Madison, you must be making a lot of dough to even go into those snobby stores. Of course, "fugly" clothes can be cheap or expensive. And you should've punched that sales guy in the kisser.

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  • "The more intimidated you feel, the longer and wider its cock gets" - the most accurate description of luxury shopping I've ever read. Good work!

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  • I've lived in Manhattan for over 15 years and have never stepped foot in Bergdorfs. Not that I'm intimidated by it, it's just that places like that make me want to barf in my boot.

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  • So Marty, where do you shop? Canal St.? Red Hook? No slap intended, I think Bergdorf's sucks too, just curious, and probably so is Madison Moore.

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  • As far as clothes, I don't shop for them a lot. I own two pair of jeans, about five shirts, a suit and tie and a pair of boots and a pair of dress shoes. Someone usually gives me a pair of jeans and a shirt or two at Christmas and my birthday, so that takes care of my clothing. I bought a pair of boots last November at a shoe store on 14th St. As far as other shopping such as booze and food, it's all done pretty much in and around the Union Square area because I live on 16th St. The only things I really enjoy shopping for are records and books and I shop all over New York City for them. And this is no slap either Greenlight, but why are you curious about where I shop?

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  • No offense taken, Marty. I was just curious because you said places like Bergdorf's make you want to barf. I dislike Berfdorf's, too, too claustrophobic and reeking with attitude. What are your favorite record shops in Manhattan?

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  • Wow, there's so many, I like them all, but a few that pop to mind are, Rebel Rebel, Kim's, Other Music, there's a place on Carmine street that sells all vinyl, but I can't think of the name, it's close to Bleecker. I don't have a turntable, so I rarely buy anything there, but I love to look at album covers, especially old ones. I guess because I'm old! Har har. There's also a great bookstore across the street called, Revolutionary Books (I think that's the name, I'm horrible at remembering store's names) that sells books dirt cheap and they have a great selection.

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