Spending and Saving in New York City: Part Five

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you purchase through our links. Please read our full disclosure here.

Editor’s Note: This is part five of Noel’s ongoing series about her adventures navigating the NYC fashion world as a college student, adjusting to life without total financial support from her parents, and learning where to spend and save! In case you missed them, see Spending and Saving in New York City: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.

Brooklyn Indie Market

Photo Credit: Noel Duan

Last Sunday morning, I took a one-hour subway ride to the Brooklyn Indie Market, partly because I was writing an article about the venue for the Columbia Daily Spectator and partly because I needed to buy Christmas gifts for all of my friends and family. Also, partly because I had been cooped up behind my textbooks for the entire weekend and I wanted to get out of there — even though I promptly returned to Manhattan and immediately settled down in the library. For twelve straight hours without food. Really, there are times when shopping is crucial to one’s health, especially when it forces one to get fresh air.

So, there I was, at the design and product market. I checked out some vendors, such as The Message Mat and folfolle. However, as delightful as the products were, I was more interested in chatting with the vendors than I was in purchasing a leather cuff bracelet. The only thing I ended up buying at the market was a $2 pumpkin blondie with brown butter frosting and white chocolate chunks from Bullfrog EATS. Delicious, but I was still without presents for my friends.

See, everyone was so warm and friendly at the market. All the vendors were willing to chat with me without shoving their products in my face, and I could not but think back to my traumatizing childhood experiences with sales associates.

Case in point: In seventh grade, I desired a Paul Frank sweatshirt from PacSun (which, by the way, has changed its aesthetics immensely throughout the years). Don’t ask me why I wanted a cartoon monkey on my chest — it was the trend back then and I bought into it like any insecure middle school student would have. So, I took myself into the store at my local mall, and the sales associate behind the counter laughed at me and said, “Is this, like, your first time here or something? No offense, but only the cool kids shop here.”

I, horrified at what had just happened, bought my Paul Frank sweatshirt, mumbled something about monkeys, and left the store. Twelve-year-old me wasn’t ready to confront The Snotty Sales Associate. Twelve-year-old me just wanted a Paul Frank sweatshirt.

But nowadays, I’ve figured out a few key points to making the most out of your sales associate experience — maybe it’s because I’ve been frequenting Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue too often, but at least something good came out of it:

  1. It’s a fact: you get more attention if you already have a few shopping bags, proving that you’re there to shop and not peruse. It makes sense, doesn’t it? When you try out on clothes without buying anything, sales associates still have to pick them up and refold them for you.
  2. No sweat if you don’t have four Bloomingdale’s bags with you before you walk into Neiman Marcus — really, you just need to act confident and not out-of-place. That is, put yourself in the mindset of someone who can afford to buy $500 Lanvin flats and ask if you can try on the Miu Miu coat (the answer is always “yes”). Don’t feel guilty if you think you’re “tricking” the sales associates into thinking you can actually afford the coat. In my experience, I always make something productive out of it — I examine the stitches, fabric, cut, and print in order to understand the craftsmanship better.
  3. Dress to the nines. Have you ever seen Clueless, where Cher needs to go shopping for clothes to shop in? Well, I used to think that was stupid, but now I understand (somewhat) what she meant — appearances do matter. I used to wear comfortable clothes when I went shopping, but now I end up looking like I’m going to a party in my best clothes. Is it worth it? I really don’t know, but sales associates are a lot warmer to me.

In any case, I’m still looking for Christmas presents for friends and family, but it’s nice to know that the retail world is not out to get me. Worst case scenario, online shopping has never done me harm (except when I look at my bank account).

Have you ever had any bad store experiences? Do you dress up to go shopping?

P.S. I was wandering around the West Village with fellow blogger, Dara Adeeyo of Secretista, when we saw the fantastic Cynthia Rowley in her own boutique!

Cynthia Rowley

Photo Credit: Dara Adeeyo

She kindly obliged for a photo with my starstruck self — really, she was the sweetest person ever. Where else but in New York City can you meet a favorite designer while on a study break?

25 thoughts on “Spending and Saving in New York City: Part Five”

  1. I think people should look look neat and clean in public, period. You can still do that while being comfortable and without trying too hard. If a sales associate treats me poorly for whatever reason, that store does not get my hard-earned dollars. The hell I look like getting dressed up and putting on airs to go BUY something, like that’s some type of privilege? lol

  2. that sales associate sounds like he had a case of the bitches. whatta mean dude.

    i certainly make sure i look presentable if im going ‘nice’ shopping – somehow i dont care when popping into target if im wearing sweats – and especially take care of your feet if you’re trying on shoes! not just that the shoes you are wearing and then taking off are neat and not scruffy but that your feet are in good condition. i remember being horrified at neimans when i witnessed this woman with stinky and chipped-polish feet trying on shoes. which she didn’t buy. kinda felt it ruined it for the staff, the rest of us and the poor soul who would buy the shoes.

    i think i consoled my horror with a pair of chloe flats. shoes cure all.

  3. Although the previous commenter presented a good point (that it is their job to treat people nicely), I find that they usually aren’t.

    For example, I usually try to look put together. However, one day I had been up all night and my friends and I wanted to go to the mall together. I threw on some sweats, and went into Sephora because I was hoping to find an eyeshadow pallet to purchase. The sales associate followed my friends and I around, as if we were going to steal something. I was so offended I left the store without purchasing anything, even though I could afford what they were offering.

    The next time I went to the mall, I dressed as I normally do, and was treated much nicer by every sales associate I encountered. The fact of the matter is, sales associates judge you. When you see a girl in class with her hair in disarray, her clothes wrinkled, etc. what do YOU think of her? Now imagine that same girl trying on five shirts, three pairs of pants,and a pair of shoes. Do you really think she is going to buy all of those things? Even if she does, you will be more inclined to think she is wasting your time.

    Keep up the nice work Noel, I love these articles 🙂

  4. a lot of these posts reminded me of something my mom told me. when she first came to the US, she would dress up to go shopping & the people thought she was weird because of it (she’s from the very fashionable & cosmopolitan hong kong 🙂 ). apparently dressing up to go out is something a lot of people do outside of the US – my aunt still does it. 🙂

    also the shopping experience varies from country to country. here in the US, people think it’s rude to be “stalked” by sales people, whereas it’s normal in other parts of the world. seems like it’s part of good service there – i heard it’s because sales people are expected to do more than just ring you up at the register when you’re done or help you find something. they act kind of like personal shoppers.

  5. Haha, how interesting! This was a fun post to read, thanks. I don’t know why, but I always feel really awkward when I shop. Maybe it’s because the sales people follow me around and stare me down. But dressing nice definitely helps because you feel and look more put together. 🙂

  6. Hehehe, I love this post Noel, since some day, I’ll be back in New York City again! :]

    I FOR TOTES, agree with you that “you have to dress nice to be treated well” by the sales people! =/ I know it may sound totally strange and a bit rude, but we all know there are SOME sales people out there aren’t always the nicest! :'(

    Well, the other reason why I dress-up so nice when shopping is so because I want to impress other people of course! (: Remember, the mall IS public, and chances are, you’ll see tons of other girls your age shopping around too, and what better way to say hi then make them jealous with your new suede knee-high boots? :]

    Fantastic post! 😀


  7. this happened to me as well, but with makeup. I was shopping at an estee lauder counter for foundation and literally the saleswoman made me cry! she was so rude and I was so horrified by the whole experience that I demanded, through my tears, to see her manager then to see the store’s manager. Needless to say I got a huge discount and I will never be shopping there again.

  8. If more people started standing up to these rude associates I think their attitude would change. I have been followed around stores like I’m going to steal something and it’s ridiculous. I don’t mean to be condescending at all (I once worked in sales) but they don’t make that much money themselves so how can some of them look at a potential customer like that? I won’t shop in a place where I’m treated rudely. It’s just not right.

  9. I think dressing up a bit nicer just makes everyone around you treat you nicer, this does not only work for shopping. Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes.

    No offense, but hey blogger, you could use some dressing up (from that photo). You are in NYC, after all.


Leave a Comment