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Monday, June 18, 2012

Observations in a mall: The lady with the expensive purse

I was standing in the checkout line at the Dollar Store in the mall with a basket full of decorations for my daughter's birthday party. There was a young lady standing in front of me, she was the next to get checked-in.

Her hair was blond, perfectly straight. it fell just below her shoulders. Her long white coat came just above her knee. The hem of the blue dress she was wearing fell about an inch below the coat hem to reveal tanned legs. She was over-dressed for the dollar store. She held several items in her hand: a greeting card that said "Happy Birthday to the man I love," a small navy blue gift bag and white wrapping tissue. I guessed she was going to a birthday party. She placed the items on the countertop then laid her oversized purse down as if to create a barrier between her stuff and mine.
The teenaged clerk scanned each item without much thought, she had obviously worked here for a while. The total was $ 5.97. The lady took a credit card out of her  wallet. The clerk pointed to the machine on the counter and said "Swipe towards me, we don't have a chip reader yet." The cash machine spit out the receipt and the clerk tore it off, grabbed a pen and passed it to the lady saying "Sign at the bottom." The tip of the pin slightly grazed the front of the purse.

Without warning the lady grabbed the purse off the countertop startling both me and the clerk. She pushed it towards the clerk, her face filled with anger "Look what you did!" she yelled, "Do you know what this purse costs? That ink mark better come out or you'll be replacing it!" The young clerk froze not knowing what to say at first then "It was an accident. I don't see a mark." The lady slammed the purse down on the counter "I see a mark and it better come out! This purse costs over $5000! It's a real Louis Vuitton!"
It was then I realized she wasn't a young girl. I had only seen her from behind first but as she berated the clerk I could see her whole face. She was in her late 40s maybe even early 50s. The lines around her eyes were deep and you could see where the make-up ended on her  jaw line and her neck  began. She looked like a women who had spent too much time in the sun or a tanning booth. He lipstick was bright red, a colour that was much too young for her face. It was then I noticed her shoes. They were the black, plastic $19.97 pumps from Walmart. I know because I have the same ones. I thought to myself "Why would someone carrying a $5000 purse wear cheap shoes from Walmart?

The clerk quickly bagged the ladies items. "I want the manager's name and phone number" she demanded. The clerk wrote the information on a piece of paper and handed it to her. The lady grabbed it from her fingers and put it in her pocket. She left the store with the Louis Vuitton over her shoulder and the Dollar Store bag in her hand. The clerk's face was red, sweat ran off her brow and she wiped it with her arm. She was shaking and tried to smile at me while saying "Did you find everything you were looking for?" I nodded yes and her hands shook as she picked up each item to scan it.
I left the store and stopping at the food court for a coffee and to check my email. It wasn't until I sat down and opened my coffee that I realized Mrs. Louis Vuitton was sitting at the table next to me. She sat on the opposite side than I did. So we were face to face. She was on her cell phone and didn't look at me.  I only had a few email, mostly items to delete so I put the phone down and began my favourite sport of people watching.

My eyes kept wandering back to the overly dressed Mrs. Vuitton. Why hadn't she gone to her party? She put the blue gift bag on the table and took a small box out of her expensive purse. I recognized the name of the jewelry store on the front. She opened it and arranged the cufflinks so the birthday boy would see the monogrammed initial as soon as he opened the box. She put the box in the bag then took out the wrapping tissue and arranged it like a hankerchief poking out of the bag. She took out the birthday card and opened it up. She searched through her expensive purse but couldn't find a pen. She finally noticed me sitting across from her and with a smile asked "Do you have a pen I could borrow?" I lifted my blue Coach purse from the seat next to me "Sure" I took out my cheap plastic pen and handed it to her. She wrote "Love" then her name. She put the card in its envelope and placed it in the bag. She picked up her cell phone and continued to make calls. My pen was still in her hand.
It was then I noticed what Mrs. Vuitton was doing. She had her ATM card out of her wallet, she was calling the number on the back. I could tell she got the recording to type in her card number and password because I've made that call from a mall many a time myself. She followed the instructions and continued pressing buttons. I knew she was checking the totals in her saving and chequing accounts. She began biting her lower lip and hung up the phone. She took out the credit card she had used at the dollar store and called the number on the back. She entered the card number and continued to press numbers, checking the balance on her credit card. Then hung up. She took out a second credit card and did the same thing. The anxious look on her face told me she was at her limit. It was then I noticed she wasn't wearing a wedding ring.

As soon as she laid the phone back on the table it rang. She picked it up, "Hello. Oh I see." She was oblivious to me and spoke like I couldn't hear her. "Your children get the flu a lot lately. I have your birthday gift with me. I was looking forward to giving it to you." There was a pause as she listened to the caller, "I know you told me no presents but she won't notice this gift, I promise." I realized the man on the other end, the birthday boy she was waiting for, was married. "Ok, I understand. Will I get to see you over the weekend?" The look on her face during the pause told me she wouldn't see him then either. She hung up the phone.
She picked up her Louis Vuitton purse that had been sitting on the chair next to her and placed it on the table. She put her cell phone inside. It was then I noticed it! Her "Louis Vuitton" was a "Louie Vuition!" It was spelled wrong.  It was a fake! The purse costs no more than $35 at a Florida flea market. She had berated a teenage clerk at the Dollar Store over a cheap rip-off purse!

She stood up, picked up her present and the cheap purse. She realized she still had my pen in her hand. "Thanks" she said as she passed me the pen. She noticed my Coach purse on the table. "Nice purse" she smiled "I love quality." She turned her back to me and walked away. He cheap Walmart pumps clicked on the floor tile, her fake Louie over her shoulder and her plans for the night squashed.
"Quality" I thought. It takes a small person to berate a teenager over accidently marking a fake purse.  A smaller person still to interfere with a marriage. Would she ever call the store manager? I doubt it. I watched her leave through the mall's doors. This woman didn't know the first thing about quality.