What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Luxury Good
Now that we know what a luxury retailer owes you, we must understand how that same retailer should treat you.
All of that—the promotional grandeur, the light shows, the magic, and the feats of derring-do announced by an impresario of charm and theatricality—is revealed as an illusion after one enters the seemingly real fiefdom of wealth (or “old money”), absolute comfort, and manufactured innocence.
It is a beautiful illusion, but it’s an illusion just the same.
The performance is obligatory but never labored: it should look and feel authentic, like you are, in fact, the center of this self-enclosed universe of cashmere, cotton, wool, mahogany, mink, sable, and sumptuous swatches of leather, silk, and satin.
Once a salesperson approaches you, the spell is over. That is not a bad thing because how that man or woman behaves will determine whether the performance continues (albeit in a different and more participatory fashion), or whether you make a run for the exit.
It is easier to know when to leave and to do so with great speed because the proverbial “tells” are so obvious: the pressure to buy, and to buy right now, is something you should never experience while browsing in a high-end boutique or department store.
If a salesperson sees you focus on or examine (by sorting through a shelf of color-coordinated items) a specific coat or sweater, and he says, “We have one left in stock. I can save it for you, as a favor, until tomorrow morning. I cannot guarantee it will be available after we open at ten,” that unexpected—and even startling, which is why the salesperson says it—statement can make you jump, falter, or stutter. It should also make you bid farewell to the salesperson and the store.
The intrusive manner and the high-pressure sales tactics described above prove at least two things.
First, that salesperson has a weekly or monthly sales quota he must meet.
Second, whether the aggressive employee has a quota or is just an overzealous anomaly, by seeking to move inventory, to earn consistently large commissions, and to rapidly advance within a company, his or her actions belie the very purpose of that store’s existence. The luxury retail environment is a sacred space; it is not a training ground for used-car salesmen or disreputable individuals “managed” by some belligerent but invisible (to the consumer) boss who uses fear and intimidation to mislead shoppers and induce buyer’s remorse.
All of this reveals another “tell” about that retailer—namely, the goods and services within that store are not worthy of the designation of luxury.
The reason this hypothetical brand is not a maker of luxury products is simple: craftsmanship speaks for itself.
A premium item is so identifiable—the sophistication of a Rolls-Royce Phantom, which has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $482,275, is so apparent—that a salesperson does not, first and foremost, try to sell you anything.
He or she is there to provide you with an experience that reflects the brand.
What, then, is the role of a salesperson on behalf of a luxury retailer?
It is to provide an uplifting, ephemeral experience and to help you come to the best possible conclusion. Sometimes
Sometimes this may mean suggesting that you not buy.
Once, a very important judge came to our store to trade in his granddaughter’s coat because he felt it was out of style. Upon examination I felt it was truly classic and still had years of wear. I told him that, and he was so shocked and happy to know what the real deal was.
The luxury experience has to take us away from ourselves and our daily emotional pain, away from our stresses and worries. When buying a fur for a loved one (even if that loved one is yourself), the time buying must be more than the sum of its parts. There must be a true human interaction as the buyer and seller meet on a deep level of understanding.
“Welcome to Mano Swartz.”
Those four words, enunciated clearly and invitingly, should put the customer’s mind at ease. Your Mano Experience is about to begin.