A short time ago, I took my GF Ruth's mother, Françoise, age 83, shopping. Ruth was on the beach in Cabo San Lucas with a daiquiri, I was in the mall/ant farm known as the Eaton Centre, with Mum, her walker, and a generous gift card from Ruth's partner. Françoise was hell-bent on new clothes.
She lives alone in a suburban apartment, without a car. Her daughter is devoted, but had not yet been able to mount the expedition– so I willingly volunteered.
But I chose a mall skewed toward the Mango/Bebe/LaSenza crowd. I mean, Banana Republic is 'older' there. We went because I thought we were looking for only a spring jacket, and the department store (The Bay) has a mammoth outerwear department.
Françoise struck it lucky at The Bay, immediately scoring a sharp cherry-red London Fog topper, 60% off. We visited Housewares to buy crystal beer glasses for GF's guy. Yay, done in under an hour!
I saw the exit ramp in sight, but this stop only primed the pump for her; she had a second, previously undisclosed gift card tucked in her wallet. I then realized we'd be there for hours and mentally pictured the martini I'd have once I'd returned her safely home.
We trolled the mall; she wanted to stop at Laura, a popular-priced women's store that carries bright print shirts, career clothes, embellished sweaters, target market older than H&M but younger than Talbot's. My heart sank: I had a size 16 Petite biddy in tow, high on getting downtown, feeling flush. And I thought, there's nothing here for her.
But I underestimated the professionalism and determination of a young, motivated salesperson. Françoise told her, "I want a two-piece set", by which she meant a pantsuit, and lo, the girl found her three: a classic mid-gray wool, a salt and pepper tweed, and a refined, seasonless navy fine wool crepe. The navy, the most expensive, was by Louben, a Montreal company she knew from her seventy years spent there. And all on sale!
They brought me to a plush love seat, served us Perrier, fussed over her, offered next-day alterations. You would have thought I was Stacey freakin' London.
All three fit, given minor tucks. Françoise chose the navy crepe and added a string of faux gray pearls. Her choice outshone everything in the store.
She told the saleswomen (two others assembled to extend the gentle good will of affectionate nieces): "Isn't she WONDERFUL? Picked me UP! Made me LUNCH! Brought me HERE!" and insisted on buying me a strand too. She sailed out one ecstatic biddy, gift card exhausted.
I acquired my own strand of faux pearls (her gift), a first-hand experience of exceptional customer service (which never happens to me), and yes, that evening, a restorative martini.
How did we get the red-carpet treatment? She's vivacious and voluble. Her limited mobility brought out their helpful side. (Sweating bullets hauling her bags, I elicited sympathy too.) We were in a quiet store. She obviously wanted to buy.
When I commented to Françoise that they had been incredibly helpful, she said, "Well, that's what they're paid to do." It struck me that I am simply so unaccustomed to service that I am astonished when I get it!