To celebrate my birthday, my wife took me to Hermes on Madison Avenue to order a dark green breast wallet in pebble-grain calfskin. The following account is unedited and unabridged. First, we went to the main store, on the east side of Madison. "Hi, I'm looking for a breast wallet." "Jenny (or whatever her name was) will help you." Jenny led us to a display case with many different wallets. "So, are you familiar with our designs? "No, not really, to be honest. I'm looking for a breast wallet, so I suppose we can start by looking at whatever you have in that category." "What kind of wallet? "A breast wallet." "Well, we have many kinds of wallets for men. Would you like me to show you a very popular bill-fold?" "No, I'm looking for a breast wallet--you know, the sort you put in your breast pocket." "I'm afraid we don't have that design." "Uhh, I'm pretty sure you guys make and sell breast wallets. I've seen them online." "We have men's wallets, but not here. You have to go across the street." We cross the street to see the men's shop, bewildered. There, we are greeted warmly by Carla (not her real name). "Hello, how can I help you today?" "We're looking for a breast wallet." "Oh, we have those." She leads us to a display case with gloves and scarves, not breast wallets. She realizes there are no breast wallets, or wallets of any sort, in the display, and leads us elsewhere. We wander over to another case. It has breast wallets in it. "So, this is what we have." There are lots of different colored breast wallets in the case, all apparently identical in form from the outside (they're breast wallets). "Great, what different models are there?" "Well, we have two to choose from." She takes out two wallets and shows them to us. One is more substantial than the other and the one I prefer. I don't remember the names. "This one is exactly what I'm looking for. How much is it?" "Oh, I don't know. I'd have to check on that." A long silence. She makes no motions suggesting she's going to do so. I notice a piece of paper in the wallet. "Well, umm, there's a tag in here. It says $XXXX." "Oh, that's interesting. I'd have to check and see if that's correct. It might be." "Okay, well, I assume it won't be far off at any rate. We're interested in ordering this in dark green." "Oh, here's one." She pulls out a not-green wallet. It is the color of day-old pea soup that's been left out of the fridge. Or vomit. "Well, I'm really thinking of a dark, forest green, not so much . . . this." "Oh, I see." She takes out all of the wallets in the case and in the drawer beneath, laying them out for me to see. None of them are green, dark or otherwise. "Which color do you like?" "Honestly, I'm only interested in dark green, though some of these are very nice." "I'm not sure if we have dark green." "Well, is there a way to check? If you don't have one in stock, I'd be happy to do a custom order." "I can't discuss that at this time." "I'm sorry . . . what?" "I'm not sure if we have dark green." "Right, but can you check if you do, or maybe look into a special order? We'd like to buy this today" "It depends. I don't have access to all the colors." At this point, I am trying very hard not to show my utter disbelief and frustration. Above all, I'm confused. "Umm, do you have a book of leather swatches we can look through?" "No, there's no such thing." "That's funny. The last time I was in your Chicago shop a couple years ago, there was one out on the table and I was told I could do special orders out of it." "Well, it depends. There's such a book, but it depends on what you're ordering." . . . "What if I'm ordering this wallet?" . . . "It depends. I don't know what colors we have access to. They're in Paris." "Okay, so I can't have this wallet in dark green, I take it?" "I don't know if the color you're thinking of is available." "Well, does the swatch book tell us what's available?" "Yes, but I don't know if it has dark green in it. Also, even if there is dark green, it might not be in a hide that we can use for the wallet." "Err, do you know what hides can be used?" "I don't, but it says in the book." "So, couldn't we just look through the book and pick a color in a hide that works?" "Uhh, I suppose theoretically. Umm, yeah, why not?" She comes back with a big book. She shows me which sorts of hides are usable. There is exactly one suitable green, though it isn't as dark as I'd like. "Well, this one could work." "Yes, it's very pretty. And it's in the right hide." "Great, let's order it then. How long will it take?" "Maybe before Christmas. It depends on whether it's in stock somewhere." "Oh, you mean, I don't have to do a custom order? Fantastic." "It depends." "On what?" "Well, let me go check and see if it's in stock somewhere. I can get back to you on Monday, unless you'd rather wait. It could take a long time." "Oh, how long?" "Five to ten minutes." "I think we'll wait in that case." Twenty minutes later, she returns. "I'm sorry, but it's not in our system." "Shucks. I guess we'll have to do a custom order, then." "I'm not able to discuss that at this time." "Wha--I don't understand." "It all depends on what you want." "I want this wallet, in that dark green leather." "I'm . . . I'm not able to discuss that at this time." "Discuss what?" "There are many different levels of custom order. It could be two-thousand dollars or twenty-thousand." "But, I just want to order this wallet. In dark green--the green you just showed me." "Yes, I see. It all depends." "On what?" "The level of custom order." "What level would I need for this?" "It depends on what you'd like to change, and we'd have to check with Paris at some point." "I dont wan't to change anything but the color." "Paris will need to approve that." "Okay . . . how do we get to the step where you check with Paris?" "I'm . . . not able to discuss that at this time." "Okay, is there someone else we can talk to about custom orders?" "That would be me. I'm the corporate representative in the store. If someone wants to do a custom order, all the questions come to me." "So, can you help us? I would like to do this order today." "It all depends. Why don't I take your e-mail and number? Or perhaps you can come back to the store sometime next week." "Honestly, I don't want to come back to the store. We already know what we want, and we came in today hoping to discuss it." "Well, let me check with Paris, then. I'll get back to you, or whoever is in charge of custom orders will, maybe on Tuesday or Wednesday. If not then, then probably sometime after the new year. It all depends." Defeated, deflated, and mind-boggled, we thank Carla for her time and leave the store. It was like seeing Talarico, but much worse.