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Mafoofan struggles to buy breast wallet at Hermes . . . arises victorious!

Phileas Fogg

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I went to an Hermes boutique recently to buy a bag called Birkin for my wife without knowing how they operate. I just walked in and announced to the SA that I would like this bag called Birkin. The SA sort of settled me down and started going into some spiel about how it is about building a relationship before I can shell out $10k on a bag. I found this game to be a bit amusing and fuck'ed up at the same time. I have to freaking "level up" to get to a status and only then I have a shot at this bag. What the fook is going on here, I asked myself. This sounded similar to how Ferrari operates. Just take my money and give me the freaking bag. What relationship and why?! Gotta play the game to get what I want???
men have their SS watch “waitlists” and women have their handbag as a white whale.
 

Loathing

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I guess if I had unlimited money and literally no other interests or things to do with my time, I’d jump through the hoops of “building a relationship” with a Hermès shop assistant so that I could a acquire a series of increasingly expensive frivolous consumer goods.
 

Phileas Fogg

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I guess if I had unlimited money and literally no other interests or things to do with my time, I’d jump through the hoops of “building a relationship” with a Hermès shop assistant so that I could a acquire a series of increasingly expensive frivolous consumer goods.
I have a feeling “building an relationship” may sometimes consist of nothing more than being a local celebrity.
 

mhip

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I guess if I had unlimited money and literally no other interests or things to do with my time, I’d jump through the hoops of “building a relationship” with a Hermès shop assistant so that I could a acquire a series of increasingly expensive frivolous consumer goods.
It makes me feel somewhat better about my high-end shoplifting...
 

JJ Katz

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I guess if I had unlimited money and literally no other interests or things to do with my time, I’d jump through the hoops of “building a relationship” with a Hermès shop assistant so that I could a acquire a series of increasingly expensive frivolous consumer goods.
It’s not the fetishistic, reified consumerism of it all that I object to but the supine acceptance of a masochistic relationship with a supplier. Really too ridiculous for words.
 
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BPL Esq

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I don't think it's really as big a deal or as absurd as some people make it out. Each store has a very limited supply of the most popular stuff, so good customers get priority over strangers when it comes to buying that really popular stuff. If there is nothing else you care to buy from the store except the really popular item(s) they have to ration out, then you could just skip over all that and buy it more or less new from someone else.

It's not appreciably different from Rolex, Ferrari, etc. "Nice to meet you [Rolex AD], I'd like to buy a Daytona and one of those green Submariners I've heard about. Please wrap the Daytona up and I'll wear the Sub out of the store." Good luck.

With that said, just like with watches, etc., plenty of people get caught up in the "relationship" nonsense. You can find plenty of comments on TPF where women are frantic about whether they may have somehow slighted their Hermes SA, if they "ruined the relationship," and whether they should just start all over again at a different location further from home. That sort of stuff is pathetic. Just buy what you want from the store, and use the same SA each time if reasonably practicable, and you'll eventually get whatever you're after.
 

Phileas Fogg

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It definitely helps when you know an SA. I’ll sometimes get a heads up on a sale or if I’m there a few days before the sale, he’ll go ahead and advance the discount. They also get to know your style and if I’m going in I’ll ask that he pull some items for me so I don’t have to waste a lot of time trying to describe what I want.

The women described above sound like basket cases to begin with.
 

BPL Esq

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It definitely helps when you know an SA. I’ll sometimes get a heads up on a sale or if I’m there a few days before the sale, he’ll go ahead and advance the discount. They also get to know your style and if I’m going in I’ll ask that he pull some items for me so I don’t have to waste a lot of time trying to describe what I want.

The women described above sound like basket cases to begin with.
Yeah, there are advantages to the "relationship," and it's a bit odd that some on SF bash the concept when it comes to Hermes but lament the loss of that sort of relationship with, for example, Brooks Brothers salesmen in years gone by. They may protest that you didn't have to play any "game" at Brooks Brothers to get what you wanted, but if Brooks Brothers on Madison Ave. got only one very desirable suit in each color per season, you can bet that the guys getting those suits would be good, regular customers and not a tourist who wandered in randomly and asked for one.

I certainly don't advocate buying a bunch of stuff you don't want just to improve your standing with an SA in the hope of getting something more "exclusive" (just like with Rolex), but it makes complete sense for Hermes SAs to prioritize their good, established customers when they're trying to get an "exclusive" item allocated for them to sell.
 

Loathing

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Yeah, there are advantages to the "relationship," and it's a bit odd that some on SF bash the concept when it comes to Hermes but lament the loss of that sort of relationship with, for example, Brooks Brothers salesmen in years gone by. They may protest that you didn't have to play any "game" at Brooks Brothers to get what you wanted, but if Brooks Brothers on Madison Ave. got only one very desirable suit in each color per season, you can bet that the guys getting those suits would be good, regular customers and not a tourist who wandered in randomly and asked for one.
What a strange series of sentences. Brooks Brothers isn’t exactly a bellwether of good service and good business ethics, but even if we assume they were in their golden age, they never did artificially constrict supply so that they would have only have one very desirable suit per season, so your counterexample doesn’t work. There is no traditional shop or tailor that would ever tell you you’re not allowed to buy their best products until you’ve spent a bunch of money on other stuff. They might reward you for loyalty but no one is taking issue with that. They certainly would not snatch a product out of your hands and tell you prove to them that you’re good (and rich) enough to own (and touch) it. Having a good relationship or even friendship with a shopkeeper or artisan can be a wonderful thing of mutual respect. But that’s not what you’re getting with a Hermès shop assistant who’s taking the measure of your worth with every transaction, is it?

Neither has Hermès ever had especially low stocks of Kelly or Birkin bags — they do constrict supply artificially but they still sell them by the tens of thousands. They limit your access to them only because they want to cross sell their other products, and they don’t want poor people saving up to buy just one product and thereby dilute the brand. They want their flagship products only to be worn by people who have the whole look and are sufficiently elite and high status to make their brand look elite and high status.

I also don’t understand your references to tourists. Where I live 90%+ of people buying things in a Hermès store are tourists. Hermès is quite happy to sell anything to tourists as long as they spend enough money, and you have a global account with the store that they can look up anyway.
 

Loathing

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BPL Esq

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Yes, I plainly stated that I do not understand your reasoning.
I didn't suggest Brooks Brothers was a bellwether. I mentioned what I've seen lots of SF members say about Brooks Brothers. What I said about the suits wasn't a "counterexample;" it was a hypothetical scenario illustrating what is going on with certain items at Hermes.

Hermes is hardly unique, although it is certainly unlike many other shops. You can walk into many Rolex authorized dealers and be shown Daytonas, etc., that you are not allowed to buy unless you've bought other things to demonstrate your appreciation for the brand and waited for your turn. You can walk into a Ferrari dealership and look at brand new cars that you aren't allowed to buy unless you've bought others from them in the past and demonstrated your appreciation for the brand.

I've never felt any Hermes SA was measuring my "worth." I'm not wealthy by any means but have always gotten very good service. I've been treated exactly the same when I've gone in dressed very casually in inexpensive clothing as I have been when I wore expensive loafers and dressier clothing. Then again, I haven't asked to look at the Birkins yet.

While Hermes may not have a shortage of Kelly/Birkin bags overall, the individual boutiques don't receive them in great numbers, and the SAs are effectively in competition with each other to get those bags allocated for them to sell to their good customers. Naturally, they prioritize the customers that buy regularly and earn them commissions over virtual strangers who may wander in. They have to justify their pick to the store director, and it's a much better pitch if you can reliably predict that the woman being offered the bag will buy it, be very happy with you, and return to buy more vs. picking someone who just wants a Birkin and will never be back once that thirst has been slaked. It's also worth pointing out that you can sometimes get lucky and happen to be in the store when they have a Birkin/Kelly up for grabs and just buy it right then without playing any games. Hermes also very occasionally and quietly puts a Birkin or Kelly up for sale on their website where absolutely anyone with a credit card (with an adequate limit) can buy it. You just have to be browsing at the right moment, as it will be gone almost immediately.

That's also where the "tourist" part comes in. I didn't suggest they discriminate against tourists generally (i.e., suggest that they don't sell stuff to tourists; they obviously do). But an SA in a boutique that is frequented by locals who stop by frequently and spend money is naturally going to favor those customers over a tourist who wanders in and may never return. They may make exceptions for excellent customers of the brand overall, but I think that's less common.

I think you're on the wrong track if you think the goal is to exclude "poor people." Most poor people are automatically excluded by being unable or unwilling to blow $10k on a bag when there are much better and more pressing uses for that money. In addition and in contrast, lots of entitled, wealthy women find Hermes extremely frustrating because Hermes won't even sell a Birkin to them when they offer to overpay to get their hands on one faster. The same rules apply to everyone except perhaps very visible celebrities like Victoria Beckham.

You are right that Hermes carefully cultivates its image, but it seems they're more concerned with brand appreciation and loyalty (hence the cross-selling they want to see) than they are about making sure the "riff raff" can't save up and get a purse.
 

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