Monday, March 29, 2010

Designs on You!


Sell her what she doesn't need, and make her the happiest woman on earth!

We have designs on you', I read the banner as I stepped inside.

"I bet you do!" I muttered under my breath. I was there to help my Aunt Seema at her Boutique because her assistant had taken the day off. Normally, I avoided her like the plague because our ideas regarding fashion and funds ran in opposite directions! This time, however, I agreed because I was to get a free designer jora in return for the favour, plus I wanted to observe the art of lying first-hand! Ooops...did I say lying? I meant marketing...which is the thriving business of selling people what they don't need!

It's no secret that selling expensive designer-wear to women that literally empties their wallets, translates into a fortune for my dear Aunt. I don't blame her at all - a fool and her money are soon parted anyway, with or without Aunt Seema's intervention! She tells me that most women happen to believe that 'expensive' is synonymous with 'quality', much to the chagrin of their men! Now, why wouldn't someone with enough common sense (read: business sense) want to use that to their advantage?

As I stood there gaping and pondering, lesson number one came from Aunt Seema: "PR is important. Look welcoming".

I plastered a huge smile on my face. Ready for potential customers? "Yes, ma'am!"

"Wipe that silly grin off your face!" Aunt Seema glared at me.

Sigh... Before she could intimidate me any further, I quickly moved to the other side of the room to be with the two young girls I had spotted browsing through the shelves. I started following them around.

"Hmm...uh...oh...yeah...uh-huh." They moved from aisle to aisle without really showing an interest in anything.

Finally, one of them turned to me and said, "How much does this one cost?"

"Let me check for you, ma'am" I said politely.

"Wonder why they employ these silly sales girls who don't even know what they're doing here!" said the one with more 'attitude', to her friend.

As I stood there choking on an angry retort, Auntie Seema appeared out of nowhere.

"Show them all the pieces in this collection, dear, will you?" She caught that oh-so-easily-provoked rebellious look in my eyes, and bestowed me with a threatening glare - ah, if looks could kill!

Inwardly seething, outwardly smiling I took down at least fifty joras and nothing seemed to capture their fancy. I was getting frustrated but Auntie Seema's hawkish eyes boring holes into my back, from the counter where she stood her vigil, made for good incentive to keep on smiling I had to admit! Finally, when they managed to select one, I saw nothing special about the chosen one versus those doomed back to the rack...absolutely nothing! My face obviously betrayed me for they were bestowing me with a look that said: 'Poor sales-girl...never will you get it!'

I gave them a wide smile in return, pleased for once that with what Auntie SSeema was going to charge them - serves them just right!

Turning away, I spotted an exasperated mother at the opposite end trailed by the father looking utterly bored. Their young daughter was trying to select a clutch purse arguing constantly.

"This one!"

"No! It won't go with your shoes."

"Buy me new shoes too!"

"Not now! Just get the clutch that matches with your brown sandals...this looks just fine!"

"I don't want it...I want aqua!"

"Can I help you?" Gingerly, I approached, as they didn't seem to be agreeing on anything, while I was determined to raise Auntie Seema's sales for the sake of my reward that I had spotted hanging in the fifth rack!

"Yes, this young lady to to shop sensibly, will you?" The mother replied.

I smiled, "Get the beige clutch to go with your brown sandles like your Mum wants... and I will find you just the right pair of sandals for your dainty feet to go with this aqua purse you love!"

"Thanks a lot", the mother glared. "I'll manage without that kind of help!" she grabbed the girl's elbow and steered her towards the door.

I'm only doing my job! I shrugged.

The father beamed at me as he turned to go. I bet he didn't want them to buy anything in the first place!

"Excuse me!" I swirled to find a lady with a wide smile standing behind me.

"Dear...would you find me something that has enough cut and style to make my waist look about 25 and hide my heavy shoulders? And, mind it, it has to be in a bright colour...but blue doesn't suit me...and not in chiffon...I'm allergic to it....and listen..."

Help! I'm already moving away... A bright coloured dress, but not blue; not in chiffon; with waistline 25 to fit 45...sure, no problem!

I looked around...where was she who had been trailing me all morning unnecessarily? I muttered to myself helplessly trying to spot Aunt Seema. Failing that, I hurried off to the changing room to settle my nerves. Settle my nerves?! Gosh, I sounded like my grandmother already as I stood there wiping my brow!

At last, I peeked from behind the curtain. The 45-wishing-to-be-25 lady seemed to have given up on me as she was nowhere in sight. I saw three other ladies, though. I rushed to their side pretending to be very busy as I knew Aunty Seema must have been trying to locate me all the time I was hiding away 'settling my nerves'!

One of the three women at least looked like someone who would know what she wanted rather than have me attempt the impossible. As I approached, she turned to me with a polite smile and asked what I had in a 'reasonable' range.

"Ma'am all this is reasonable stuff - between the range of seven and twelve thousand per piece." I reply, reassuringly.

"Good, God! No, no...I think I'll pass. Zaina, you go ahead." She turned to her friend.

"But ma'am, just look at the stylish designs and the fine quality of fabric! And this colour would look absolutely divine on you." (Ah, I'm learning, after all!)

"My dear, I'd rather spend that kind of money to improve my intellectual capacity - something I can rely on to stay with me till the end - rather than adorning physical attributes which are disappearing fast anyway!" She smiled, unruffled.

"Wow!" I gushed excitedly, forgetting all my newly learned lessons. "Now here's a lady who has got her priorities in order! I totally agree with you!"

"Oh? You're a sensible girl for all your years!" She awarded me with a warm smile again. The other two of her friends promptly put their selections down.

"Yeah...I think I'll pass too", said one.

"Great! Buy some books instead...there's an awfully good book store next door...and good prices too...oh...and while you're at it, you could - Ow!" I yelped in pain, as I was cut short abruptly by Aunty Seema who grinded her stiletto into my toe!

The Monster, the dragon, the ...the...!!! I gave her a wounded look - no pun intended! - and what did I get in return? Daggers in her eyes for me and saccharin smiles for her precious clients!

She steered them away, speaking soothingly, willing them not to pay any attention to the tirade coming from 'babble-land'!

"Let me show you some outfits to your taste...reasonably priced too...after all one's got to have some style to move in the society..."

Suddenly I felt like I had lost my appetite for the important business of fortune-making. And also for the jora on fifth rack - who needed temporary adornment, anyway?

I turned towards the door. Bye-bye boutique adventure. Perhaps I'll stick to being my own person rather than learning the art of lying...and it sure wouldn't hurt to go off to the bookshop next door to 'supplement my intellectual capacity' instead.

Published in You magazine, The News; Jan, 09.


  1. tahera, never read a more realistic account of what goes on inside a desighner boutique. i am embarrassed to admit that i had quite a few "weak" moments when i got sucked into their marketing/lieing techniques.
    i can't stop thinking about the "jora" on fifth rack. what a smart writer u are as u left it to me to figure out what it looked like, and was it even worth it.
    absolutely loved it, sweatheart.

  2. I like to respond to comments and hold a sort of a dialogue...

    Thank you for your comment, Shehla Baji...and the ever-so-generous praise. I know you love dressing up and must have had many similar boutique adventures! Sure would love to hear a few of yours.


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