Oh, to be middle-aged, middle-class and schlepping around New York’s super-chic shopping district, SoHo.
Oh, wait a sec – I am. So why am I not beaming like everyone else coming out of stores where skirts with unfinished seams and coats too cool to actually close sell for more than a family vacation?
Because I am American. That means I am paid in dollars. That means I am still part of the world where something that costs $100 feels as if it costs $100, even though if I were a European awash in euros, that same item would cost about two-thirds the price.
And pretty much everyone else is SoHo is awash.
“It’s perfect!” said Luis Reish, a visiting banker from Portugal, when asked how he felt about the dollar. We were sitting in a store where his girlfriend had one shapely leg in a brown stilettoheeled boot and the other in a low-heeled black leather boot. Not that you actually could see the boots themselves – these were encased in leg warmers that just happened to be made entirely of fur.
The boyfriend preferred the stilettos (big surprise). I did, too. “Go for the brown!” I said, trying to get into the spirit of $400 legwear.
“It’s honey,” she replied, pointing to the color.
The boyfriend whipped out a credit card, the girlfriend, in her micro mini, picked up the bag and out they swung into a day that was surprisingly poor. Er … warm.
When Europeans enter a store, said Payton McClure, a salesclerk at the fancy kids store Z Baby Company, there’s an easy way to spot them: “They don’t usually ask how much things are. As opposed to the American tourists, who head straight for the sales rack.”
Ooh, there’s a sales rack? Good to know.
The Europeans also tend to prefer brighter colors, such as orange and fuchsia, probably because they are in such chipper, the-world-is-a-giant-Kmart moods. (But they also like black AC/DC T-shirts for their 6- month-olds, so go figure.)
A nearby fortuneteller named Fatima said she gets both American and foreign clients, and she has noticed only one difference: The foreigners “look a little bit happier.”
Like, for instance, Megan Grant. Grant, visiting from Australia, was waltzing out of a gourmet emporium all smiles and shopping bags. “Everything we’ve been buying has been easier here,” she said. “We got sunglasses, hair care products, lots of books.” And at the gourmet store, she said, “I bought some fancy honey.”
What made it fancy?
“The price!” she said, laughing. “It was $17.”
Maybe it was made by Jerry Seinfeld himself.
Now, look, I’m not down on these tourists for grabbing up the goodies no one in their right currency would buy. I’m glad they’re keeping our economy strong and our coats-that-don’tclose stores in business. What’s really galling me, I guess, is that I still can remember when I was gallivanting around their countries, scooping up the laughably cheap scarves and slacks I still am wearing today.
Now the shoe is on the other foot, and alas, for us Americans, it is not a stiletto-heeled boot the color of money.
Er … honey.
Lenore Skenazy is a columnist at The New York Sun and Advertising Age.
©2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.