Whimsical Gal Gleefully Wastes Retail Workers’ Time, Pens Insufferable Essay

I have long said that the fastest way to see if someone is an asshole or not is to see how they treat people in the service industry. I have ended budding relationships after one date after seeing a dude snap at a server, and consider people who “don’t believe in tipping” to be as close to the actual devil as is humanly possible.

I could say this is because, for many years leading up to finally getting published and getting to do this for a living, I worked in retail and waited tables — but although I’ve been working since the age of 15, I imagine it would bother me anyway. Not only did I grow up in an extremely pro-labor family, but also it’s just wrong to act as though you are better than someone taking care of you.

When you work in retail, or in food service, however, you end up really loathing certain types of people. The people who take it out of your tip because the restaurant you’re working at doesn’t have chick peas and they wanted chick peas on their salad. The people who snap back at you with “JUST LOOKING” when you say hello to them. One sort of person that has always driven me up the wall though are the people who like to try clothes on for purposes of whimsy. I don’t think it’s cute to make extra work for other people for no good reason other than your own good time. It’s selfish, and it’s ignorant.

I didn’t like this when I worked in mall stores. Those people who would take up dressing rooms for an hour when we were busy, having themselves an ’80s makeover montage, and then hand me back a pile of mixed up clothing without the hangers. FYI, it is really nice when people put their clothes back on the hangers. But I really didn’t like it when I worked commission.

On Monday, XOJane pubished an essay by a woman named Magdelena Newhouse titled “IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Pretended To Be Engaged To Try On $4,000 Designer Wedding Dresses.”

In this essay, Newhouse recounts the absolutely adorable time she and her friend pretended to be engaged in order to make an appointment at a high-end bridal shop so that they could try on dresses and pretend to be on “Say Yes to The Dress!”

Here’s a choice selection:

I’d like to say that I hesitated at the thought of fraudulently impersonating a bride, but I was on board immediately. My only question was which of us was going to be fake engaged. I was willing to let Julia do it, as long as I could be along for the wedding dress feminine bonding experience, but Julia pointed out that we both wanted to try on dresses, so we might as well say we were engaged to each other. (Here’s the part where I add that Julia and I are both queer, so we weren’t appropriating anyone’s struggle.)

We looked up the boutique’s number, and I made the call. They asked for some information, including when our wedding was. I fumbled and came up with “in seven months.” Apparently that was absurdly late to be finding dresses, because the lady on the phone was horrified and insisted on fitting us in the next day.

Oh, so don’t worry! She’s not “appropriating anyone’s struggle” — she’s just being whimsical!

Let me tell you something that you may not know — something Ms. Newhouse did know and in fact mentioned in her essay. The women in that shop were almost definitely not being paid an hourly wage. Higher end retail workers almost always work straight commission. So what they did for her, they did for free. So “it” didn’t happen to her, she happened to other people who were just trying to earn a damned living.

So while Ms. Newhouse isn’t “appropriating anyone’s struggle,” she did think that asking people to wait on her hand and foot, for probably about two hours, without being paid, was a perfectly fine thing to do. In fact, by taking that appointment, she prevented them from giving it to someone else who actually did plan on buying something. You don’t get to toss out the progressive “lingo” when you clearly don’t give a fuck about labor. This is called “knowing the words and not the music.” That’s part of why I find the use of most “progressive lingo” insincere as all hell and refuse to use it myself, but that is an essay for another day.

Newhouse did go on and on about how the bridal attendants waited on her hand and foot, trying to find her the perfect gown for her wedding. She gushed about how beautiful she felt, how impressed they were with her “down-to-earth-ness” and her fake fiancé’s fake college. How excited everyone was when when they found “the ones” — two $4,000 dresses she and her friend never had any intention of buying.

And then she explains about how she canceled the follow-up appointment and blocked the boutique’s number so she wouldn’t have to see any calls from them.

I get that Newhouse thought she was being cute and whimsical, and that she wanted to pretend she was on a reality show. But it is beyond crappy to get your kicks by interfering with someone’s livelihood. Being treated like a princess isn’t a thing you get for free unless you actually are one.

I’ve worked high-end retail. There are people who love being taken care of, having things being picked out for them, being brought a glass of wine, being the center of attention. Quite honestly? I liked doing it! I really, honestly loved finding people things they felt awesome in. I loved running around the store, finding them things they might like. Sure, they didn’t always buy something, but not finding something you like is a lot different than what Newhouse did. She took up these women’s time without having any intent to buy anything, simply because she thought she deserved to have that “experience.”

Service workers aren’t furniture, and they don’t exist in a vacuum. Those women had bills to pay. They had rent to pay. They were people with jobs, not Cinderella’s mice. That whimsy came out of a price, and it came out of the pockets of the women whose labor they gleefully exploited in order to pretend they were on a stupid reality show.