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Designer Handbag Stores: Should We Trust the Sales Assistants?
by: Rufus Steele

I recently had an experience in an Louis Vuitton store where the staff were not exacxtly falling over themselves to serve me, a mere male in a handbag store.

But my answer to the above question would have to be a carefully restrained -- Maybe!

Now the direct, and indirect, knowledge that I use for the answer to this question is pulled purely from experiences and tales recounted by others involving LV stores. I cannot say for certain whether or not it applies to other designer labels -- although I strongly suspect it will do!

Now at one time, store managers and assistants were held in the same revered light that doctors enjoyed. What they said or reported was seen as gospel, never to be questioned, let alone doubted.

But doctors are only human, bless 'em. They, like us, make mistakes and errors in judgement. (With the hours some of them have to work I'm not in the least little bit surprised!)

In the olden days, when a doctor advised that little Johny was suffering nothing more than a slight fever and should be fed aspirin every fours hours until he perked up, no thought of questioning the diagnosis would occur to mom and dad -- even though they could see little Johnny's leg was bent forwards 90 degrees at the knee and he kept fainting every time someone coughed near it!

It used to be like that in the stores as well.

"Good Morning Modom, may I help you?"

"Yes please, may I see the new Hyanuki Messenger Bag please?"

"Oh, I'm so sorry Modom, that bag hasn't been released yet! Well, it certainly wasn't before I went on my holiday, anyway."

"Erm, isn't it the one on the shelves over there? The stack of three of them with the sign on the front saying 'Hyanuki Messnger Bag'?"

"No Madam, certainly not! It can't be or else I would have been told about it!"

Now, staff in the LV stores are never allowed to give out written authenticity statements for any bags! Any at all.

If you like -- test me on this!

Go into one of their stores and buy a bag there and then. As soon as you've been handed your receipt, try asking for a note from the sales assistant or manager, affirming the fact that this bag is an authentic item!

They'll politely decline! (They'll also probably look at you as though you're totally bonkers, but don't worry about that, there are plenty more stores to go and buy from!)

Not because they don't doubt the authenticty -- but because they aren't allowed to by company rules.

I used to think that this was because they would never be sure that the letter or note of authenticity wouldn't then be copied or used to give a fake bag an incorrect "value," make it appear genuine and authentic.

Now, I'm sure that a large element of that reason still remains. However, I think it is also tempered by another reason, one which should concern anyone seeking an accurrate assesment of their bags.

I believe that they refuse to allow this valuation to be recorded in any form in case it is wrong. Because they expect it to be wrong on occassion.

Too tall an idea to be believeable?

Well, how about if I told you about a lady I know who had a hilarious experience in an LV store.

She was the lucky owner of a Gold Suhali bag. Now, these are rare, seriously rare. It's the type of bag that only the celebs get to own because of A) Price and B) Exclusivity! I cannot remember where she had got hers from -- but I do know it was without a doubt authentic!

She went into an LV store and proceeded to look around. She did notice what seemed to be a frosty reception from the sales assistants but assumed it was directed somewhere else. Imagine her surprise when she discovered it was aimed at her. Both of the sales assistants in the store thought she was a fugly lover -- because they believed the Gold Suhali was a fake! Not only didn't they know that one had been released, they didn't even know they'd be made in the first place!

And before you leap from your seat in defence of the beleagured sales assistants with a shout of "Well, that 's not strange if the bag is so rare!" let me temper this by saying that the bag was rare in the same way as the Mona Lisa is rare. Rare -- but everyone knows about it!

With the increase in the number of bags in a range and the number of ranges as well, it will always be an ever expanding job for LV and other designer labels to ensure all their staff are up to speed on all the bags available and their particular differences.

However much training they receive -- they'll always be behind the times on one or two ranges or items at least. No amount of store training will be able to overcome the simple dynamics of time available for training v number of staff requiring training v people available to do training divided by time available across all the people required to be involved in the training.

Sadly, no one knows all the answers.

Now, if you're lucky enough to find a store assistant with whom you can strike up a "rapport" then you should be able to trust their answers more than most. If they don't know the real answer, it's in their best interests to find out for you.

But should you trust an SA without question?

No, I don't think so. You should temper their answer with information that you glean from other sources as well, such as forums, chat groups of like minded designer lovers and from press and magazine articles.

Balance these sources of answers together -- and you'll always have the best answer possible -- and not a potential bad guess!


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