Monday, August 19, 2013

Shrug In The City Part III - Getting My Legs

I spent Monday and Tuesday working in the Tiffany flagship store back office areas.  These are the corridors and dungeons hidden away from the view of a discerning public with large discretionary income.  After all, heaven forbid Tiffiany's clientele actually see where the working people behind the scenes earn their living.  These areas are accessed from the public side through enormously thick and opulent doors made of wood imported from someplace I can't even find on a globe and ornately trimmed with gold leaf.  The employee side of the door is just a slab of wood with various State if New York labor policies posted on it.  Some of them have a mirror with "Make someone's dream come true today!" printed on it.  I mention all this because I have been cautioned against the public seeing my survey gear on the sales floor.  I'll be the first to admit that my rig is far from pretty, but it's functional and it's important that I collect my data during the day to get a representative sample of the radio environment when a crowd is present.  I could work at night and deliver the best nocturnal wireless network in the City.  I just wouldn't want to be here to try to use it on Black Friday.

$8,500 Purse

For the most part, the back office staff are a relaxed and flippant about my presence.  Some of the sales staff were initially far from relaxed when I rolled my test cart into their retail area.  One guy pointed at my cart with one hand, the other on his cheek in a Jack Benny like pose and stated unequivocally that I was not bringing that on the floor.  I politely replied that in fact I was and then referred him to the director who authorized it.  He pulled his wireless network phone out to call and I offered the director's phone number.  When his call failed, I walked away, adding "That'll work when I'm done."  He must have obtained the proof he needed because I never heard from him again until he approached me later and asked me how it all worked.

The female sales associates are a serious looking bunch.  So far, all have been extremely courteous and some even friendly.  Standing for hours at a time in cruel shoes (thank you Steve Martin), I'm surprised they're able to smile at all.  One in particular has hair pulled into a bun so tight I swear she has a goatee.  I got a kick out of watching one who quoted $8,500 for a purse with a straight face.  I almost tripped over my own jaw.  What's this purse made from, dinosaur foreskin?

On the 4th floor, Tiffany has an elaborate dining table display with about a dozen pieces of high end China, crystal, and sterling silver at each setting that would make a table at Chez Quis look like McDonalds.  You’ll find it next to the baby registry (the spot in Tiffany's for those truly born with a silver spoon in their mouth).  There are so many pieces at each setting I’d starve to death figuring out where to start.  I’ve been eating lunch off the hotdog carts out on 5th Avenue.  Tiff’s has a nice employee cafĂ© with what appears to be good food.  But since I spend all day walking every square inch of all thirteen floors of this place, I really need to get outside for a break from the constant onslaught of 1940’s jazz music and show tunes and to get some sunshine.  Just once I’d like to take my sloppy dog up to the 4th floor, spread it out at that table, and chow down.  I wonder how long it would take security to throw me out after they show up and I ask them to refill my tea.

I was working in the silver department when a mom and her two perfectly coiffed children walked in and approached the counter.  The kids were a boy and girl that I’m guessing were ten and eight, respectively and were dressed to the nines.  The girl wore patent leather shoes and was topped with a bright red beret.  The boy had neatly parted short, bright red hair and wore a coat and tie.  So a well-to-do New York mom drags her kids in to Tiffany’s during one of her shopping sprees. Nothing strange there.   The famous FAO Schwartz toy store (at the intersection where taxis run down Texans) is a few blocks away. Maybe they were going there next.  I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation at the counter because basically I’m nosy.  I figured mom needed new silverware or something.  Maybe the girl wanted a silver hair comb.  After all, they’re a bargain at $300.  Maybe I figured wrong.  I listened and learned that the boy was there to purchase a sterling silver napkin ring engraved with his initials.  This wasn’t a gift for someone else.  He wanted it for his place at their table (which probably closely resembled the one described above).  What kind of ten year old boy wants a sterling silver napkin ring?  When I was ten, I wanted Hot Wheels and GI Joes.  Not those lame clean shaven ones.  I wanted the  Adventure Team figures with the Kung Fu gripThe most feminine thing I wanted was a pair of clothespins so I could attach playing cards to my bicycle to have them sputter in my spokes as I rode along imagining I was on a motorcycle - that is until the cards loosened my spokes so far that my wheels collapsed and I plowed into the curb.  But I digress.  Reflecting on it, the joke is probably on me.  After all, I’m the one working in the store where this kid is buying a sterling silver napkin ring and he’ll probably grow up to a Unites States Senator or something.

The store has been very accommodating to me, especially in terms of workspace.  Whenever I travel to work at a client site, space is always in high demand and I usually find myself camping out in a loud, windowless, and freezing cold  telecom closet located in the corner of the basement.  It’s different here.  They assigned me a prime ninth floor office with windows overlooking Central Park.  I actually get to spend very little time there because I’m always on the move.  But when I need a place to land and analyze the data I’ve collected, I can do it in style.
Old Digs & New Digs
For those who read this and think I have sour grapes for "rich" people and the folks here at Tiffany.  That is SO not the case.  As an Objectivist, I am all about free enterprise and Capitalism.  I don't care that there are people who have so much.  I don't care how they obtained it.  I'm just thankful they spend it.  Their purchases offer an income to hundreds of Tiffany employees; employees who are willing to work for it.  Don't let my subtle and often ill-fated attempts at humor mislead you about my opinions towards the Tiffany staff or their customers.

Enough about Tiffany.  I'm back in the City this week and intend to get out and see something beyond the diner next to my hotel.  I'm staying in Midtown, where pretty much nothing interesting is.  I'll have to venture downtown to get to the good stuff.  Stay tuned...