Monday, May 11, 2009

The leather glove story

One day, many years ago, I bought a pair of very nice black leather gloves at Lord & Taylor, which was (and still is, I believe) a moderately upscale department store in New York City. It was a cold day, and I was going to walk to meet some friends for dinner, so instead of putting my gloves in a bag, I put them on.

When I got to the restaurant, I was informed that I should go to the bathroom and look in the mirror. I had black smudges all over my face. I washed them off while wondering how on earth my face had become so dirty. Then I thought of my new gloves. Sure enough, I ran a finger over my skin, and there was a black smudge. I put them into the nice box they had come in, and planned on returning them the next day during my lunch break. I also wondered why I touched my face so much, but no good answer to that was forthcoming.

The next day, I went to the store as planned. I went to the counter where I had purchased the gloves, told the saleswoman what happened, and asked to return them and have the charge taken off my credit card. But no, it wasn't so simple. I still remember the woman telling me how these were the most popular gloves they sold and how no one had ever returned them. She said it had to have something to do with my skin. Even if that were so, what difference did it make? None, to my mind. I argued a bit, but I wasn't very good at standing up to people like that, and she just wouldn't budge.

I was rattled, for I had felt somewhat guilty about buying these expensive gloves. I tried wearing them again with awareness of not touching my face. That didn't work out so well. I still remember washing my face when I came home from work and standing in my bathroom, feeling like a wuss for not being able to stand up to that saleswoman.

So, I again went to the store. The same woman was there and she was just as nasty as the first time, but on the second occasion she suggested I speak to a manager, up on the top floor, which I did. He informed me that in order to refund me my money, they would send my gloves to a testing facility to see if they were indeed defectively dyed. A testing facility? It wasn't my skin. I knew that. I had run my fingers against the white wall of my bathroom and, yes, there was a smudge. So, to save Lord & Taylor the trouble, I ran my finger against the manager's wall. There was a smudge. Somehow that made no dent in the man's stance. They were to go to a testing facility, even if the reality of the situation was right there on his now dirty wall.

So, I handed over the box.

Months went by. I had the charge on my credit card bill, but didn't pay it, for it was in dispute. I forgot about the whole thing until the day I received a package in the mail. It was my gloves, with a note. It said that there was nothing wrong with them.

This was ridiculous. Just to make sure I wasn't crazy (at least about the gloves), I put one on and, once again, ran my finger against a wall. There was the tell tale smudge. What in the world had they tested? I had no idea. And again, I went to Lord & Taylor, performed the obviously magical wall smudge proof for a manager, and then was told that the real test proved I was wrong about reality. I said I would not pay for the gloves. I had a Lord & Taylor credit card and I cut it up and threw it away. I would not go there again. I would not pay the bill.

Years went by. My ex-husband and I decided to buy a house. We found one we liked and then applied for a loan. We were rejected. We couldn't figure it out, for we thought our credit score was fine. We investigated and it was one thing: a unpaid charge for something in the range of 60 bucks. Neither of us could think of what it was for. And then we got the detailed report - it was the Lord & Taylor credit card.

I still did not want to pay this charge. I know that sounds silly, but I was adamant about it. But, in order to get that loan, we had to. But that didn't make the black mark on our credit report go away. In order for that to happen, Lord & Taylor had to write something about the "incident." And even years later, they were being hardasses about it.

Now, my memory of this is unclear, as I still don't understand why the department store had to write something "nice" or whatever it was they were to do. But I do remember that whatever they had to do, they would not budge, once again. Finally, my ex went to the store and pleaded with whomever he had to plead with to help us out, so we could buy our first house. Cajoling, getting angry, none of it worked. Pleading, it turned out, worked. So, we bought our first house, and I still had a pair of unwearable black leather gloves in a nice box stowed away (why?) Two weeks later, the real estate market crashed hard. Our house lost so much value we were paying more for it than it was worth. We both lost our jobs, and we wound up having the house foreclosed on us. Maybe we should have let those gloves work their strange magic, after all.

Photo note: Gloria Swanson and Edith Head I think they're wearing satin gloves, but I like this photo, so what the heck. Edith Head was a fashion designer, Swanson an actress. I find them so much more interesting looking than the famous folks of today.


BitterGrace said...

Do you by any chance still have the gloves?

I worked briefly at a Lord & Taylor in an upscale mall in suburban DC in the late 80s. It was absolutely the worst job I have ever had in my life, bar none. I still shudder slightly when I think of it.

Anonymous said...

Holy hell, that definitely takes the cake. There right up there with Ikea in terms of unhelpful, stubborn snobish-ness. When nothing else works in a situation like that, I pitch a fit:) Sadly, that always works...

TMC said...

Oh, my stubborn, principled Jules... :)

Julie H. Rose said...

Sorry to bring you bad memories, Maria.

And, y'know what? I don't really know how to pitch a fit.

The Fragrant Muse said...

This story belongs in the New York Times. If it helps, I'm furious for you. I would have thrown a hissy fit to beat all hissy fits.

At least you got a great blog post out of it.

Faport International said...

Hay i really enjoyed the story, and wonder about gloves..

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