November 6, 2007

Retail Therapy

It's time for me, finally, to come clean with you guys. For years, I've been battling some personal demons. It's not a constant fight; it's one that comes and goes depending on the situation. It's something I'm not sure people understand or even know is out there. This weekend, however, my condition reared its ugly head again. It's time to speak up. For years, I've dealt with URAD - Upscale Retail Anxiety Disorder.

Upscale Retail Anxiety Disorder (URAD) is characterized by a persistent, excessive and unrealistic worry about the patronage of high-end shopping establishments. URAD symptoms include general anxiety, mild to moderate perspiration, shortness of breath, unrelenting worry during visits to retail stores, and acute panic attacks. Such symptoms must exist in excess of six months for this disorder to be cause for concern. Erections lasting longer than four hours require urgent medical care. According to the National Institute of Shopping Health (NISH), approximately one out of every thirty Americans is stricken with URAD at some point in their lives. Usually around the holiday season.

Earlier this year, I received an incredible French-cuffed shirt as a gift. It puts all the other shirts I own to shame. It's the Cadillac, the Michael Jordan, the Ernest Hemingway of shirts. I get compliments on it wherever I go. Last week while wearing it, I remarked to myself that I should really visit the store that sold these fabulous shirts and buy myself some more. So, this weekend, I went.

I knew my URAD was going to be a factor the second I set foot in the store. The central aisle of the store was lined with employees, all there, apparently, to say hello to me and inquire as to my day. And there, at the end of that aisle leading to the very center of the store sat a gentleman dressed to the nines playing a giant black grand piano. Slightly self-consciously - dressed in jeans, a baseball hat, t-shirt, leather jacket and Doc Martens - I made my way to the men's section. Where I was greeted by yet another contingent of abnormally friendly people who also, oddly, inquired about my day. I began browsing. Within five minutes I'd been asked by not one or two but five store employees if I needed help. I said no. I said I was just looking. Within five minutes, the five employees had each checked in again.

I did eventually find the shirts I was looking for. They cost $250 each. I was horrified on two levels. First, no human should actually own a $250 shirt when there are poor, starving business men wearing $30 shirts to work. Second, I actually own a $250 shirt. And I've worn it, all willy-nilly without special countermeasures like a protective bubble. I realized there that I'm not a guy who can buy $250 shirts. So I spent $150 on two shirts. Which is only slightly better.

I've always had URAD. Don't get me wrong, I like nice stuff. And I appreciate that people are there to help me but honestly, I pretty much like being left alone. I don't need a pianist or overly attentive service personnel when I'm looking for clothes. I can read numbers so I can find my size. If it's not there, I'll go somewhere else. Most importantly, I honestly don't want to pay $250 for a shirt because what I'm really paying for is a $100 shirt, an over-eager staff, a baby grand piano and some dude to play it who goes home at night and curses his bad luck that despite his original plan to play in a fledgling jazz band destined for greatness he's stuck playing for jackasses like me in a department store.

Posted by Chris at November 6, 2007 6:23 AM

Has to be the one and only Brooks Brothers (maybe not, but they have $250 shirts). My dad loves their shirts, but refuses to buy them full price. When we lived up in DC, he always went to the outlet at Potomac Mills to see what they had on special.

Posted by: Corinne at November 6, 2007 8:13 AM

I hate stores where the sales people will not leave you alone. I know they are doing their job and are forced to constantly make themselves available to you but I find that if the sales people follow me or continually try to engage me in conversation I will leave the store. Just leave me alone to shop in peace!

Posted by: Lisa at November 6, 2007 8:15 AM

The only article of clothing I have worth $250 is my boots. And they're the nice ones, that I only wear when I can use that protective bubble you mentioned :-)

I have the same disorder that you do...I just didn't know it had a name. Is there treatment available, do you think?

Posted by: Alissa at November 6, 2007 8:20 AM

(you know it's one of those days when you can't type miabean without looking at your fingers.)

I must that I love French cuff. And I'm all for good quality shirts, but I am a shirt snob. It's my mother's fault. She kept buying The Man all these gorgeous hi-end shirts. Seriously... it makes my knees weak.

But you know for $200 cdn (that's about $250US), my man got a custom-made shirt. (Seriously now that is the bees knees.)

Posted by: Nat at November 6, 2007 8:24 AM

I suffer from URAD, but my symptoms includes hives and severe nausea. I cannot pay full price for anything. CANNOT.

Posted by: Maria at November 6, 2007 8:31 AM

OMG, I feel so free. I finally have a diagnosis...URAD. I thought I was alone in my battle with clothing retail. Only my symptoms tend to arrise when I enter a trendy, loud music playing, runway model clothes type store...knowing that my big boobs and mommy tummy could never wear even their largest size. I actually had an anxiety attack the last time I walked into FOREVER 21. If I were rich, I'd start my own store called "Never AGAIN 21" where I'd sell clothes that are fashionable and would actually fit the body types of mom's matter their size. Oh, and I wouldn't put number sizes on the tags...only letters...and they wouldn't increase as the size increases....and everything would cost $20.

Posted by: CJ at November 6, 2007 8:51 AM

I think that URAD is a male disorder. I was shopping for shirts with Hubby and saw them for $199.00 ea. I was already to buy two or three and Hubby choked and we left the store. Yep, URAD is a male thing.

Posted by: Maribeth at November 6, 2007 8:58 AM

Now see I thought Nordstrom's right away.

I LOVE to shop and I LOVE fancy clothes but I am a total CHEAPSKATE... I cannot understand why I would wear a shirt, outfit, etc that costs SO much that I would be so nervous I would not want to allow my child around it(or my own slobbery self for that matter...)

Also, just because it is expensive does not mean it will not end up like all shirts/pants/skirts eventually with a hole or a stain on it because that is what happens whether it is $50 or $250...

Finally and really the most truthful fact, likely if I paid $250 for a shirt, I would totally be like Marge Simpson in that one episode where she spends some money on a Channel dress and gets invited to the country club and has to try to remake the dress ten different ways to Sunday in order for her to fit in with her new fancy friends... Basically I would be miserable!!! Target here we come ;)

Posted by: Christina at November 6, 2007 9:09 AM

I think I would faint if I paid $250 for a shirt.

Of course...we won't discuss what I spend every 5 weeks to get my hair cut and colored, or the obscene amount of money I spend on make-up. I'm sure those are totally unrelated. Right? Right?

Posted by: daisy at November 6, 2007 9:15 AM

I don't think I could bring myself to walk out of the house in a $250 shirt. Something's BOUND to happen to it if I'm wearing it.

And where are all those damn salespeople when you actually do need some help?

Posted by: Fraulein N at November 6, 2007 9:16 AM

This is a little off topic, but your post reminded me of another URAD condition that I had in the early '90s.

I lived in and around the DC area for seven years, right after college. For a year or so, I lived with a girlfriend in a house on Capitol Hill. I'm a little bit tight with my cash. She would look for bargains, but still wanted to furnish our house top to bottom.

So I had "Upscale Resale" Anxiety Disorder. Is that place still there? I was a consignment store for nice furniture in Old Town Alexandria. I think we went there twice a month.

Posted by: Jeff St Real at November 6, 2007 9:17 AM

"Erections lasting longer than four hours require urgent medical care."
dies that not strike anyone else as odd?

*L* I had to reread it twice.

Second, have you read the Wal Mart Effect? It's rather interesting. It's thought that the smaller stores that charge more for the "same" thing that you could by at Wal-Mart makes up for it by being really friendly and making it a wonderful shopping experience. You're right the $250 shirt is most likely worth less but it is better quality than a knock off you may find at a cheaper establishment. You love the quality of your shirt and there is nothing wrong with that!

Posted by: Bid at November 6, 2007 9:19 AM

Guess I should proofread, now I look like a numb nut.

Posted by: BID at November 6, 2007 9:23 AM

A shirt spun by leprechauns,eh? You should take a picture of how utterly hott you look in it ;)
And even if I had the money, I don't know if I could handle spending that much on a shirt. On boots, or really nice dress maybe, but a shirt? I don't think I could do it! (Unless I was SuperRich. But then I would probably spend money in all sorts of ridiculous ways.)

Posted by: Heather at November 6, 2007 9:45 AM

URAD!! NOT just a male disorder! Well, except for the erections of course. Not really my problem.
But I definitely get all the other symptoms in any store where the make more in a week than I do in a month!
And, could someone PLEASE make protective bubble for clothes? I have ruined 3 shirts out of the box (Land's End, NOT $250) by spilling food on them.

Posted by: Aurora at November 6, 2007 9:58 AM

Oh, I so totally relate. Those fancypants stores where they hover over me make me so nervous and edgy. I am much more comfortable rummaging through a thrift store.

I once accidentally walked into one of those places where they only had ONE of each item hanging on the walls like art with four salespeople standing around like curators. I nearly fainted.

Posted by: Alias Mother at November 6, 2007 10:05 AM

Whenever I go into places like those, it's mostly just to look at random price tags for seemingly innocuous stuff (shirts, jeans, socks) and laugh out loud at the prices. So, I suppose it's mostly for comic relief. My guilty pleasure is that I love walking around places like Restoration Hardware. Being a home-renovation monkey, that place is pretty impressive, but the prices on fixtures and sinks make me want to slap someone. There's no reason to put prices like those on things into which you're going to spit, pee, and poop.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at November 6, 2007 10:09 AM

Well, I can't say I go in those kind of stores (mostly because I'm in North Dakota, and I'm about 99.3% sure no store like that would be caught dead here)... BUT I am obsessive over sales people. I hate them. If I am asked more than once if I need help, I'll leave the store. Just thinking about someone coming up to me and asking if I need help gives me the shivers. UGH.

Posted by: Phoenix at November 6, 2007 10:25 AM

One of the guys I used to work for made fun of my $10 dollar shirt. He told me I should drss better. He told me the shirt he was wearing was $150 bucks and that I should invest in looking better. Not ten minutes later a waitress spilled a carafe of red wine on both of us.

I could not stop laughing. He was pissed. and akse dme what was so funny? I said I only lost a 10 bucks for my shirt being ruined and he lost 150.

Posted by: William at November 6, 2007 10:26 AM

Hi. My name is GreenCanary and I suffer URAD. Just this weekend I refused to enter the extravagant Jimmy Choo shoe store in Las Vegas because of "my condition." Just standing outside of the store, all of those ridiculously expensive shoes lined up under brilliant white lights, was enough to catapult me over the edge. Before I knew it, I was curled up in the fetal position on the faux cobblestone of the Canal Shoppes and yelling, "Not the shoes! Not the shoes!"

Posted by: GreenCanary at November 6, 2007 10:37 AM

I've always wanted to walk into one of those stores with a bottle of spray cologne and spray the employees, just like the people who spring out at you all guerilla-like in the cosmetics sections of nice department stores and douse you with perfume.

I like to browse. If I want anything, I'll ask. The overzealous employees make me want to mace them. With real mace.

Posted by: alison at November 6, 2007 10:46 AM

I completely share this anxiety problem with you. (Was it Nordstrom's?)

My son needed a nice outfit to wear to the 8th grade dance last year - which means slacks and a nice shirt and tie. Jacket not required. He didn't like any of the shirts in the usual affordable department stores, so we went to the one with the baby grand piano. Despite being immediately uncomfortable, I attempted to overcome it and shop for my son. I tried to fit in. I tried not to feel like all the salespeople where looking at me thinking "where did SHE come from? Kmart must be closed today."

My son loved everything in the store. We walked out with an outfit that cost $150. The tie alone was $45. My husband doesn't even own a $45 tie.

Posted by: Candy at November 6, 2007 10:55 AM

I am so glad I'm not the only one who suffers from URAD. Those salespeople pretending to be my friend make me so uncomfortable, I want to avoid clothes shopping altogether.

Posted by: Rengirl at November 6, 2007 11:16 AM

I'm so glad there's a name for my disease.

Posted by: Pocklock at November 6, 2007 11:50 AM

I'm with you; I love the good stuff too. I got some clothes for my birthday recently but I didn't like the style so I took them back. When I got my credit of $600 I stood there slack jawed. Two pair of jeans and a sweater cost $600 dollars. I buy most of my clothes from Macy's from the SALE rack, I thought I was going to faint. I couldn't find anything I really wanted except for one shirt. I still have $450 to spend and I'm sick about it. I feel like a gluttonous pig when I'm in there.

Lastly I had NO idea my friend was that loaded, I got her a $50 to Pottery Barn for hers...

Posted by: Michele at November 6, 2007 12:07 PM

au contraire... it has always been my dream to play piano in nordstroms.

Posted by: jodi at November 6, 2007 1:21 PM

I'm quite certain I've not touched a $250 shirt. Could you at least photograph yours for me so I'll know it when I see it?

Posted by: Brad at November 6, 2007 3:07 PM

I too suffer from URAD. I only just this past weekend set foot in Holt Renfrew (a Canadian high-end retail store). I nearly gave Mike a heart attack when I went gaga over a pair of $750 shoes. Not that I would ever buy said shoes unless I won a lottery, but still...

However, the staff? Not nearly as friendly as in your upscale store - no one said hello. Most just gave appraising looks and determined that I was not there to buy...

Posted by: suze at November 6, 2007 8:56 PM

Wow... you were definitely at Nordstrom! At least you were at the quiet, tame location. This weekend I went and found the aisles filled with people dressed in black carrying around makeup and offering to make me look like a painted whore during their cosmetics event... complete with very loud DJ spinning where the piano should have been. I quickly escaped to the purse section where I was surrounded by $1000 goodness that I can't justify buying on my teacher's salary. UGH.

In the future, hunt out Nordstrom Rack. More of a "regular" shopping experience but still stocked with high end goods at a pretty sweet discount. You are less likely to suffer from URAD while there... but you will miss the piano.

Posted by: Tara at November 6, 2007 9:18 PM

That is an incredibly insane price for a shirt. I'm glad that's not your "thing." :)

Posted by: Zandria at November 6, 2007 9:22 PM

When I went shopping for wedding gowns I got this treatment. The sales people actually come barging into the fitting area with you to be sure you adjust your business properly. I ran screaming for the hills and bought a dress off the rack at GenericWeddings 'R' Us. And felt much better about it.

Posted by: Sphincter at November 6, 2007 10:27 PM

Here's a story I heard about Nordstrom.. No idea if it is true or not.

The CEO or some other big wig from the west coast was in an east coast to make sure they were living up to the Nordstrom Customer Service Standard. As he and his posse were walking through the store, he heard a sales associate tell a customer as politely as possible, that they couldn't accept that return.

Outraged, he marched over and said, "Nordstrom ALWAYS takes returns! We keep our customers happy, and if that means it's a year old and in pieces, we will take it as a return!"

The sales associate said, "But sir... they're trying to return a TIRE."

They took it back.

(I'm guessing it's not real, just a funny story to get the point of nordstrom's customer service across.)

Posted by: amy at November 7, 2007 11:37 AM

Tysons? I can't afford to walk in the parking lot of that mall. I stick to Fair Oaks and Potomac Mills.

Posted by: penguintarts at November 7, 2007 8:05 PM

Cripes, I think I am hot stuff when I pay $40 for a shirt.

Posted by: Aimee Greeblemonkey at November 7, 2007 8:42 PM

Right now, I suffer from the same decease. But ask me again when I win the lottery.

Posted by: Nadine at November 8, 2007 5:38 AM

This may well be my diagnosis, is that in the DSM-IV? I find it funny that everytime I'm in a store like that (which isn't often) many of the folks there seem to have put on their haughty face to fit the atmosphere. Verra innarrestin.

Posted by: Holmes at November 9, 2007 10:54 AM