Those of you who know me know that, one or seven times a week, I go out to survey the merchandise in retail stores to see what’s new, how it is displayed, and how much it costs. Tom calls this shopping. I call it exploring.
This is usually sheer fun for me, but then I got to Bellagio. It is not Nordstrom’s Rack where you paw through the goods, or Ikea, where you drag your own bookcase out of stock, or the Designer Shoe Warehouse, where you dig out your own shoes. That whole self-service thing is not done in Bellagio.
All over are signs that say “Don’t try on the shoes! Ask for help! Don’t touch anything!” We grubby wanderers must have bruised their fruit, fingerprinted their crystal, broken their china, put snags in their scarves. They must find us tourists barbaric. I don’t blame them; it just takes the fun out of it.
In Bellagio, the stores are teeny tiny, but they may have zillions of items in the back room. Thus, when you walk in, there is little to see or touch, but there will be a lady of a certain age who grunts “Buongiorno” just to let you know she is watching to see if you will put your mitts on the merch. “Just looking,” I say, floating nonchalantly from rack to rack, counter to counter, conscious of beady eyes upon me. In this kind of store, I slink out the door as quickly and quietly as possible.
In other stores, I am assaulted at the door. “Buongiorno, Signora!” This time the lady of a certain age is all over me. My glance falls upon an elaborate necklace and before I know it, she’s putting it on me, reaching high and straining to get to my nape. “Che bella!” She goes on to describe its components, its handmadedness, its rarity, its reasonable price. She steps away. She doesn’t take it off and I can’t because the clasp is small and behind me. I am forced to wander the store and unable to leave because I’m wearing their necklace.
Then my glance falls upon a different necklace. “Amethyst!” she beams. Before I know it, I’m wearing this one instead. Again, I can’t leave. I do not even glance at any more necklaces, but suddenly a third one appears on my neck. By now I am eager to convey that I’m not buying a necklace. While trying desperately to remove the fantasia of mint green beads, I sidestep over the beautiful leather bags and feign interest in a faux Chanel.
She is right there. “Very good quality!” She grabs the bag and shoWs me the interior pockets and zippers, with a name and function for each. I touch another one. She grabs it. “Very expensive because very good leather! Oh, you like backpack?”
Somehow I convey that I would like the necklace removed, which involves another painful stretch on her part. Fortunately, another shopper comes in and engages my lady. I would like to look at other things in the store but I’m scared to death of disappointing this lovely, hardworking, little woman over and over again. I sneak to the door and then run.
There is a third kind of shop here, so terrifying that I won’t even go in. The Missoni store is a good example: a small glass-enclosed jewel, containing only garments in the characteristic Missoni chevron design. In the window is a $240 terry cloth bathrobe with a matching $98 towel. In the store is a single lonely, glum saleswoman also clad in Missoni chevron. I’m not the only person afraid to go in.
Why am I so uncomfortable? I suppose because I am one of those barbaric touchy-feely tourists who is not going to buy anything. Some people consider Bellagio a shopper’s paradise, but they are buying things. It would be a great place to buy things, because the shop folks know their merchandise inside out, and they say things like “With your hair and skin tone, I think this color would be best. Yes!” That frightens me because I would likely fall for it.
Feeling more and more like a fraud, I go to the greengrocer and ask for two tomatoes. That one time I picked up two peaches on my own, I was thoroughly ignored, until Tom saw the sign that said “Not self-service.” I know better now.
So, yes, I felt like a clod in stores, so after a week, I stopped shopping and started reading more, beading more, and writing more, which is good. But exploring is a hard habit to break. People ask me if I miss the U.S.A., and I don’t, generally. But I just can’t wait to get back to Nordstrom’s Rack.