Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Having Fun at the Palace of Pretty

This is the latest giveaway at Neiman Marcus: faux leopard totes in beige or red. Bet you can't guess what color I chose?

When you re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all;
I'm on your side. when times get rough
And friends just can't be found,
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

Bridge over Troubled Water
by Paul Simon 1969

I think Neiman Marcus should adopt this Simon and Garfunkel song as their motto. Not only are they doing a fabulous job of getting their company through this recent financial slough of despond, they are lifting up all of us who wander dreamily through their stores, at the same time. When tears are in my eyes, I just drop by Neiman's and they dry them all.

Have you been there lately? All you have to do is drop in and buy a lipstick or a pair of socks and they give you some lovely "gift." Faux leopard shopping bags are their latest treat. And I was just thinking the other day how much I needed one of those.

Nieman Marcus has long been one of my favorite stores. When I was married and moved to Washington D.C. my husband said I chose the house we bought simply because it was less than a mile from the Chevy Chase Neiman Marcus. What? And you have a problem with that? (He may have had since he's no longer with us. I mean, he's still alive. Just no longer with us.)

Neiman Marcus seems to be the last remaining store that makes just going there and walking around a treat. If you enjoy seeing beautiful things, in a peaceful, tasteful environment, and being waited on by kind, well-dressed staffers, Neiman Marcus is your place. The folks at the National Gallery of Art aren't nearly this nice. And the decor is better at Neiman's. Forgive me for this anathema.

Lately, I've been wandering around the NM in Palo Alto quite a lot.

I suppose that is partly because I'm living with a lot of stress right now, what with the grumpy, aging, octogenarian parent-thing going on 24-7. And, it is also because NM keeps sending me these wonderful invitation cards to come down and stop by and receive a little gift for my trouble.

One of the first such promotional items I received on a visit several months ago was a little package of faux gold bracelets, which they told me were the hottest thing for fall. They said this was the new dramatic fashion statement or something like that. I bought some stockings and there was this free fashion statement I could start making, right away. Turns out the bracelets were too small for my wrist, but you see I have this sister (Kim, stop reading now and skip a couple of paragraphs please) with a birthday coming up and a much smaller wrist.

About a month later, I stopped by and saw the same bracelets on sale at their jewelry counter. I checked out the price and just about passed out. These faux gold bracelets aka fashion statement cost quite a bit when you didn't get them as a promotional present. Wow, will my sis be happy.

The latest invite I received from them has me a little worried. I mean some real weirdos might drop by for the free pantie offer. But I guess the people at NM won't mind, since any strange gentlemen desirous of free panties will also have to buy a bra in the process. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Taking my tongue out of my cheek for a sec, I think there is something about Neiman Marcus that hearkens back to the quality and service one received at department stores long ago. In the days before shopping centers, my family used to drive into San Francisco each fall for our holiday shopping. The large stores there were beautiful and had helpful clerks and merchandise that was well-made and and so classic it would last forever, or at least until next season.

I remember especially a store called the City of Paris that had a ground floor filled with necessities and accessories and mezzanine floors above that for its special departments. At the top, there was a gorgeous glass roof that let in beautiful filtered light on even the grayest of San Francisco days. At Christmas, they brought a huge Christmas tree in through the roof and everyone for miles around came to see the City of Paris tree. You could look up at it from the ground floor as it rose up to the roof, and, if you went up to the mezzanine floors, you could almost reach out and touch its branches.

The products were quality then, almost all of them made with union labels in the United States. The imported things--from France and England--were more expensive and had an exotic European quality. The clerks were knowledgeable and deferential. The experience was delightful. And there was always a restaurant or a tea shop on one of the floors where you could sit for a minute and munch on a sandwich while you got your blood sugar back up for the next sortie into a new department.

I know people who like to hike and watch birds for fun. And I know people who like to gamble, and people who like to drink, and people who like to garden--all these things we humans do in our quest for peace of mind, or escapism or whatever you want to call it.

For me, Neiman Marcus is the Palace of Pretty. Much easier parking than most art museums I know. No entrance fee. Good lighting and helpful staff and beautiful objects d'art wherever I look. Add in a few "free gifts" and its irresistible. Neiman's has developed a particular marketing plan to help get its company--with its luxury brand--through this tough recession. And it's mighty good medicine for the odd day of depression as well. Just goes to show you what a pair of free panties can do.

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