The secret of service
In Paris, is the customer always wrong?
A friend of mine used to work at the Louis Vuitton store on the Champs Elysées. I can’t reveal his identity: he fears that if the company found out that he’d revealed some of its secrets, he might end up in some obscure Asian country with his memory wiped, like Jason Bourne.
Also like Bourne, my friend was prized for his language skills. Whenever a rich client from Russia or the Middle East came to the store, my pal was at their side, translating phrases like “hand crafted”, “latest model” and “ideal birthday gift”. A certain princess particularly appreciated his linguistic talents. Not that she said much. When she saw an item she liked, she pointed.
My own experiences suggest that service in the luxury sector in Paris is inconsistent, to say the least. A woman at the Chanel boutique told me that the engagement ring my fiancée wanted was not in stock. Then she told us to “try the boutique in rue Saint Honoré”. What she did not do – or even offer to do – was call the other boutique to ask whether they had the ring. This is a service that Zara proposes to its customers.
On my “good service” list is J.M. Weston on the boulevard de la Madeleine, where I have been known to invest in expensive footwear. About three months after I bought my last pair of shoes, somebody left a message on my mobile phone. It turned out to be the assistant from J.M. Weston. “Monsieur Tungate, I just wanted to check if everything is fine with your shoes. If you have any problems, or if they need a polish, please don’t hesitate to contact me.”
And I must add a word of praise for Elisabeth at Le Comptoir de l’Homme (5-7 rue Tournon). Is this male grooming emporium a luxury store? Since nobody really needs to spend hundreds of euros on fragrances and skincare products, I think it fits into the category.
Go there on a quiet Saturday morning and Elisabeth will fix you an espresso as she chats to you about all the wonderful things you can buy. Did you know, for example, that Hamman Bouquet by Penhaligon’s was the favourite fragrance of the film director Franco Zeffirelli? He personally saved the firm from ruin when he heard it might be going out of business. Or that Winston Churchill wore another Penhaligon’s fragrance, Bleinheim Bouquet? Like Scheherazade, Elisabeth tells enchanting stories.