This afternoon, I had my first experience of shopping drama. Anyone who's woken at the crack of dawn on 26th December in order to get to the Boxing Day sales probably knows what I mean, but I've never done that before. I want to share the story with you, so if you don't want to know how it ends, don't scroll down to the bottom until you've finished reading. It's a long story, but I promise it will be worth it.
The whole thing happened at the end of a long day of shopping, the harsh lighting of New Look was in my eyes and I was a little hyper since I haven't been in there for a while and I was just remembering how much I loved their clothes.
Then I saw a coat. Actually my mother brought it to me, but anyway. It was black, and just the cut I had been looking for and it was only £15. Satisfied with the find, I hung onto it and wandered around looking at pretty dresses.
Then, I saw a different coat.
It was a similar cut, flared at the waist and military style, but it looked a little more expensive, was longer and was blue with red lining. Suddenly, I was struck by indecision. Did I get the cheaper black one (bearing in mind I already have a black coat, it's just a different cut, and a little more duffel than military)? Or did I go for the possibly more expensive one (the price was smudged and looked like it was written in blood) which could have been a much, much cheaper version of something from the Burberry runway? The only solution was to try them both on and see which looked better, so I left the blue one on the rack just behind me, and put the black one on in front of the mirror.
It was the silhouette I had been searching for, but didn't seem right. There was no overlap of material and it opened just a little higher than it should have done at the bottom, for me anyway. I decided that the other one was probably my best bet, plus I did already have a black coat. So I turned around to pick up the other one.
It was gone.
I had literally left it for one second on the rail behind me, and it had just disappeared. There were no others, not even in a different size, for either coat. It transpired that another woman had sneakily picked it up while my back was turned. For a moment I was outraged: how dare she take my coat! But then I realised that it hadn't been in my hand, it had been in a public position and she had every right to take it. Right then, I learnt the first rule of sales shopping: Never put down something you want.
I was desperate to get that coat back. I had started to notice all the flaws in the black one. The material was scratchy, it's fastenings seemed awkward, it didn't look very long lasting. I don't know how much of this was my 'want what you can't have' mentality, but I definitely wanted the blue one more.
Determined not to give up, I lurked nearby the woman and her friend, who I think may have noticed what I was doing. Anyway, they went to the changing rooms because one of New Look's staff had told everyone they were closing in 20 minutes and if you wanted to try something on, you should do it now. This resulted in me spending about 5 minutes going through a rack of grey tracksuit bottoms which held no interest for me whatsoever near the exit of the changing rooms. When she emerged triumphant with the coat slung over her shoulder, I was ready to admit defeat, but tailed her to the till anyway, black coat in my hand, prepared to take it as my consolation prize.
Suddenly, a miracle happened. I couldn't hear exactly what they said once she got to the till, but I got the gist. She had obviously found the smudged price just as indecipherable as I had, and once they scanned it in, she had decided it was too expensive. The same lady who had alerted us to the shop's approaching closing time took it away to the sales rack again. Before anyone else could grab it, we caught her and asked to try the coat on. The second lesson of sales shopping was evident: Persistence pays off.
I had won! Or had I? I still had no idea what this coat cost and was still in possession (or was at least still holding) the £15 black one. We were forced to ask the same shop assistant to scan it in again and tell us the price. It was £35, significantly more than the other one. What followed was a crisis of my own judgement, a doubting of my character and a significant amount of stress relating to what little time was left. This was my third and final lesson: Don't leave these things until just before closing time.
Eventually, I remembered why I had loved the blue one in the first place and sent my dearest mother (thank you mummy!) off to buy it while I replaced the black one onto the rack. Before I could get there, I was stopped by the woman who had originally had the blue one in her hand. What was going to happen? A showdown??
"Have you decided which coat to buy?" She was being so nice. I felt kind of bad for stealing her coat, but I reminded myself that she hadn't wanted it. At least she wasn't putting me in a headlock or anything.
"Uh, yeah. The blue one." I saw her eyeing the black coat, still in my hand.
"Mind if I try that one on?" She asked. I had no objection to handing it over to her, and she looked great in it, much better than me.
So, that's how I came to swap coats with a stranger.