Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

HELLO?? Don’t You See me? I am right in front of you!!!

September 14, 2010 · 5 Comments

In my home I was raised to be unafraid to go to new places and try new foods, things, etc. Usually that has included going to places that are not necessarily in accordance with my social-economic class in the states. We just bring out our best clothes, proper manners, and the green and we are welcomed in. So I was completely astonished, and baffled in a sense when I experienced firsthand the clear cut class division in London. I particularly felt it when a couple of us went inside Harrod’s, which is perhaps the most expensive store in England.

Harrod’s, if you don’t know much about it, is currently owned by Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) a company whose worth is at $60 Billion. Harrod’s, however, was first founded in 1849 by Charles Henry Harrod making it the oldest and biggest high-end department store still in existence. ( For a more detailed history on Harrod’s visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10103783)

A group of five from my program ventured into Harrod’s after making our way to Hyde Park. The stores geographic location is just a couple blocks away from a little place called Buckingham Palace, perhaps you have heard of it.  The exterior of the Harrod’s building is very palatial, I even wondered if it was a state palace or something of the sort because it flies about 35 flags from around the world on its roof. I was soon corrected by my friend Pat, that the building I was staring at was none other than one of the most exclusive shops in the world. As we walked into this so called Harrod’s it became immediately apparent that this shop was made of money and produces a lot of money. In a sense it reminded me of going into the Belagio and Mandalay Bay hotel’s in Las Vegas, therefore it didn’t impress me so much.  Unlike the Belagio or the Mandalay Bay what became increasingly apparent was the discrimination that occurred by the employees of Harrod’s to people/ customers within the store. I have never before in my life been blatantly ignored like I was last week. The employees literally took one look at me and my clothing and turned away as if I didn’t exist. It felt very odd, horrible, and vicious all rolled into one feeling.  I stopped by the men’s shoes section just to gage the prices within this exclusive store, and to my amazement the simple looking loafer I picked up cost £850, in American terms that’s roughly $1,270 for a pair of shoes. Now if your eyes popped out at that figure do you imagine mine when standing in a room full of those prices? I know I don’t understand the concept of being rich because I have never been rich, but it really sickens me to see such pretentiousness just to show your higher status amongst the community.

So after I had this horrible encounter with wealth I decided to look into just who exactly works in Harrod’s and why do they feel that they have the right to look past me? To my surprise these sales associates win the same exact salary as sales associates in Macy’s or Nordstrom from back home in the states. They win roughly about $24,000 a year.(http://www.harrodscareers.com/page/benefits_and_rewards)  It amazes me that even the people who clearly are not part of that social economic circle feel that they have a granted right to treat others the same way they are treated. If there is one conclusion from this entire experience it is that I will never understand how wealth is equated to respect and the right to abuse people. People who genuinely believe in these two traits have a completely wrong way of looking at life.

Categories: 2010 Jamie · Uncategorized
Tagged: , ,

5 responses so far ↓

  •   battilaj // Sep 14th 2010 at 20:34

    I’m sorry you had such a bad experience, and I’m right there with you. I’ll go in with you next time and we can make the workers feel really uncomfortable by shaking hands and talking about money instead of the weather.

    Do you have any idea who shops at Harrod’s, though? If conspicuous consumption is unpopular in upper classes, what other people can possibly afford to shop there?

  •   stepheniem // Sep 15th 2010 at 14:54

    I haven’t been to Harrod’s yet this trip, but I remember on my last visit that I had a similar feeling. There was also a sale on socks (I want to say they were marked down tow 12 quid instead of 30 or something still slightly ridiculous for one average pair of black socks), which a lot of middle aged ladies seemed to be flocking towards. The people I was with all just rolled their eyes and continued on.

    I feel like this goes to Fox’s discussion of the upper middle class trying to use brands as a way to inflate their standing. If you shop at Harrods (in the sale section or not), it is assumed that you have money, which will hopefully delude those around you into believing you are of a higher class. Apart from the English who use it to promote themselves, I feel like it is also a tourist trap. Again, on your return home if someone were asked where they purchased a *insert object here,* a reply of “Harrods” would garner the person class points.

    I wonder if Harrods has, or is, slowly becoming an high-end store for the middle class.

  •   brownrac // Sep 15th 2010 at 15:39

    Maybe you have had different experiences, but I think employees at every retail establishment are guilty of passing judgement on people who come in to the store. On any given day that I go shopping, I am treated differently based on my appearance, that is, what I’m wearing, how “groomed” I look, and how I carry myself. The best way to throw these judgmental people off is to ask for a specific item of clothing or makeup or whatever it is, even if you have no intention of purchasing. Merely hinting in any way that you are not just browsing aimlessly will garner an immediate turn around in their attitude towards you. It’s a fun game, especially at Harrod’s, give it a go sometime.

  •   bowmanc // Sep 15th 2010 at 17:28

    Great post. Roughly $45 is a lot for a pair of black socks, and I agree with Stephanie’s point regarding the root of the whole harrod’s-craze. I also think it’s behind the superfluous amount of Bentleys and RRs. I find it highly improbable that there are THAT many people in London (I seriously see 3 or 4 of each a day) who, acting financially responsibly, can afford a $400,000 car.

  •   patrickmr // Sep 16th 2010 at 18:50

    I walked into Harrods a few weeks ago with a hooded sweatshirt and athletic shorts on. Man, I didn’t stand a chance! I was treated exactly as you were, Jamie. It seems that the salespeople have been conditioned to develop serious shopper radar- like the typical Englishman who can spot an American from 100 ft, it seems like Harrods’ employees have a set of criteria in mind when deciding to acknowledge or ignore a shopper.

You must log in to post a comment.