Tough all over | AspenTimes.com

Tough all over

Charles Agar

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN My editor gave me a cute assignment the other day: find out which Aspen retailer had the highest price Christmas return and make a fun little front page box complete with a photo of a flashy store interior and a slinky saleswoman.I grabbed Aspen Times photographer Paul Conrad and the two of us went door-to-door Sunday, come-as-you-are style.That was our first mistake.I wore a puffy old down jacket and a hunter’s cap with floppy earflaps, and Paul looked like he’d just hopped off a snowmobile after a day of ice fishing (only he wasn’t blind drunk), his two massive cameras swinging dangerously from each arm.I’ve been in Aspen just a few months now, and to me there are parts of town that are like the ancient Geisha quarters of Tokyo – imposing doors give way to interiors of opulence, where only the privileged samurai and rich merchant classes are allowed to enter.I might get a glimpse of something shiny as I pass, but it is all forbidden to the court scribe.But this assignment led me right into the belly of the beast, where an alligator purse fetches nearly as much as my annual salary and where the movements of saleswomen are prescribed, like automatons, their skin shiny as plastic.Staff at each store scrambled to “security mode” the moment they spied us.Gucci was overrun, and the entitlement hung like angry steam over the heads of the leather- and fur-clad patrons who aren’t used to waiting ever, for anything.The folks at Christian Dior were friendly enough, but it was clear Paul and I weren’t going to fit into anything black and slinky, and the one salesman I asked about their highest priced Christmas returns would barely make eye contact and took pleasure in the snub.Same at Louis Vuitton and Fendi, where apparently the staff can’t do anything without a directive from New York.I overheard conversations about things “marvelous” and “fabulous” and “I’ll take two of these, darling.” Maybe it was the botox stretching their faces, but these folks looked unhappy. Frustrated, pouting, unfulfilled: like a deep inner knowing that this purchase just won’t do the trick, either.I guess things are tough all over.And the biggest return this Christmas? I give them back their high-end world. They can keep it.