Here are some very important tips to optimize your Hamptons summer shopping experience:
When a salesperson greets you, don’t be afraid to smile and respond. She is just being friendly — it’s an odd local custom. You’ll get used to it, and you can always ignore her if she tries to bother you again.
If you are a bright star in the human galaxy, the Hamptons retail clerk will assume you desire anonymity and pretend not to recognize you. If you are a not-so-bright star you may get the same treatment. Don’t get all huffy; it could be a compliment. Keep in mind, though, you lesser stars, if you don’t get the service you desire, don’t ask, “Do you know who I am?” You may be disappointed.
Make sure to complain to the salesperson about the traffic, the parking, and the ticket you just got. It’s all obviously her fault. The weather, especially if it is bad during your vacation, is also her problem. In fact, if you take out all of your summer frustrations on the sales clerk, you’ll feel so much better.
Ignore all posted signs. “Returns — Store Credit Only” does not apply to you. You deserve a full refund. Neither does the “No Food or Drinks” sign. You would never spill your iced mocha latte on their precious merchandise. The “Employees Only” sign on the bathroom is just preposterous. Why should you use the public restroom? “Shirts and Shoes Required” is only for people with flabby abs or no pedicure. “No Dogs Allowed” doesn’t mean Pookie; she’s part of the family. And the posted store hours are always flexible. If you need something before they open, just bang on the door until someone comes. If you are still in the store at closing time, simply stay until you are good and ready to leave. Don’t feel rushed, even if the sales clerk looks tired and unhappy. Another half-hour won’t kill her.
Lament the high prices and how everything is cheaper in the city or New Jersey or online. With those prices, the store should have exactly what you want. But if they don’t, order the item anyway, then buy it somewhere else. Remember, it is always worth badgering the salesperson for a special price or discount, especially when she is very busy.
Don’t ever wait in line. Just push up to the counter and demand immediate service. If the clerk is on the phone, talk over her. If she is waiting on someone else, interrupt them. Become irate if your credit card is declined or your wallet is in the car. Someone else is surely responsible. Wet or sweaty bills pulled directly from your swimsuit or biking shorts are perfectly acceptable. Don’t apologize. Last-minute purchases before you catch the Hampton Luxury Liner? Leave your luggage where everyone will trip over it and make the clerk gift wrap everything while you loom over her and fidget.
Expect your salesperson to know the exact location of every store, restaurant, and road in every town in the Hamptons and be able to answer every question pertaining to all of them. If she doesn’t answer to your satisfaction, try speaking VERY LOUDLY or veeery slooowly and always E-NUN-CI-ATE.
When checking out, make sure to comment on deforestation if the store has paper bags, and landfills if they use plastic. If they have both options, complain about how many bags you already have at home. Never bring your own. And if the salesperson actually asks if you’d like a bag, you should reply disdainfully either “Of course” or “Of course not,” depending on your mood.
Shop with your kids! If they are restless and bored or have dripping ice cream cones and chocolate-covered fingers, allow them to run freely in the store and redecorate while you shop. They can climb stairs and jump from step stools, pull items from shelves, and explore areas marked “No Admittance.” If they are screaming and yelling with excitement or rage, don’t bother quieting them or feel you need to leave the store. Make sure to park all strollers in the middle of the store or in narrow aisles. Never clean up anything.
No kids? Shop with your dog! Does Lulu bark, growl, and like to bite people? Bring her along when you shop. Is Thor a great fighter? Bring him too. Friendly Rufus should have a long leash so he can drool, shed, and jump on everybody. And don’t worry if your best friend has a little accident. Just ignore any puddles. Why should you have to mop up?
Please speak extra loudly on your cellphone so that the customers in the back can hear. Better yet, walk around the entire store while you argue with your lawyer, broker, contractor, or spouse. Don’t hang up when you are checking out. You don’t really need to talk to the salesperson anyway; rudimentary sign language and exaggerated facial expressions should be sufficient.
Remember, the customer is always right, especially in the Hamptons.
L.J. Gurney has lived and worked on both sides of the retail counter in the Hamptons.