Please read Part 1: Stardust, Part 2: The Hunt, and Part 3: Jargon, if you missed them
Confessions of an Ex-Fragrance Model by Guest Contributor Christina Warinner
Part 4: Special Clients
At our store, we had two very special clients. Both were over sixty, fabulously wealthy, and committed shoplifters. They were distinct, however, in method and manner. The first, Mrs. L, repeatedly returned an empty bottle of Chanel No. 5 parfum, complaining that it smelled terribly. She couldn't wear it, and she would demand a new bottle to replace it. The trouble was that she did wear it, obviously, which is why the bottle was always returned empty. She had a grandiose style, and she'd fling her shawl over her left shoulder for dramatic emphasis as she described its terrible, stale stink to everyone in eavesdropping range. A few pages into the well-worn script at this point, I'd play along, abhorred, and call our store manager, who'd shepherd her into his secluded office. Thirty minutes later she'd emerge, beaming, with a new bottle of Chanel (I think he kept a case in his office). Then he'd discreetly send off a bill to her husband...
Eventually, my days at the department store came to an end. Our distinguished store manager, who was so skilled at handling our eccentric clients, got into a terrible car accident in Mexico while visiting a young Mexican "friend." Upon waking up from his coma, he revealed that he was gay, and was promptly divorced by both his wife and the store. The company was on the verge of bankruptcy anyway, and within a few months our store closed its doors forever. My days in the fragrance industry had come to an end.
Today, you can still visit the store. It's a Macy's now, but they have more or less retained the same layout and stock. The fragrance counter is still located at the front, the first line of attack on the well-heeled customers. Stardust, however, has disappeared from the glass cases. Miraculously, the entire stock eventually sold out, months after the company fired all its fragrance models and probably with the help of impromptu two-for-one deals and five-fingered discounts that the employees devised. After the store closed, the Angel and Creed reps moved on. Maybe the Angel rep went back to cosmetology school like she always wanted. As for Mrs. L and Mrs. M, I suspect that their husbands have made arrangements at other stores, most likely the new Nordstrom's at the mall.
Christina Warinner is now a Ph.D. student at Harvard University and spends her summers excavating at sites in Mexico, looking for traces of past epidemics. She spends the rest of the year teaching tomorrow's best and brightest in the classroom for far less than she made as a Stardust rep. She still keeps Powder Fresh Secret in her medicine cabinet and doesn't own a single bottle of perfume. However, she will admit that when she gracefully dodges the fragrance counters at the Cambridgeside Galleria mall, deftly cutting left and right, she's tempted to slow down a bit, let herself be caught, and bathe in a fine floral mist.