Liberty Rant

Chrissy ON Jan 07, 2013 AT 10:50 am

by Chrissy Iley

Liberty of London

Liberty used to be one of my favourite stores in the world. I would find it relaxing because it sold things of beauty. I loved my Loyalty points. I found their taste eclectic, sophisticated, clever. Until one day…

I’ve been using Carnal Flower for the last ten years. If you lined up all the vats of Carnal Flower that I’ve brought you could drown seven cats in it and they’d have a beautiful but sweet smelling death.

I met Frederic Malle who is a Frenchman of pedigree, an excellent nose. Editions Frederic Malle make Carnal Flower and they have a black and red stand on the ground floor of Liberty.

I met Malle in Barneys LA. He was very excited when he told me he was to open in Liberty’s and I was excited too. It meant that pots of Carnal Flower could live in Los Angeles and the travelling size would go with me in between.

I recently bought the Carnal Flower hair scent. It makes me happy. Frederic Malle tells me that sales of Carnal Flower had gone up after I’d written how Denzel Washington had admired it on me so much. I bought some for Denzel for Christmas.

How I came to have a life with Carnal Flower was because of one sample folded in a red envelope. Barneys gave it to me. I wore it around the house and felt like Marilyn Monroe. I wore it outside and other people treated me like Marilyn Monroe. Win. Win. I bought the large size again and again and again.

Frederic Malle Carnal Flower

People tell me they can track me down at parties because they know my smell.

One day recently I smelt Portrait of a Lady, another Frederic Malle scent – more intense, muskier, but quite divine on the person who was wearing it. She said she liked to mix it with something else. I wondered if it might be a bit much mixing it with Carnal Flower, so I went into Liberty’s to try it on.

The salesperson was talking to a couple who were deciding on their Christmas scent. He looked like he was looping in for the kill, talking to them about high notes and low notes, freshness and purity. Conversations that I feel I don’t need to have.

What I needed to have as a lifelong Carnal Flower buyer was a sample of Portrait of a Lady. ‘We don’t do samples,’ he said. But I said, ‘Yes you do. In red envelopes. I’ve had them before.’ ‘No, we don’t do samples.’ ‘But I can see them.’ ‘Well we’ve run out.’ And he continued on his conversation with the couple. He glanced at me and said, ‘You can buy the travelling size, it’s cheaper.’ I told him it wasn’t about the money, I wanted to live with the scent, I wanted to know if it would mix with Carnal Flower. ‘It won’t,’ he said.

A few days later, because by now I was angry, I asked another assistant in Liberty’s Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle ‘What is your policy on samples?’ She replied, ‘We only give them to our loyal customers if I recognise them. We absolutely do not give samples out if it looks like the person is not going to buy or has not bought before.’

I wondered what it was about me that did not make me look like a loyal customer or that I couldn’t afford a bottle of perfume. I was wearing a Rick Owens leather jacket, Helmut Lang jeans and Henry Beguelin boots. But what difference would it make if I were wearing top to toe Primark. How dare I be judged on what they think I’m going to buy.

But worse than that, how could I be lied to by the first person. ‘No, we don’t have samples’ when what he meant was ‘No, we don’t have samples for you.’

Back in LA, Barneys will always give me a sample. They don’t know me but they know how selling perfume works. You do actually have to wear it and live with it. But who wants to be lied to? And at Liberty’s they are at it all the time.

On the same day as Carnal Flowergate, I asked to try on the size 10 and 12 of a Rick Owens leather skirt. Even though it was on sale it was chained to the wall.

The Spanish assistant Carlos had his arm in a sling. I’m not sure if it caused him pain to unlock the skirts, or whether he thought if I tried on both I would have had an opportunity to steal one of them. It felt like the latter. He told me I must try them one at a time. ‘Really? This is Liberty. You don’t expect to be treated like this. And I’ve not been treated like this in Forever 21, Marks and Spencer or Selfridges. Or in fact anywhere. If I don’t know what size it is I think I have a right to try on both sizes. They can see how many I’m taking in and I’m sure they can count them coming out and I’m sure they have other security tags on them.

I tried on the 10 and it was really tight. I asked for the 12 and I saw a man was buying it for a gift. What are the chances of that, eh? I should have taken it as a bad omen but I didn’t. I was getting obsessed with the skirt.

‘It will stretch. It’s leather,’ said Carlos. ‘Why don’t you take it? You can always bring it back. You have until January 15th.’

I bought it, tried it on at home. Sitting down in it was impossible, it was going back. I braved the start of their sale to take it back. The day of the second incident with Carnal Flower. The day I was due to fly to LA in the afternoon.

An Irish assistant said, ‘Store credit only. To be used before January 15th.’

I thought I was going to cry. That’s not what Carlos told me. ‘Carlos isn’t here till 12.15pm. You can talk to him then.’

‘By then I will be at Heathrow.’ I don’t think the Irishman believed me but I certainly wasn’t going to risk missing a plane for Carlos to deny that he had never mentioned the words store credit only. ‘But it is stamped on your receipt,’ said the Irishman. And it was. But Carlos had failed to point that out. I call that a lie by omission.

This would never have happened if I hadn’t been treated like a criminal and been allowed to try two skirts on. Please can I speak to the Press Department?’ ‘The Press Department isn’t working today. They are closed for Christmas,’ said the Irishman who refused to give his name.

I could feel my cheeks flushing red with anger and tears at the back of my eyes. The Irishman said he would give me a store credit and he would extend the time and that was the best he could do. He was making an exception.

I told him that I would never wanted to come back into Liberty’s ever again so that would be useless to me and I would be giving my £25 loyalty voucher to a homeless person.

I had already bought my leather backed Liberty diary as I have done every year. So far I have forgotten important meetings, vital chores, and times of work events to come because I refuse to even open it.

Liberty, are times so desperate that you have to start lying to people to get business? You have certainly lost mine and you might want to look Liberty at my years of loyalty. And Frederic Malle, you might want to look at Selfridges. I’m told it’s a very nice place.

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