Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Cost of Doing Business

Last time I introduced you to Tanya and Physique 57, my fave workout of all time (and believe me, that's high praise.) I could go on and on about the wonderfulness of Physique 57, and eventually I will, but there is a dark side: Physique 57 is expensive. And it's not just that it's expensive in and of itself, it leads you down dark alleys of collateral expenditure, too.

This presents a certain dilemma for me, because I'm pretty cheap. My mother says I'm 'tighter than the paper on the wall,' and my little brother makes squealing noises whenever I reach for my wallet, which is, admittedly, a rare occurrence. But I'll loosen the purse strings for P57, because it's that good. One class rings up at $36, and when you add tax, you're pushing forty greenbacks. I should mention that is pretty much on par for fitness classes in NYC. Still, I could feed my family for a week on that. They may not like it, but I could do it.

A couple of weeks ago, the boys and I drove down to New York because DH was there for work. DH was staying in one of those posh boutique hotels in mid-town--the kind with beautifully decorated rooms that are about the size of a closet.

I scheduled a class at P57's mothership studio on 57th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. I got dressed in my stylish Lucy activewear and grippy socks. Pretty much everyone at P57 is kitted out in Lululemon, but I can't bring myself to pay Lululemon prices. I find Lucy is just as nice, and they have a sale rack. (You could wear ratty sweats to a P57 class, but I don't think you'd want to.) I was a little early so I stopped in at Henri Bendel on 5th Avenue.

For those of you not familiar with Henri Bendel, it's not called 'a lady's paradise' for nothing. When I lived in New York years ago, my similarly poor friends and I used to go there to window shop. The French expression for 'window shop' is literally translated 'to lick the windows,' and that about sums it up. Several floors full of sensory delights...

Now I should mention that I'm hardly a fashionista. I'm one of those suburban stay-at-home moms who lives in workout wear and considers putting on sunscreen and chapstick getting 'made up.' If I were a Spice Girl, I'd be Sporty:
Who could resist such sensible footwear? My feet hurt just looking at the other four.

I wandered in on the ground floor and was politely accosted by a saleswoman at a cosmetics counter. This is actually a vast improvement on how I used to be treated when I would walk into Bendel's years ago. Something about me must have screamed SHE'S YOUNG AND POOR because they all used to ignore me. Now my fancy workoutwear, coupled with the sands of time, gets me noticed at Bendel's.

Often people at those posh shops act like they're doing you a favor by acknowledging your existence, but this lady was actually nice. She introduced me to a product called Perfekt Skin Perfection Gel.

She schmeared a little bit of it on my right hand, then compared it with my naked left and wow... there was a difference. My right hand just looked... better. Then she took a Kleenex and wiped it across my hand to show that it doesn't rub off. This is a major plus for me, as she noticed I am 'obviously a really active woman,' and as such, I like make-up that doesn't actually look like make-up. This lady was all kinds of good at selling stuff.

I was sold, but hadn't brought my squealing wallet with me, and I didn't even know the price, so I thanked her and scuttled off my get my tail whooped at P57 by Sade (pronounced 'Shah-day,' like the singer.)

I couldn't stop thinking about this wonder product, however, so I asked DH to stop into Bendel's if he had time to see if we could score some without having to sell one of the kids. I provided him with all the salient information, including price comparisons from the internet. I told him if it wasn't crazy more expensive to just buy it at Bendel's because I wanted to give this fine saleswoman the business.

DH went back after the boys and I left and the nice lady wasn't working. Instead, the Perfekt counter was staffed by a surly man sporting rolled bangs and pink eye shadow. DH inquired about the cost of the wonder serum and was told it was a full $10 more than the lowest internet price. I could feed my family for a day on that (they wouldn't like it, but I could), so that's a no-go.

Now this is the part where I wish I could have been a fly on the cosmetics counter. DH was raised by Chinese immigrants, so he's not just going to walk out of this situation. He's going to work it. Admittedly, he learned from the best: watching my mother-in-law barter on our trip to China a few years ago was a sight to behold. I couldn't understand a word she was saying, but I could tell she was good. And successful, too. We flew out of that country with some serious bargains.

Unfortunately, Bendel's isn't quite the same, so DH's inquiries about coupons and volume discounts were met with the death-stare you get at those kinds of places--you know, the 'if you have to ask, you can't afford it' kind of thing. DH insists he was 'very subtle,' but hey, it never hurts to ask, and I love him for it.

So I'll own that there is a certain cost to my Physique 57 addiction, 'performance athletic apparel' and me-only-better visage, but you could bounce a quarter off my thighs, and you can't really put a price on that.


  1. I miss NYC! I worked at 59th and 5th in the GM building and used to go to Bendel's nearly every lunch hour. I got quite hooked on a body lotion the name of which escapes me. They have a Bendel boutique here in Atlanta and I swear they transported the smell of the New York store to here.

    1. Oh yes, Raina, it's a lovely place. 1 wanted to move to NYC after our recent trip. Then I told him we'd have to ditch a significant portion of his stuff to fit into a NYC apartment. That seemed to quell his longing somewhat.

      Thanks for commenting on the blog! That's one comment closer to famous blogger status! Yay!