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  • There is a mall on the Las Vegas Strip which specializes in rather expensive big-name designer stores. Expensive enough that the majority of tourists walking the strip with their huge alcoholic drinks the size of their torsos could never afford to shop there. An overstatement of course, some of those drinks are only the size of their heads, and some of the people probably could afford to buy at least one or two things from the stores, though at the expense of paying their rent or mortgage for the month or year.

    I was wandering through that mall a couple years ago, when out of curiosity, I walked into a famous mens clothing designer's store. What struck me most was not the bare "clean" masculine look of the store or the "classic" Americana cut of the clothing, but rather the lack of prices. Shoes, dress-shirts, sports-shirts, cologne, almost nothing was priced. It was a guess as to what they would cost.  The only things that did have price tags were in a minuscule sales section, a single small rack barely three feet long.

    $1,200.00 for a discounted light cotton short sleeve shirt and more for the long sleeve version. Compared to them, an ugly pair of daisy-duke cut length, lavender and white striped shorts marked down to a mere $500.00 seemed a steal.

    I chuckled and left the store amused.

    A couple months ago I was in Vegas again, and in a bit of boredom found myself in the same mall. On a whim I walked into the same store. Except for the tiny sales section being gone, the store was the same. The reaction to me however was different.

    The first time I was dressed for Vegas summer in flip-flops, shorts and t-shirt, and the clerks, while not exactly overly outgoing, greeted me when I entered and nodded goodbye when I left. 

    This second time, I was dressed for desert winter in pants, hoodie and jacket. Despite being dressed "better," I was ignored by the staff. Well, not exactly ignored. While there was no hello, no nod in my direction, no eye contact, no acknowledgment that I was there, two clerks did follow behind me from room to room. They had been talking with each other, gossiping about someone when I walked in, and they kept talking as they followed me. From body posture it was clear that my presence was annoying them, though this annoyance did not affect their conversation. At least not while I was there.

    They weren't following to assist me and at a guess, I was not being followed for shopping "while brown." That's happened to me before and the feel is different. I think this was more a money / class thing. From my shoes alone it was clear I wasn't there to actually shop. Their behavior was more a reminder to me that I did not belong there. That, and to ensure my grubby hoi palloi self didn't sully their goods. Which of course made me want to touch and move their entire stock around. Not that I did. Teasing minimally paid, retail store employees fulfilling stereotypes about snotty clerks with altitudes who work at expensive stores may be amusing at times, but I wasn't in the mood.

    Later that day, in a different shopping center, across a pedestrian bridge from the expensive designer mall, I walked into another mens clothing store. The clerk here smiled, said hello and asked me if I was having a great day. They were selling flimsy, deep v-neck, t-shirts made from cotton fabric so light you could see through it for $70.00. At bargain basement prices like that no wonder they had to resort to being friendly. 
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