A Tale of Two Fabric Store Ladies

“Oh, honey. Live a little.”

The lady at the trendy fabric store in Toronto’s garment district had been friendly and helpful up until that point, but now she was exasperated. And why not? I’d been trying to find the right fabric to line the bodice of a dress (a Colette Truffle) and anxiously inquiring about fibre content every two seconds. I’d finally found a smooth weave that felt like cotton but had a slight, suspicious sheen and no fibre content marked on the bolt. Did she think it had anything synthetic in the mix, I asked?

She sighed deeply.

“Probably a little bit? Oh, honey. Live a little.”

Part of me was really annoyed by the whole scenario. After all, if I went to the butcher encountered a pile of unmarked ground meat, I probably wouldn’t buy it. And if I asked “hey is that 100% ground beef, or does it contain some human fingers?” I wouldn’t be satisfied with “Probably a little bit? Live a little!”

But I get it. It’s a huge store with thousands of bolts that get shipped in from who-knows-where. She didn’t know the answer, and no amount of obsessing or complaining would change that.

I was about to leave empty-handed when suddenly a second fabric shop lady appeared. She was much older, much tinier, and she came out of nowhere. I mean NOWHERE. I think she was hiding under the cutting table.

“Wait,” she cried, “I burn for you!”

And before I could work out why this shop assistant was declaring her passion for me she whipped out her lighter and torched the corner of the fabric. Like, she just set it on fire in the middle of the shop like it was no big thing.

Fabric shop lady #1 drifted away to help someone less exhausting while Fabric shop lady #2 stared intently at the glowing edge of of the cloth. Every few seconds she took a deep whiff of the smoke. It was like watching the Oracle of Delphi. After a long, inscrutable moment she snuffed the flame with the palm of her hand and threw the bolt on the table.

“A little something in that cotton,” she declared. “I don’t know what. This is not for you. I get you 100 percent linen, yes?”

And that’s exactly what she did.

Now THAT’s customer service.


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