Personal shopping is a luxury service that’s most associated with a very wealthy, elite tier of society. As such, most of us don’t have firsthand experience with the process, unless, of course, you’re one of the men or women who’ve turned their shopping prowess into a lucrative career. Curious about what goes on behind the closed closet doors of this exclusive world, we spoke to a few personal shoppers with years of experience navigating the luxury fashion market and its biggest customers. Let’s just say their jobs are not always as fun as they may seem!
Scroll down to hear some of the craziest stories from life as a personal shopper.
WHO: Joan Kaufman, New York City-based luxury personal shopper with experience in costume design for film and TV
"I had a request come in from someone staying at one of the nicest hotels in New York City. When I got to her room, it was about 1,000 degrees inside and she was lying in bed coughing. 'I hope they told you I have the flu,' she says to me. It turned out that she literally came to New York in a muumuu and brought nothing else, so I was hired to buy her everything she needed—socks, panties, outfits, etc. I never like to pry or ask too many questions of my clients but I realised quite quickly that there was something other than the flu going on.”
“A man I was working for who came from a well-known foreign family once requested that I buy him six new iPhones on the day of their release. He gave me $10,000 in twenty dollar bills, which was hilarious, and that’s how I was to pay for them. At the time, Apple had a limit on how many phones you could purchase in one go, so I had my sister's son sleep outside on the night of their release to get two of them, then I bought two more, and, finally, my sister’s husband picked up the last two. It was definitely my craziest experience, but the man did buy me a nice bracelet that I still wear as a thank you.”
"I worked with another woman from Wyoming for three days, and she was taking so long making selections one day that I was going to miss picking up my son from school. The solution? I asked if she would send her limousine to pick him up and bring him to us, which she did. We ended up being in Bergdorf’s for so long that the store actually closed while we were still inside and we couldn’t get out—my son was crying out of fear and we had to have a guard come let us out."
“One woman that I worked with from Amsterdam insisted that we bike around all of New York City together whilst shopping, since biking is a huge part of their culture. We hopped all over the place, going to great places like Chloe and Oscar de la Renta, only to find that she was very difficult [about what she liked]—she never even bought anything.”
WHO: Michelle Liberman, head stylist and Vice President of The Shopping Friend
"As a personal stylist who helps people with a pretty intimate part of their lives (their image and wardrobe) I tend to learn a lot about my client’s lives in a short amount of time, including why they came to us in the first place. Usually when they reach out to us we start with a little interview to find out what their image challenges and style goals are. One client’s responses were particularly unique…
This woman contacted me and expressed concern over her mental and emotional state. She told me she was thinking about divorcing her very wealthy husband because he was apparently cheating on her. She confessed to me that she still had his credit card and wanted to shop in Los Angeles, stressing to me that budget was no issue. To avoid the summer heat in her home country, she had been temporarily staying in Beverly Hills and was not allowed to go anywhere without her security team (including the dressing room). She was always fully veiled in public but loved to wear risqué outfits underneath
Her requests were beyond what most of my clients usually ask for. She refused to wear anything ready-made and had a phobia about clothes from a rack—no matter how expensive or fine an item was, if it was off the rack she refused to put it on. She only wore couture and pieces designed specifically for her body. I was also asked if I could include a colour specialist on our shopping sprees and, to ensure that I worked with only the best, she wanted to know if I could fly someone in from Boston whom she’d heard was good with colour. She also wanted to rent dogs for our shopping excursions. I asked her why and she said she was just used to that as part of her image. Next, she requested that each showroom we were to visit set up a private place for her to nibble on snacks—preferably tabbouleh and falafel. Her coffee also had to be served at 165 degrees every time.
She was also in a bit of a time crunch so wanted to know if we could have 12-14 hour shopping days but said she’d understand if more than one stylist had to attend to her. Any stylist working with her had to meet her standards: they had to be clean, have good breath, and be trained in etiquette.
After about 10 days of trying to meet this client’s long list of standards and requests, we ended up not working with her."
WHO: Valerie Halfon, owner of Shop with Val, an affordable personal shopping service based in New York
"I received an email from a woman in Saudi Arabia a few months ago with the subject line ‘Urgent!’ I thought to myself, a fashion emergency! Shop With Val to the rescue! But it turns out she was looking for cheese—formaggio, to be exact, which is a specific type of fresh mozzarella that she was unable to find at home. She requested that I send her four batches of these heavenly mozzarella balls at my earliest convenience! After looking the product up online, it appeared to be easy to find, so on a cold winter's day I set out to buy her cheese. But, six supermarkets later, I had struck out everywhere!
Eventually I was able to track down the cheese through a website that delivered groceries. This made my client very happy, but a few days after placing an order the company notified me that it would be delayed. Apparently the cheese was out of stock and must've been in high demand! I anxiously checked in with my doormen everyday to see if I had any packages and it wasn’t until two weeks later that the cheese finally arrived! It was the night of a big NYFW event; I was dressed to the nines and about to head out with my friends who were waiting for me in a cab downstairs. The large brown box seemed to have been saturated by some kind of liquid so I carefully opened it, only to find a crack in one of the containers. All of the oil had drained out and seeped through the box it was delivered in. Of course, a drop of oil got on my blouse—the blouse I had just bought for that night’s event. I threw the cheese in the fridge, a blazer over my blouse, and prayed no one would see the spot. There was no time to change.
So now I'm down a box of cheese to send to my client, but she still asked me to send the remaining packages. Two days later, while at the Hervé Léger show having a fabulous time, I had to jet out early to buy dry ice to keep the cheese in so it wouldn't go bad. Ten pounds of dry ice later and I was attempting to hail a cab to FedEx—it was not a pretty sight. I was decked out, as every fashionista is during NYFW, and struggling to hold this huge, heavy box of ice and cheese. Once I got there, I had to send the cheese priority to ensure the dry ice would last and keep the cheese fresh. $334 later and the cheese was off. Actually, between the cost of the cheese, the dry ice and my service fee, this cheese lover spent over $500 to have it sent to her in Saudi Arabia.
But the best part may be that, after all the trouble I went through, she notified me that only two of the boxes of cheese arrived in good condition. Unfortunately, the others were not edible. Now I know to stick to fashion—I love my cheese, but I'll never look at mozzarella balls the same way again."
Consider our shopping site Mined (filled with editor-curated boutiques) your free personal shopper.
Would you ever hire a personal shopper? Let us know in the comments!