Macy's Sad Sibling
By Tina Portelli
Like the Empire State Building, Lady Liberty and 9/11, everyone has heard
of Macy's. The largest department store in the world.
At Easter, Macy's sponsors The Annual Flower Show with thousands of
colorful blooms throughout the store. At Thanksgiving, we are gifted with
the Macy's Day Parade, featuring every cartoon character we've known since
At Christmas, the store is alive with lights and magnificent display
windows depicting scenes of Christmas past. Its eight floor is a Winter
Wonderland, and can dissuade anyone from suicide. Going to Macy's at
Christmastime is the ultimate medication to induce Holiday Spirit. And
empty your wallet.
I make it a point to get to Macy's for my Christmas shopping every year,
as stores compete for my cash. The coupons I have received in the mail
from Macy's entice me to buy more gifts than needed. Wow, 40% off the
ticketed price, plus an extra 15% today and tomorrow only. But that is not
true. The sales will last through January and will get bigger and better
with each passing day. I need my gifts by December 25th, but hope to have
extra green leftover for the sale days of January. I will make purchases
at 75% off the ticketed price whether I need them or not.
Macy's does a great job of retailing, they know how to grab the consumer's
attention and hold it. They make you want to buy everything you see. I
spent nine hours shopping at Macy's New York this weekend, four days before
Christmas, not an easy task. Not only did I get good buys, but sore feet
and lower back pain at no extra cost. My shopping expedition has become a
military experience. Dressed lightweight, water bottle in place, money
tucked in my front pocket to elude pick pockets, coupons in hand, spirit in
tack, dodging the longest lines, finding the nearest restroom, it's all
basic training. I am ready for action.
Task done, I am exhausted. Bags in tow, I am back in Brooklyn, almost home,
I realized I forgot to buy two gifts. Not having the energy to board the
subway for a second trip back to the city, I decided to go to Macy's in
downtown Brooklyn. It's a short walk from where I live. The Brooklyn
Macy's on Fulton Street is the former home of A&S, Abraham and Strauss. It
was a grand store in its day. A&S had the biggest tree of any store and
the best Santa in town. It had the equilivent of displays and decorations
as Macy's New York does today, but that was forty-seven years ago, I was
only seven. It's how I remember it, the best store in town.
I now realize that all Macy's are not created equal. The Brooklyn store
can be described as the neglected child of 34th Street. It does not adorn
the trim and sparkle of its flagship sibling. It is colorless and dim, a
shadow of its former grand occupant. Merchandise is strewn like garbage,
a bargain basement fire sale has offered better. The aisles are not
flooded with crowds and the shoppers wear grim expressions on their faces.
The lines are long and slow moving, making Motor Vehicles seem like a day
in the park. The salespeople show no sign of selling joy or spirit. No
sign of life. The restroom is dirty and the store is hot.
Being second on line to make a purchase, I overheard the woman in front of
me having a conversation with the cashier. She was telling her that her
daughter died four years ago at thirty-seven of cancer and she, now fifty,
was raising her two young grandchildren along with her own teenagers.
Christmas is always sad for her.
When it was my turn at the register, I commented to the cashier how sorry I
was for that woman. It was then that she revealed that she was a cancer
survivor. While I was happy to hear that good news, I could feel the
cloud of gloom descending upon me. Before I knew it, I was telling her
about my mother's death twenty years ago, fourteen days before Christmas.
I put my purchase down and decided not to buy. I needed to get out of
that store. I needed fresh air. I left the store. It was not the place I
wanted to continue shopping in for Christmas.
I will go back to Herald Square tomorrow, to the biggest, over-crowded,
merriest store in the world. Back to that Miracle on 34th Street.
Perhaps someday Macy's Fulton Street will find its own miracle and
shopping will be a merrier experience.