It's a well known fact that when you walk into a high-end retail store, you have to look the part of the high-end retail customer to get any service -- nice clothes, expensive accessories, wallet full of cash. At least, that's how it used to be. Maybe sales associates everywhere are just getting nicer, but we don't think that's it... In any case, commission-paid salespeople have learned that they can't afford to ignore any potential sale in this economy, even if it's a customer that would've previously been shooed out of their stores.

New York Times reporter Eric Wilson recently tried a little experiment on Madison Avenue to test just how tolerant these once snooty retailers could be. He walked into several of the most exclusive shops in Manhattan dressed like a typical college kid straight out of the classroom. At Chanel, Emanuel Ungaro, Ralph Lauren, Prada, and Tom Ford, Wilson was greeted kindly by enthusiastic clerks who were pleased to show him and attempt to outfit him in some of their finest merchandise. My, how the times have changed!

If employee attitudes are a sign of financial desperation, then only Gucci must be handling the recession -- salespeople there were not at all welcoming, and were in fact quite condescending. So if you want to see what it's like to be treated like the rich and famous, try stepping into one of these shops on Madison Avenue -- but if you're going into Gucci, you'll still need to dress the part.

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