Friday, January 15, 2010

I remember my father telling about the time he sold a man his own hat.
Dad was working at a high class clothing store for men located in Penn Station at 34th Street in Manhattan. A customer entered the store and when Dad approached him, he said, “I need a new hat”. He removed the one he had on and handed it to my father.
The location of the store had an effect on the kinds of customers it depended on. They were business men on the go. Many times they had just arrived from other cities by train; this was in the late 1920s. The local customers would have come by subway; both lines had a station there. It was busy morning, noon and night and everyone seemed to be in a hurry. This customer was typical and appeared impatient according to my father.
In those days men wore fedoras, felt hats with brims and ribbons around the crown. The majority of the hats were grey, although there were many brown ones. Both colors had many shades giving the customer a lot of choices. Hats were available in 13 sizes from 65/8 to 81/8 and there was a variation for head shape. So buying a hat meant making quite a few decisions.
My father recalled that the hat the man handed him was “71/4medium grey, long oval”. He offered what he believed to be one that would go well with the clothes the customer was wearing. The man tried it on and gave it back, asking for another. He did this quite a few times until my father was running out of choices and patience. Finally, in desperation, Dad took the customer’s hat to the back room where a tailor steamed it with a slightly changed shape, applied a new ribbon, and inserted a new lining and brought it to the customer. The man liked it and kept it on his head. Now came the moment of truth. My father had to decide whether or not to reveal what he had done. He asked the man,”Do you want me to put your old hat in a box for you to take home?” The customer replied,” No, I don’t want to be carrying a box around all day. Get rid of it!” So my father did a bad thing. He wrote out a sales slip which he gave to the man and directed him to the cashier. He had sold the man his own hat!

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