I tried my hand as a personal assistant for a close friend many years ago. He offered me to take it as a full-time job but I refused as I heard people told me that working for a friend would have a negative effect on friendship. As I found out to be true.
That short stint as a PA has introduced me to a different world of luxury and to those people who worship expensive stuff. In my real work as a flight attendant has already opened some windows to that kind of lifestyle even thought I just glancing them on the side line but I was fully introduced to the likes of Hermes, Louis Vuitton, posh penthouses, high end clubbing scenes etc and now working as PA has given a new meaning to a real shopping in high streets of many cities. Luxury brands were not alien to me…at least on the surface of it.
Well…my job was not really assisting my “boss” with the typical PA’s works that involve sorting out meetings and appointments but I was mostly his personal shopper. My first assignment was to oversee his almost completed penthouse that being renovated at the same cost as a newly purchased unit. He may be rich but his money does not come close to those famous tycoons that bought yachts, planes as a hobby and he is not famous but lives quite handsomely above average…very much above average.
Before I go further, I have a confession to make. I was not really good at overseeing his property and even more disappointing for being a PA. I was not trained to be one but I had the offer because he knows me in person who he thought might be helpful in easing his pain in getting someone to look after something so menial. Something out of his territorial. His brain functions well to calculate money, formulating business strategies and bossing around in the office but to decorate the house? Big no.. Here is my so-called “expertise” needed. I had convinced myself that I could deliver the best result as long as I was given many copies of blank cheques. He gave me just that.
While the penthouse was being renovated, the existent utensil in the kitchen were mostly bought at the regular supermarkets and that include the china and cutlery such. The plates were not even worthy to be called china. They were mostly Conningware and I told him ” Your new house is just like a brand new Mercedez Benz but the seats are being wrapped with a PVC leather” and I showed him his kitchen’s stuff…” These are your PVC leathers”. He had then understood my point and was given a free hand to do what was necessary.
Of course I had studied his liking on how the house being designed, the fittings etc and mostly reflect his inclinations towards masculinity and minimalism. My choice of cookery items, china and cutlery must compliments to the overall taste of my “employer” and I must put aside my personal’s desires in choosing the intended items.
I went to Hermes but their china and cutlery were mostly for the grand house with those bohemian designs, lots of carving and painting on the plates which totally the opposite of what I had in mind. I saw some very interesting designs at Tiffany and Co but I kept my options open by also looking at Noritake ( Royal Dalton etc is out of the list) and I could not find anything that fancied my eyes. At Cristofle, I fell in love with one of the cutlery set that I bought for RM18,000.
At Cristofle, I got acquainted with the manager, I couldn’t remember what his name was but after numerous repeated purchases of supplementary silver, crystal and table wares, we indulged a little on the gossip of who bought whats at his boutique. He dropped names of course but I dare not to mention them here. One of the Datin Seris had the entire house adorned with Daum crystal chandeliers, had all the door knobs fixed with the same custom-made crystal and the 16 seater dining table and chairs that built from bohemian crystal from the same house. The cost was easily two millions plus just for the door knobs and toilet fixes alone. Those chandeliers and table were charged differently. Imelda Marcos was nothing to this lady.
I was back at the Tiffany for something that caught my eyes earlier in the week. It was a Palladium range of China that really impressed me. Initially it was only RM30K for a dinner set of 16, have them flown from New York which took about two weeks to arrive. Those were the basic set of china. As we opened up the large turquoise boxes that were home delivered by the Tiffany, my boss was very happy with the china and subsequently adding a lot more pieces into the collection.
My subsequent visits to Tiffany were not all about purchasing china and cutlery but sometimes…drop by to get my boss’ toilet supplement. He uses only Tiffany’s soap. I do not know whether or not that Tiffany still selling soaps at their shops today. I had to buy them by the dozen because the stock was very fast depleting. The rich simply threw money at these kind of boutiques.
One incident at his penthouse that sent shiver to my spine was when his coveted dining table being delivered. It was a tempered glass top and an impressive legs work that we purchased at the Xtra. The top alone was RM20K. There was a tiny, puny little dot of scratches at the corner of the top that needed some quick fix. One of the Xtra’s men who thought that he could do some DIY on it, quickly took his polishing machine and done just that. It was less than 5 seconds when from a little dot to a fine hairline and suddenly cracked to a millions pieces of broken glass. The man’s face turned to ghostly white and my mouth gasped for air. It was lucky…my friend was around when this incident happened and spared me from the agony of explaining. I do not know what has happened to DIY guy but Xtra replaced that broken table with a brand new one albeit we had to wait for another month for it to be imported from Italy.
My “tenure-ship” as a PA was short lived as I could not really work for a friend. Simply say that, it was not really a job that I was good at. Being a personal shopper was fun but it took a lot of self dignity to go along well working for someone who used to be your friend. Perhaps I was too personal. The job has somehow taught me in knowing the fact on how the rich may view those people who are trying to shop like them..trying to emulate the same shopping habit that puts so much holes in our pockets. They are laughing looking at us.
Part of my job was to mingle with those people who money seemingly fall from the sky into their purses and I tell you…they threw their credit cards fighting to pay for whatever they had at the table. Everyone seems to be saying ” It is my turn to pay!”. I have seen my friend bought an Audemars Piquet’s solid white gold with diamonds encrusted face of Royal Oaks special edition at a discounted price ( because he is a regular) and still commanded a quarter million worth of time piece in one morning and later signed another Crazy Hours by Franck Muller for RM5oK. To these people, Omega and even Rolexes are real dirt, merely SEED or Padini and no equal to Hermes,Tiffany etc so to speak. When I was needed to be with these people, I chose to wear something without any obvious brands printed on them as I did not wish to be seen emulating a branded conscious because in million years..at that time, I would never be comparable to what they were wearing. I was nothing and it was good to be seen as nothing.
To us, when we see our same designer jeans being worn by another rich guy,we’d feel proud but not to these kind of people. They swore they would never caught wearing the same dress twice. The PA’s would first confirm by calling each other on what their bosses would be wearing if the two were to attend the same function to avoid accidental “boria”. Today, if one caught clutching the Louis Vutton’s cherry blossom by Murakami would be the laughing-stock of their peers. Dear my friends, if you have those LV with red or pink cherry blossom or even those Stephen Sprouse’s Graffiti Keepal, spare yourself from the humiliation by keeping them at home hoping the trend would resurface in a few years to come. Until then, don’t. It is so 2004 and those people really can laugh.
I said earlier that my PA experience has taught valuable lesson about being humble. Since then, I had learnt to know where should I be standing if I were to be surrounded by these kind of people and how should keep my head low.
When you have reached that status, people can tell. By then, you do not have to shout, it shows.