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FASHION : A Futile Search for James Dean

DEAR HOT SHOPPERS: It sounded like the best thing to happen to malls since Mrs. Fields’ cookies. The Glendale Galleria claimed to be offering free, year-round concierge service. A press release, quoting Concierge Desk director Norm Allen, said: “We do a lot of product search. . . . One lady called to ask where she could find a brass Buddha. If we can’t locate an item at the mall, we research to find it somewhere nearby.”

One of my brothers has requested a life-size, cardboard, stand-up photo of James Dean for Christmas. I decided to test the Concierge Desk. When I called and asked where the Dean photo could be bought, a man asked, “Did you try Art Showcase?”

“No,” I said. When no further help was offered, I asked if the man could check a list of all the products offered in the Galleria’s stores. “We have 250 stores here,” he politely replied. “They don’t give us all their products, but if you call Art Showcase you could ask if they have it.”

The man gave me a number and I phoned Art Showcase. No luck. A clerk suggested another store in the Galleria. Another strike.

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I called Molly Gorman, the Concierge Desk’s PR woman. “There must have been someone on the desk who wasn’t prepared,” she speculated. She suggested I call the Concierge Desk back and talk with Allen. He apologized and explained that the man I initially spoke with “was a part-timer and wasn’t here during the (product search) briefing.”

But the same part-timer hadn’t even been willing to search for Allen when I first called:

“Is Norm Allen there, please?”

“No.”

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“Do you know when he’ll be back?”

“I have no idea.”

“Could you find out?”

“Nobody seems to know.”

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According to Gorman’s press release, Allen is marketing the concierge concept to shopping malls in other areas of Southern California. It says he hires senior citizens “who are experienced and know how to treat customers.”

Not this one.

CUCAMONGA CHIC--Tiny maps of Los Angeles--or perhaps Downey, Signal Hill and El Monte--are the subject matter for handmade glass pins at California Map Center, 3211 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. The shop stocks the Los Angeles, Paris and New York models and will special-order pins featuring maps of any city--as long as you supply the maps on weird requests.


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