David Bruce: Gifts Anecdotes

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Makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin once did the makeup for Elizabeth Taylor. When he was finished, she looked in the mirror and then called to her assistant, “Come and see what he’s done to me!” Mr. Aucoin was afraid that she hated the makeup, but she told her assistant, “Isn’t it wonderful!” Mr. Aucoin was understandably relieved — for one thing, he greatly respects Ms. Taylor because of all the work that she has done to raise money for AIDS research. Ms. Taylor is sly when it comes to giving gifts. She told Mr. Aucoin that he reminded her of a person to whom she wanted to give a gift, and she asked what he would recommend. He told her about a baby-blue cashmere sweater that he had seen in a store, and later that day, Ms. Taylor gave him a gift — a baby-blue cashmere sweater.

A man who wants to be called Chris had an interesting experience in which a salesperson at Macy’s messed up, but then she and other Macy’s employees worked hard to make things right. He stopped at Macy’s to buy some Lancome eye cream for his wife. The purchase cost $110, and he decided to get a Macy’s credit card so that he could get 15 percent off. The salesperson was still new, and she gave him credit protection for his purchase. This surprised Chris, so he asked her about it. “Oh,” she said, “I give that to everybody because it’s free.” This also surprised Chris because usually credit protection is something that must be paid for. It turned out that she was wrong that the credit protection was free, and she was horrified. She called over a more experienced employee, who confirmed that yes, there is a fee for credit protection. The new hire tried valiantly to call Credit and get the charge dropped, but she eventually gave up, and called a supervisor, who also tried valiantly — holding onto the line for a good 30 minutes — to get the charge dropped. Chris is a nice guy and did not make a fuss, and the supervisor informed Credit, “I have a very patient customer waiting here.” She also tried to make up for Chris’ lost time, telling the new hire to find a gift to add to Chris’ purchase. The new hire came back with a small gift, but the supervisor told her, “We have better gifts. Find some of the good gifts in the back. And find one of the nice gift boxes.” In addition, the store manager ordered, “Have someone take him [Chris] over to the men’s fragrances and see if we can find him a tester he likes.” A tester provides samples that customers can use to see if they like the product. Eventually, the supervisor got to the right person in Credit, who advised that a $15 charge for credit protection would show up on his first statement but he should ignore it as a $15 credit would show up on his second statement. The supervisor also told Chris that if the $15 credit did not show on his second statement that he should see her and she would take care of the problem. When Chris went home, he had Lancome eye cream for his wife, and he had these free gifts: an unused 4oz tester of Obsession Night for Men (perhaps worth about $45), 10 samples of other colognes for men, about 20 tubes of various Lancome lotions and creams, about 10 tiny “flat pack” Lamcome samples, and some manicure sticks and a bag to hold them. Chris said, “Other than the cologne I couldn’t say what the value of all this was, but my wife was impressed and happy.” Chris was also pleased by Macy’s employees’ attitude that “we know this is a big waste of your time and we’re going to try and make up for it somehow.”
Chris also said, “Thanks!”

Peter Paul Rubens was a diplomat as well as an artist. In early 1603, the Duke of Mantua started Mr. Rubens’ diplomatic career by sending him to Spain. Because the King of Spain was a powerful figure who could cause trouble for the various regions of Italy, the rulers of these Italian regions found it wise to keep on his good side. The Duke of Mantua sent the King of Spain as a gift a team of three pairs of matched horses and a chariot equipped with springs. In addition, the Duke of Mantua sent as a gift to the Duke of Lerma, who was very important in the Spanish court, a number of paintings that were reproductions of masterpieces. The paintings became wet during the journey, but Mr. Rubens used his gifts as an artist to touch them up as needed. Unfortunately, two were so damaged that they had to be thrown away, so Mr. Rubens used his artistic genius to paint as a replacement an original work of art that was much admired by the Spanish court. The Duke of Lerma was very much pleased by the gifts of the paintings, including the reproductions, although he thought that they were originals, not reproductions. Mr. Rubens, being a good diplomat, did not correct the Duke of Lerma’s error.

As a very young man, Milt Hinton played bass with the All City Orchestra in Chicago. He and the band had just played their annual concert at Orchestra Hall when a very distinguished gentleman named Henry C. Lytton introduced himself to the bassists and said that he owned the downtown Hub department store. He said that he loved the bass and invited the bassists to visit his office in a few days. The bassists all went, and Mr. Lytton took the bassists to a room filled with basses and invited them to try the basses. After leaving them alone with approximately 30 minutes, he asked if each of them had found a bass he liked. They all had, and Mr. Lytton said, “The bass you picked is yours for as long as you play bass. If you ever decide to give up playing, bring it back to where you got it.”

“The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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