An American’s First Visit to Harrods
Nov 23 2012
Hi, people of Britain. My name's Matt. I'm an American and I live in your country, stealing your women and taking your jobs. Despite that, you've been mostly very welcoming and kind to me and held my hand while I stare into the terrifying abyss that is British coffee and the London public transport system. The thing my new British friends never seem to understand, though, is that while I'm in England, I want to do English things. And by “English things” I mean really stereotypical, cutesy, old-timey things.
I get it; you guys want to take me to Dalston – because it's “just like Brooklyn” – and make me aware of how much cool, modern stuff you do here, but I just don't care. I want to see the Queen. I want to take tea with men named Rupert in the sunny courtyards of Kensington. And I have no idea what it is, but I want a fucking petticoat. Alas, no one has yet indulged my wistful, little fantasies. So when I found out about Harrods, a gigantic luxury department store in Knightsbridge where Brits go to buy jackets for their corgis and sample new blends of Lapsang Souchong, I just had to go.
When the only department store you’ve been to is Walmart on your weekly soda ‘n’ guns run, it’s difficult not to be awestruck and confused by a place like Harrods. Their motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique – “All Things for All People, Everywhere” – yet, throughout my two-hour-long browse of its one million square feet, I found nothing for anyone, anywhere. Unless if by “all people” they mean only the extremely, extremely, disgustingly rich. I’m not talking about people who merely wipe their arses with cash; I’m talking about people who have diamonds surgically attached to the inner lining of their anus so that the poop just slides out without leaving a trace.
I was welcomed into the store by this jolly little man in a jolly green suit. He was disarmingly polite, and every time someone walked up to the door he opened it for them. This might be a regular occurrence here, but if the lady at Target held the door open for me, I'd be overcome with suspicion, back away very slowly and move to the next town.
The first item I came across was this one man submersible scooter – used for recreation or "ship security" – for £12,950, because why not put that ludicrous amount of money towards something you're likely to use maybe once every two years then leave to decompose in the basement of your villa on Lake Como?
The thought of that kind of disposable income made me parched, so I headed down to the food hall. Surely water is the same everywhere, right?
Wrong. This bottle of water costs £29.95. What the fuck, England? There's only one ingredient that goes into bottled water: marketing, and I guess the Brits have decided that this particular blend of frosted glass and diamante crystals justifies spending more on a liquid you could get for 0.0005 pence?
Although, this does raise a devastatingly underreported issue: charities are always quick to point out that over 700 million people in the world suffer from water scarcity, but take a second to think if you've ever heard any pleas for the billions of people who suffer every day from drinking water that doesn’t look sexy.
Speaking of looking sexy, here's me trying on some clothes that I’ll never be able to afford. You’re not supposed to take pictures of the clothes apparently, so I told them I was compiling a Christmas list for my boss, Victor – and Victor needed photographs. They immediately pegged me as a potential spender and encouraged me to try on this £3,700 jacket by the brand “Billionaire”. This is the facial expression I saw rich people doing all day – wistful with a hint of bewilderment that can only be imagined when the basin in your guest bathroom costs more than Greenland's national debt.
This is a “smoking jacket” – worn exclusively while smoking tobacco – coming in at a cool £599. I've never seen one of these before – is it a thing in Britain to buy ridiculously overpriced garments for banal, everyday tasks? Are there laundry scarves, too? A mitten for jerking off in?
This £8,195 Grosvenor Hall Doll House seemed to be the main thing that all the mini princesses were gravitating towards. To be honest, the detailing on this was exceptional and what else are going to spend a quarter of your daily allowance on? If you’re poor and don't love your daughter, you can buy the doll house unfurnished and without the basement attachment for £999, then be overcome with guilt at what a shitty parent you are.
As soon as we got to the “Toy Kingdom”, I was completely enthralled. If I had to hold up any one department of Harrods at gunpoint, it would be this one. They had these incredible remote control helicopters, animals that spoke to you and this magical inflatable disk that twirls on the end of your fingers and costs roughly the same amount as all the food I've eaten in the past couple of days combined. Basically, just about everything a man with lots of money and very little emotional attachment to his children could want.
The pet section was the first area that really started to freak me out. The only reason I can think of to spend £170 on a jewelled dog collar is to buy your way into your dog's pants, which is really gross and not something I'd have thought such an upscale department store would endorse.
I guess if the jewels don't work you could try plying it with Bowser Beer for Dogs.
Or, if you're lucky enough to own a poodle, this poodle dress for a totally reasonable £170.
I got out of that mecca of irresponsible spending as soon as possible and headed to the stationery department. This is me throwing down my John Hancock with a £1475 S.T. Dupont fountain pen.
Sure, it’s a little pricey, but just look how fucking smokin' hot my signature became. That’s the signature of a rich man, right there.
The salesman in the furniture department told me that this sofa is the best one he had for lounging. This is me trying to work out exactly what lounging is. Am I doing it correctly here?
Apparently if you really want your friends to know how rich you are, dressing your kids and dogs up in designer clothing just isn’t enough – it's also compulsory to buy an £87,779 chandelier that looks like God splurged an infinite loop of Swarovski semen right above your dining table.
"Benedict, Flora – daddy wants to stand on the stern and watch those silly buggers in Congo shoot guns at each other, but he can't quite see the persecution and struggle in their eyes, would one of you fetch the £12,999 Nikon binoculars from their embellished cedar case, please?"
I get it; phone sex sucks unless you know that both you and your partner are actually masturbating with the handset – we've all been there – but even the supreme double-functionality of this cellular sex aid didn't justify the £765 price tag for me.
By this point, I'd spent the best part of two hours wandering around this absurd monument to British upper-class snobbery and nouveau riche tack and hadn't found one thing I could afford. Or would really feel the need to buy, even if I had enough money in my bank account to bankroll Berlusconi's brothel tab. It was time to go home and shake off the Englishness with a nice, cold Miller Light and a game of American (read: proper) football.
Photos by Jake Lewis.
More culture shock:
Warsaw's Pensioners and Anarchists Have United Against Gentrification
These Guys Made Up a Fake Case to Get on 'Judge Judy'
Essen Is a Paradise
VICE News: Driving Ferraris with Thai Royalists
When Will Young, Poor Egyptians Get a Chance to Live?
Why Has the Governor of Buenos Aires Declared a State of Security Emergency?
Everyone's Tweeting Photos of Police Brutality Thanks to a Failed NYPD Hashtag
Dear VICE - Old People Read You Too
The Toxic Uzbek Town and Its Museum of Banned Soviet Art
VICE News: VICE News Capsule: Edward Snowden Asks Vladimir Putin About Russia's Spy Program