Cheryl Shops...the real Filene's Basement
Even though I go to Boston several times a year (MW's family lives there, as do several friends of mine), I am, as a bargain shopper, ashamed to say I've never been to the original Filene's Basement on Washington Street downtown. So I went up to Beantown last weekend to visit my dear, dear friend JM, who recently returned to the U.S. after three years in Honduras and is now starting grad school at Harvard (my girl's wicked smaaaaht)--and I decided to do my shopping ambassador duty and take her on a whirlwind shopping tour of her new home. Newbury Street, Charles Street, Prudential Center...blah blah blah. JM wanted to go to H&M, and since Filene's is right down the street, we decided to check it out. I was preparing myself for boredom--after all, I grew up with a Filene's Basement 20 minutes from my house, and I never saw what all the fuss was about (personally, I prefer Century 21 or Loehmann's). But as I discovered, the real Filene's Basement is nothing like the chain stores it spawned. To begin with, the store is literally in the basement of Filene's proper, and its concrete floors and boxes-on-tables merchandising make the chain stores look fancy by comparison. But I took that as a good sign. I was also afraid that the merchandise in the Basement was going to be rejects from the store--i.e. Liz Claiborne blouses and tapered-leg Levi's. Wrong again--I spotted Balenciaga, Marni, ChloƩ, and Prada on the racks (okay, there was also some Liz Claiborne, but the store has a bit of someting for everyone, and you can't fault it for that), and many of the items still had their original hang tags--from Louis Boston (like the Jeffrey of Boston), Barneys, and Bergdorf Goodman. So that's where that stuff goes. They had a ton of clothes, great handbags, lots of perfume, a huge home-accessories area (including good-smelling, ginormous pillar candles for $3.24), and to-die-for shoes. I had to talk myself out of a four-inch Alexandra Neel stilletto that was marked down to $75. Which brings me to the genius of the real Filene's Basement: the "Automatic Mark Down System." Every price tag has a date on it, and throughout the store hang placards with the dates and corresponding markdowns--after a certain number of days, an item is automatically 25% off, then 50% off, then finally 75% off. (If it doesn't sell, it goes to charity.) Granted, I don't shop at the local NYC Filene's Basement very often, but I don't think their markdown system is that organized (or that cool). JM and I didn't buy anything, but now that she's down with shopping in Boston, she said she's definitely going there with her this-weekend visitors, her old college roommates. As for me, the Basement is going to be my first shopping stop next time I'm up there. Sorry, Newbury Street, but I've got a new favorite.

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