Groping For Translatable Measurements

A few weeks ago I sojourned to Chicago to host The Carat Exchange.* One panel discussion focused on set-top-box and viewing data, and was roundtabled by: Rentrak's informatively charming Cathy Hetzel; pugilists Jeff Boehme (Nielsen Media Research) and Frank Foster (EVAD Consulting, and the former president of erinMedia and "monopolistic busting" litigator against Nielsen); and the congenially conversant Bud Breheney (TNS Media), whose litany of deployments included Charter, Comcast, DirecTV and Time Warner. I mention this roundtable and the importance of evolving meaningful, usable research as a segue to an incident that occurred in Chicago the day prior.

When hosting the Exchange, I always arrive in Chicago the afternoon before the lunchtime event. It provides me with the opportunity to resolve last-minute presentational issues, and more importantly, to comfortably shop North Michigan Ave, which is comparable to New York's Fifth Ave. I visit two locations for my wife: Oilily, the new bohemian clothing boutique whose designs synthesize art and fashion, and La Perla, the luxurious European intimates boutique; and for my 11-year-old son, Zach, the Lego store. An uncrowded hop, skip and a jump across North Michigan from one to the other.



I must admit I'm never quite comfortable visiting La Perla. Although the sales staff -- usually two young adult, attractive women whom I've become familiar with over the last few years -- try to ease my transition into examining women's lingerie publicly, there is still something about examining women's lingerie in public that scrutiny shouldn't bare. In preparation, I tried to fortify myself with all of the intimate details of my wife's lingerie collection -- size, style, palette, and configuration -- prior to debarking from New York. Inevitably, as in prior occasions, the saleswomen will posit questions whose answers I cannot articulate in terms of pure statistics. This visit was no exception.

As I surreptitiously perused the merchandise, I happened upon an unusual bra and thong combination: an erotic Japanese print in exotic smoky gray and burnt orange. I pointed to the stealth garment. The senior saleswomen applauded my selection and shared with me that every season La Perla creates a limited edition of erotic matching sets. Then she queried: "What's your wife's size?" Proudly, I informed her that the label on her La Perla nightgowns were a "1" and reminded her from past purchase discussions that my wife is elegantly slight. She held up the thong -- in a "cat's cradle" repose -- and explained that normally a "small" would suffice, but these are cut extra small so she would recommend one size up. Perfect, I thought.

"What about the bra?" she queried.

"What about it?" I responded. "Certainly, I want one," I said in a low voice.

 "What is your wife's size?"

I reminded her that I'd already informed her that the label on her La Perla nightgowns were a "1." Wasn't that sufficient measurement information to make an educated decision about her size?  Apparently not. Different metrics, I was informed. 

A long moment of silence.

Nurturingly, she repeated: "You're sure you don't know your wife's bra size."

"No," I answered despondently. "It never came up in conversation before."

Pointing to her own chest, she asked if my wife was built similarly to her.

I hesitated a moment, put on my glasses and stared at her chest.

"No, smaller than you," I answered.

"What about the other saleswoman. Is she built similar to her?"

Before I shifted my gaze to the other woman's chest, I asked, "Doesn't that depend on the construction of the bra?" -- and its raison d'etre, I thought. Then again I wondered if the next phase of the inquisitional process would be for me to grope her and her cohort or possibly sashay around the store feeling up the scantily clothed manikins for approximations. I wondered when we were going to resort to more primitive metrics like handfuls and mouthfuls.

She sensed she was losing a prime sale and attempted to shift the line of questioning to more tangible dimensions. "What about cup size?" she gingerly queried.

"She has two," I said, annoyed.

A long moment of silence.

Then her ice breaker: "Based upon your description of your wife, it sounds to me like your wife is an A cup."

I clung to the A cup concept. "Yes, an A cup sounds right." 

Sensing my relief, she and I were only left with one possible impediment to closure: inventory. She excused herself, walked into the back room and returned with an erotically Japanese printed bra in exotic smoky gray and burnt orange. Exuberant was I -- until I noticed an aura of concern emanating from her.

"What's the matter?" I asked. 

"You said you thought your wife was an A cup."

"Absolutely," I agreed.

"Would you happen to know her chest size?" she asked.

"Yes, an A cup. We agreed she was an A cup," I blurted.

"That's her cup size. Could her chest size be a 32," indicating the circumference of her own chest.

"I think she has a 34 -inch chest," I confidently proffered.

"Well we only have one bra left and that is a 32B," she imploringly offered.

Groping for translatable metrics, I asked the senior saleswomen if a 32B was comparable to a 34A given the meshing of the chest and cup size.

"Yes," she triumphantly grinned.

As I departed the store, minute package in hand, I ruminated about the upcoming Carat Exchange and the roundtable discussion focusing on panel size and weighted averages and prayed that sooner than later the media community would evolve usable set-top-box and viewing research that would protect male media executives from experiences like the one I just shared.

 *A quarterly forum in which technologists and distributors are provided an opportunity to vet their interactive televisual propositions (TV, broadband and mobile); and for media professionals, advertisers and agencies to make sure that they get it right so that the applications developed meet the needs of marketers in their quest to provide the best possible platform for their messaging and consumer engagement.

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