Thank you, New York’s Finest!

On a quest for pink pants, Michelle Brown, MR’s associate publisher, spent part of an afternoon stranded on the third floor of a 34th Street H&M in her wheelchair after an elevator stopped working.

Pink PantsWhile at work yesterday, Liz, my very petite 15-year-old, texted me a picture of pair of bubble gum pink skinny jeans from H&M’s children’s department and asked me to get her a pair at lunch time. Why not? They’re a bargain at $17.95. How could I go wrong?

The 34th Street and Sixth Avenue store didn’t have the right size so I went down the block to the Seventh Avenue H&M. It’s spring break and every screaming, kicking kid in NYC who needs an Easter outfit was there. In the noisy children’s department on the third floor, I found what I needed within five minutes and was back at the elevator waiting to escape.

The line of strollers, carriages, moms and their kids stretched through the racks of clothes, and eventually we noticed the elevator light would go off and the doors didn’t open. Supposedly a common occurrence, several of the workers went downstairs to reset the elevator. The shoppers headed for the escalators while I, in my 275-pound chariot, was stuck on the third floor with NO WAY OUT. No freight elevator, no facilities, no nothing.

New York Firefighters

The police came first. Thank you the men in blue of Midtown South! Then they called the fire department. Four guys showed up with giant picks, pneumatic jacks and rappelling equipment. One fireman said they get a call every two weeks to get people out of that elevator. Oops. There were six great guys waiting with me, trying to figure out how to get me and my wheelchair down the two escalators. I wasn’t the problem. Not breaking my brand new costs-more-than-a Camry-but-isn’t-insured-like-one motorized wheelchair was.

Michelle in the elevatorBecause H&M is a large multinational chain, the protocol is scripted. A manager submitted a ticket with IT to send out an elevator mechanic. I asked where is the IT department? When will they hear back? How long can this take? It’s after-hours in Sweden—am I stuck here? All I heard is “We are so sorry and we have no idea.” Every salesperson and manager came to check on me and apologize again and again. What more could they do? They did their best while trying to operate in a maze of corporate procedure.

It took about an hour before the mechanic arrived. He had to get on top of the elevator car and manually lower it with me and a fireman inside. There was a small army of fireman and mechanics at the bottom. And so many shoppers that no one knew what was going on in the corner.

All I can say is I will never shop in that H&M again, and those jeans better fit!

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