My Overpriced Status Symbol (aka Bag to Put Stuff in)

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My new Coach bag

My new Coach bag

When the strap of my Espe messenger bag broke last summer, I embarked on yet another quest for the perfect handbag. This cyclic hunt is relaunched every few years, when my loyal companion eventually breaks or shows too much wear and tear.

Some women are into shoes; I love bags. I’m selective though, and after I make my choice, it is the one and only bag I will use for the years to come—the last thing I need in the morning is to pick a bag that will complement my style (my what?!) and transfer my stuff from a purse to another.

I like practical, versatile bags with a zippered compartment, a long strap and material that can take rain and snow. I don’t care much about the brand but I don’t want them to fall apart after a month, so I avoid anything that looks cute but flimsy. Oh, and I don’t want the brand name plastered all over. I’m not a Kardashian.

Last fall, for the first time, I set a higher-than-usual budget to buy a nicer bag. By “nicer bag”, I don’t mean Hermès’ Birkin, and by “higher budget” I mean in the $100-$200 range, not thousands. In my spare time, I was researching my topic online and in stores with the same enthusiasm a middle-class Japanese woman displays when stepping into Louis Vuitton in Paris. “What are you doing?” Feng would ask. “Oh, huh… nothing. Just… browsing. Bags. Not porn.”

I was mentally drafting a comprehensive handbag report. Roots had lovely leather bags but they were too pricey. Calvin Klein bags were expensive for what I found was cheap material. Guess bags screamed “I’m like so going clubbing tonight!” I sure wasn’t giving money to the Trump family, even to Ivanka. Desigual bags would have been perfect when I was a hippie teen (so many pockets to hide your stash!)

Eventually, I pushed the door of the brand new Fossil store at the Rideau Centre. I didn’t know the brand but one of their models had caught my eye. Turned out they didn’t carry that model anymore, it was from a past collection. Never mind. I browsed around, out of politeness, and fell in love with the Emerson Hobo. Yes, that was the name of the bag.

I was in luck: that day, the store was handing out scratch cards for a promotional event. I scratched, got a discount, bought the bag.

After I signed the credit card receipt, my new purchase was carefully put inside a large white nylon drawstring bag, itself put inside a large shopping paper bag that screamed “I’m a rich bitch who just bought a fancy handbag!”

I loved that bag. It was practical, with many pockets, the perfect size.

And then, one day, the snap hook broke as I was walking in the street, barely two months after I bought it.

I contacted customer service by email, providing a quick picture of the issue. I had expecting them to step in but the exchange was not friendly. I was instructed to ship the bag, the damage would be assessed, and then a decision would be made. It sounded like a very lengthy and bureaucratic process. “But I’ve only had this bag for a couple of months!” I wrote. “It’s under warranty and I don’t want to wait weeks for you to eventually repair it.” Then customer service implied I had a fake handbag, even though I had provided the receipt.

This was going nowhere. I did what I should have done from the start and came back to the store. The manager was friendlier and he exchanged the bag. “How did it happen?” he asked. “Well, that’s the thing… nothing happened. I was walking in the street and the hook broke. That’s pretty much the story,” I explained.

I left the store with the same model.

Towards the end of December, the snap hook broke again. Same scenario.

This time, I marched directly to the store, annoyed. I don’t carry much in my bag: wallet, cellphone, one key and some days, my Kindle. I don’t like clutter and I walk a lot so my bag is fairly light. Again, I was offered an exchange for the exact same model. Huh huh. “I’m not coming back here in a month with another broken bag!” I said. “Clearly, there is a problem here.” The manager shrugged and tried to sell me a more expensive bag. I asked for a refund, handed the broken bag over and left sans bag. Fossil? Never again.

Then we went traveling and I came back to realize that I really needed a bag because stuffing my wallet and phone in my winter jacket’s pockets was not an option—neither was holding them, my fingers would freeze. At this stage, I wasn’t looking to make a fashion statement, I want something to put my shit in.

I went to The Bay for inspiration and I slowed down when I spotted a full table of handbags on sale. There it was, among other many impractical bags: a bright red satchel that met all my requirements, down to the long strap and the zippered main compartment. I spotted the label: Coach. I sighed—probably out of my price range. I squinted to see the numbers on the tag—oh, it wasn’t that bad with the 25% sale discount!

Five minutes later, I was typing my PIN code at the cash register, wondering whether I would regret splurging on a bag or picking the first one that caught my eye.

It’s been a few weeks now, and no, I don’t regret a thing. I love the true red leather, a lucky colour! The bag is spacious but not bulky and the finishing is perfect: the zipper opens and closes smoothly, the hardware looks strong, stitching is even and straight, the fabric is thick and oh, that leather smell!

Maybe I’m getting old or terribly bourgeoise but I’m starting to appreciate a bit of luxury in my life, including products that are carefully designed and made, quality materials and fancy ingredients. I don’t care much about brands and I know the power of marketing too well, something you just pay for a name and fancy artwork. But in a few instance, paying a bit more does get you a better product, a fancier experience.

If this bag lasts… then yes, it is money well spent.

The Fossil bag, with the broken snap hook

The Fossil bag, with the broken snap hook

Coach satchel in true red

Coach satchel in true red

Coach satchel in true red

Coach satchel in true red

Coach satchel in true red

Coach satchel in true red

Coach satchel in true red

Coach satchel in true red

Coach tag

Coach tag

The bag and I at Starbucks

The bag and I at Starbucks


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Ahah, on the last picture, it looks like your bag is having a coffee with you!

    I can’t believe it, for Fossil. It ain’t a cheap brand and yet they can’t come out with quality products?! Shhhh.
    As you, I’m pretty monogamous when it comes to bags. I only have two: a leather one and a light fabric one for the warmer months of the year.
    I had my leather one handmade by a creator from a local shop… I’m not gonna lie, it wasn’t cheap (around 300 euros) but I’ve had it for 8 years now, so I guess it was worth every penny. It’s even getting more beautiful as time pass. Maybe you should consider that if you want some long term product!

  2. Another monogamous purse girl here. I hate shopping for shoes BUT purses.. Oh purses are a whole different story. And I am a purse snob, too. I will research and browse forever before I finally settle on that one special beautifully made splurge purse that will last me for years to come! I love LOVE the leather smell, too:)

    Btw. I cannot believe they exchanged the Fossil purse for you for a brad new one? Better yet, I cannot believe they took it back and gave you your money back? Wow Great customer service and good for you!! Never ever have I seen that happen in Europe.. our customer service is so bad, sorry nope it just doesn’t happen in our stores … after you take labels off and especially after you’ve used the item it’s done no returns what so ever..

    • We should definitely go bag shopping/bag browsing together one day, looks like we have another passion in common! Although we’d better leave our wallets at home that day 😆

      Customer service in North America is generally very good, i.e. very much in favour of the customer. Return and exchange policies are very flexible and people use and abuse them. Generally, I don’t. I rarely return anything unless it’s defective. Yes, I’m happy they refunded me, although I was disappointed that the quality was lacking for the bag.

      • Oh girl you got it, it’s a date! Don’t care much for shoes or even make-up and jewellery, but purses and scarves oh yes bring it on! It’s a fetish of mine.. you don’t have to be weird to be my friend but it sure does help;)

        I noticed the Customer service over there is great, but I had no idea it’s THAT great. I can easily see people using and abusing the refund policy too, I mean it’s nice to be able to return something if you truly don’t like it and it has NOT been used, or the item is simply broken. However, I imagine someone may wear a garment, then return it get a refund, and then someone else BUYS IT AGAIN as brand new? Do they do that you think? In other words, where does the returned item go?

        Ok now I am kind of hoping for a whole new post coming up on North American return and exchange policies because this is interesting. The rules are much more rigid in Europe, the store will let you return something IF you have an original receipt and you can only return it in say 8 days… However they will almost never give you your money back, you will very likely have to exchange the item for a new one, or for something else. Needless to say, I’ve been forced to keep many failed purchases and I would’ve preferred to get a refund!

        Well, I digress. Love your purse though. Now I want one too, thanks a lot Zhu!

        • Scarves, yes, scarves! My other addiction! I have… ahem, a box full of them. There is something deeply comforting and simple with these pieces of fabric. Very versatile too!

          I can’t remember returning anything in Europe… I mean, you try on clothes, they fit, you buy them, right? The mindset is totally different here. I’ve seen people buying bags of clothes just to try them at home and return whatever doesn’t fit. Crazy. And then there are tons of ways to “play the game”, on one hand stores want to make customers happy because they spend money, on the other hand customers want the cheapest service and most flexibility. You have coupons, discounts, etc.

  3. Que veut dire with many money à propos d’un sac? J`m beaucoup Fossil, mais surtout pour leur montre. Ton nouveau sac est superbe. Je voue une passion aux sacs Nat & Nin, une marque française. Des modèles simples, déclinés en plusieurs couleurs à chaque fois, et de très bonnes factures. Je les achete d’occaz en france et je les fais venir avec ma famille 🙂

    • Ah non, ça c’était juste une coquille pour savoir qui lisait vraiment. Parce qu’apparemment, dans mon cerveau, “many money” c’est “many pockets” 😆 Bon, je devais être fatiguée… J’ai corrigé, merci!

      Ouh, je ne connais pas Nat & Nin… je vais aller voir ça. Moi aussi je connaissais surtout Fossil pour les montres, surtout en France.

    • Ah j’adore aussi Nat&Nin ! Je n’ai pas les moyens pour un sac mais j’ai acheté récemment un porte-feuille en soldes. Le cuir est d’une telle qualité !

  4. I love me a new bag and I like bags just like the one that you chose! Not too big (else I fill it and lug everything in the whole world round with me) and leather, so that it is durable. It is lovely!

    • After Mark was born, I bought a very big bag because I figured I would need to carry more stuff. Huuuuge mistake. I hated lugging the thing around and it took me forever to find whatever I was looking for. I went back to smaller-size bags after.

  5. I have the same requirements as you for a bag– zipper, long strap, etc. However, I put a lot more in– water bottle, sometimes a book…

    I also don’t change bags daily because the rare times that I do, a metro card or small item always gets accidentally left behind in the one pocket I didn’t dip my hand into when transferring belongings.

    Your new bag is a really nice red!

    • I love this shade of red, it’s bold and cheery. Plus it’s good luck in most Asian cultures!

      I used to carry a water bottle with me all the time too, but drinks are cheap in Canada and there are drinking fountains everywhere, so I usually leave my bottle at home.

  6. I’ve always preferred quality over quantity as well. I was getting desperate to find a good quality handbag here. The only seemly good ones (real leather) were waaaay over my budget (think two or three minimum monthly salaries), so I’ve ended up buying two cheap ones… One too small, one a bit too big. In the end I was still using my old one that is just the right size but that is made of fabric and is all discolored and falling apart (luckily in the inside, the outside seems are all still fine)… *sigh* When I was expecting it the least, I’ve finally found one too ! I think there must be something in the stars this month for finding a handbag!!! 😉

    • You need a good leather bag! Maybe next time you go home? I didn’t see cool bags in Brazil, the local specialty is more… beach sandals?!

  7. I don’t think your bag is real. :/ Real Coach bags have a serial number stamped on the leather patch inside. They also say where the bag was made (China for newer bags, the U.S. for older models).

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