Today, I took our 9-year-old shopping. He’s outgrown every school uniform shirt he owns, and taken the knee or the hem out of every pair of pants. He can wear khaki shorts to school, but he has to wear plain white or navy blue polo shirts (no logo), and we’re down to one sad-looking one.
The school’s uniforms are supposedly stocked at four stores: Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl’s, and JC Penney. I don’t shop at Wal-Mart — I’ve seen what happens to small town merchants when they move in, and I’ve experienced first-hand their high-handed treatment of vendors and the resulting off-shoring of jobs. But after visiting the websites of all three of the other stores and 17 local retail stores in the three chains, I’m convinced of two things.
First, the buyers at these chains don’t have kids. Or they’d realize that kids outgrow school uniforms before the end of the year. Second, the recession has taken most of the experienced, friendly, helpful retail employees out of the store and replaced them with surly, overworked teenagers.
Gabby, at Kohl’s on Abrams in Dallas, rolled her eyes when I asked if she could call another store to see if they had any in his size. She said, “Go back to customer service. They can call if you can’t use a computer.” I said, “Customer service sent me to you — and you’re wearing a name tag that says, ‘Customer Service’ on it.”
She turned her back and walked away. The manager said, “We’re short-staffed today.” I reminded him that was the same thing he told me in December when my granddaughter and I put back $425 worth of stuff she wanted to buy after standing in the single check-out line for 45 minutes.
At Target, the staff was helpful, but said that they couldn’t call other stores on a Saturday.
And at JC Penney, they were happy to order for me from their online catalog — but said it will take 7 days to get the shirts delivered. I drive past their warehouse — and their corporate headquarters — four days a week.
So how did we solve the problem? I went to a resale shop and picked up used shirts.
And I’ll make sure that next year, when the shirts are in stock, I buy enough in two or three sizes, so this won’t happen again. But wouldn’t it have been nice is ONE of the sales people at ONE of the 17 stores I visited had “gone the extra mile” and actually found the shirts for me?
Doing that would have made me a customer for life. It’s why I continue to buy some things at Neiman Marcus, even though they’re less expensive a few doors down the mall at Macy’s. The sales people at Neiman Marcus ALWAYS go the extra mile. They call me when my brand of perfume goes on sale, or when something in a size or style I like comes in. They send thank-you cards when I make a large purchase. Most of all, when I’m in the store, they pay attention to me — and they never, ever roll their eyes when I ask a question.
I’ll say it again: Zappos does it right. Why can’t the rest of the retail world?