A Tale of Three Cities (and two stores)

It may be the best of times for many bargain hunters, it is arguably the worst of times for retailers. In any event, it would be wise for retailers to treat those shoppers right. Unfortunately, I have witnessed some incredulously foolish customer service antics; in one case, it was enough to change my purchasing decision.

This morning I met up with some dear friends for breakfast. On my way home, I made a number of stops to take care of business. I stopped by Ikea, which is out in a suburban area, to pick up some household items, wrapping paper on clearance, and some $1 per yard fabric to make another cushion cover.

Problem is, there was no one to help me cut the fabric. Usually I can flag down a passing Ikea employee for help, but this time, there was none to be found in the area even though I walked around quite a bit. I ended up going to the one place that I know has someone stationed at all times: the children's play area. Fortunately, the employees working the area were very responsive and started to find someone to help me right away. Even though I had to wait for a bit, which was irritating, the service I received was very friendly. Perhaps the person who was ultimately responsible for the area was flaky, but I was very glad that the other employees made great efforts to pick up the slack. I would keep on shopping there.

Cut to hours later, when I decided to make a quick last pass of the department stores in Beverly Hills to see if prices have been cut down even further, particularly because this is the last week of Fall/Winter clearance at many of the stores (at least that's what they say). I went to the Co-op floor of Barney's, which I haven't been to before. I found a nice wool skirt that I could wear for work, and naturally, I wanted to try it on. But, of course, the dressing rooms were locked, and I had to ask someone to unlock it.

I went to the cashiering station to ask for help, and I found three sales girls chatting with each other. I asked politely for a room. All three girls looked at me with blank stares, and then they went back to their conversation. I was just dumbfounded--I was sure they heard me...or did they? Why would they be ignoring me? After a few more words, one of the girls finally walked toward the dressing room, unlocked a door, then proceeded to tell me in a bored voice that the store was going to close in five minutes. I have no problem with being politely informed that the store would close soon, but I deeply disliked the tone in which the message was transmitted.

Like Hebden, I wondered whether the service (or lack thereof) was linked some way to my outfit. After dressing up all week for a deposition, I decided that I wanted to dress down for the weekend, but I was by no means walking around in frumpy sweats. Not too shabby, right?

[Gap yellow t-shirt and black/white striped scarf (which I took off before walking into the store since it was too warm), Michael Kors leather hoodie, assorted silver rings from Etsy, BCBG satchel, Fins Denim jeans (sure, I got them for $10, but the fit is great, and they're just jeans!), black and white checkered Nikes]

I can understand that after a long day of work, and possibly one of dealing with many demanding customers, one would get tired. However, I felt that the sales associates were not just a product of weariness--I felt that the treatment I received was downright rude. When I was at the far smaller Barneys Co-op at the Grove (which is technically in Los Angeles and very close by), the salespeople were always energetic and friendly, notwithstanding the busier traffic. What a difference a zip code makes.

Although I really liked the skirt and it fits fine, the customer service was enough to make me not want to spend my money at that particular location. I hope that luxury retailers realize that a snooty attitude does not convey a very upscale image. If I am going to spend money at an establishment, I don't expect to be waited on hand and foot, but I should not have to feel like I have to "bother" sales associates in order to get them to do their jobs.


ThatBeeGirl said...

i've experienced similar service at the barney's co-op in seattle.
inexcusable, no matter the zip code.

hollarback said...

I am heavier than the average LA size 2, and generally get treated like dirt in Bev Hills stores. So they don't get my cash. If I dress down - I have actually been shoved aside in the Beverly Hills Anthropologie store by sales staff rushing to help another richer looking person browsing. So I no longer shop there.

I have worked retail in the (distant) past - it is really not that hard to be polite and helpful, even when a customer is horrid. Which you were not.. That is part of the job.

I would send a copy of this post or a letter to Barneys.Let them know they lost a sale.

lcowan said...

I believe that shows a lack of store management and leadership – that is really too bad. I went to Barneys in San Francisco and had the complete opposite experience. I walked into the store 10 min. before they were about to close -- as soon as I walked in they handed me bottled water and told me to take my time. I went into NM after and some of those sales associates had real attitudes for NO reason.
Now I’m doing most of my shopping online – forget about those rude sales associates. The deals online are much better anyways!! I found a great shopping site called iStorez -- you must check it out. They have sales and deals from all the major retailers. Here’s a link to the site http://www.istorez.com/

Hebden said...

I'm sorry to hear you had a similar issue at Barneys...I really don't understand how they can have such disregard for shoppers (especially in the current financial climate).

Sales Rack Raider said...

Yikes...sorry to hear about the collective bad experiences. It is unfortunate, and it is baffling, especially in light of the economic crisis that felled giants. Big establishments should realize that they are not immune.

I'll just stick to the other stores that value their customers. I've been to Saks a few times, and my experience has been positive (even though I looked like an idiot the first time, since paying for shoes is not as simple as walking up to the cashier). I didn't get any dirty looks from Neiman Marcus even though I didn't buy anything. I just don't know what's going on with Barney's...I think I'll restrict my shopping to the Grove Co-op and the warehouse sales.