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Ali Shops Blog

Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Speaking For The Brand

Monday, August 8th, 2011

A shaggy, skater dude-type sales associate approached me as I browsed the new Superdry at the Mall of America. “Did you hear? Everything is 30 percent off,” he told me. “But I’m 100 percent on.”


Couple of minutes later, another sales guy, similar look, stopped me to see which tank top I was carrying. “Oooh, those are super soft,” he said, sounding as incongruous as I would selling fishing poles. Or is it rods? “I mean, I haven’t tried it on,” he continued, “But I’ve heard.”

Okay, I get it. Superdry has attitude.  I can’t help but wonder just how intentionally the sales staff was selected. Is it sort of like Hooters, where no applicant is discriminated, but golly gee, all those hired seem to fit a certain specific type (and measurements)? Did Superdry go out of its way to select smart alecks? Did the retailer tell associates to get extra chummy with customers and encourage banter beyond the usual, “Can I help you?”

Retailers are in a tough spot where service is concerned. Ignore me and I’ll complain. Hover, and I’ll get irritated. Compliment my selections, and I’ll assume you’re just gunning for a sale. Don’t comment, and I’ll question your expertise.

Whether or not you like the specific approach, at least give credit to those retailers that bother to have a strategy for sales associates. Trader Joe’s is a perfect example – it’s not by chance that every cashier that has ever rung me up wants to know my evening plans. Now, often, I want to reply “None of your business!” But I don’t, because I recognize they are making the effort to connect. And usually, by the time they’ve bagged my mountain of frozen enchiladas and dried fruit, I’m feeling a bit friendlier. My kids have stickers, my bags are neatly packed and I leave feeling upbeat.

If a store is going to arm its staff with a specific pitch line, the key is making sure it’s as productive as it is memorable. I didn’t challenge the Superdry guy with any questions that would have tested his “100 percent on” claim. I’d like to think he knows sizes, fit, stock and return policy as well as the closest bar. I have my doubts, but he gets leeway for originality.

Is there a sales pitch that amuses or irks you? I want to hear about it!

Service with a smile (and toilet paper)

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Even if the new Belle Weather in LynLake carried nothing but lumps of coal, I’d still owe it a stellar review. I showed up Sunday, 10 minutes before opening, knocked on the door and unleashed my two young boys on unsuspecting new store owner Crystal Kopan. She smiled, even as they dumped their coats on the floor like they owned the place and spun card racks fast enough to see if they could set them into orbit. Now I know what you’re thinking: why doesn’t she teach those boys to behave. And believe me, we had conversations before, during and after this unfortunate store visit. But every child has his moments (ok, some more than others) and the two together is a lot more than one.

It was hardly the first (shopping experience, that is) for my guys, ages 6 and 2 – they’re seasoned pros on the boutique scene, but in their defense, a gift shop with dainty things is not so much their cup of tea, especially at lunch time. And in retrospect, I tend to be with one or the other when I go shopping – not both, to egg each other into craziness. Not to go all mommy blogger on you, but as a working mom, shopping is one of the things I can do – or delude myself into thinking I can do – with them (unlike interviewing and writing and radio show hosting). I’m a hopeless multi-tasker, so when we were driving past the brand new store last weekend, I had to stop.

Four minutes in, my big boy had to go. You know, go. Like, really bad. Crystal hesitantly pointed us to the bathroom with a warning that it was sort of crammed with stuff. So my younger guy busied himself with a tangle of display racks while the older one…well, settled in. Couldn’t be a quickie, of course. Some time later, when we reemerged, Crystal was still smiling and patiently carrying on a disjointed conversation with me about her retail outlook. She followed up with an email saying our visit was the highlight of her day.

Poor thing, must have been a pretty awful day. But what a good impression she made.

Outstanding exchange

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

“Have an outstanding day,” the Macy’s sales associate said after giving me a refund on a bed skirt.
It felt a bit over-the-top for a young woman who was leaning on the counter when I arrived and barely mumbled hello.  So I said thanks, but couldn’t resist asking:  “Did Macy’s tell you to say that?”

Retail Hell: Black Friday edition

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

How to escape a thankless job on the front lines at a department store: Expose the shopper for her every inappropriate return and rude request in a funny new book called "Retail Hell: How I Sold My Soul to the Store – Confessions of a Tortured Sales Associate." So this year, former Nordstrom handbag salesman turned author Freeman Hall will spend Black Friday at a book signing rather than in the midst of shopping chaos. It's a fun book, whether you've worked the cash register or tried to return a handbag after carrying it 10 times. It brought me back to my days in the boys 8 to 20 department at Dayton's. So rather than dwell on the inevitable long lines and staffing shortages we're sure to face at the malls later this week, I devoted my pre-Black Friday Savvy Shopper column to acts of retail kindness…and other ways to avoid getting beat up at the sales. Read before you shop.

Macy’s responds!

Friday, December 28th, 2007

Your numerous comments about Macy’s on this very blog have been read by higher-ups at Macy’s. I had a very frank conversation with the pr director, who was aware that I typically wrap up the year with a column on retail resolutions – things I think retailers need to do better in the coming year to keep our business. This year, Macy’s wanted to be more proactive and agreed to share its own goals for ‘08. Read all about it in my Savvy Shopper column the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Sunday, Dec. 30. And on Saturday, Dec. 29, tune in to "Shop Girls" on FM107.1. Macy’s pr director Natalie Bushaw will join us at 10:30 a.m. to talk about our complaints and what the department store is doing to address them. Feel free to chime in – our number is 651-641-1071. Or as always, comment here – it makes a difference!

Also, a couple of blog readers have commented on the little stickers Macy’s now puts on items at point of purchase. Those stickers do indeed replace the need for a gift receipt. Bring back an item with a sticker on it, and the salesperson will have all the info needed to make a return (same way they do it at Nordstrom). It’s a good idea, but as usual, there’s a disconnect. Macy’s sales associates are not necessarily explaining the stickers or the fact that you don’t need a gift receipt if the item has one. Sigh.

Bags, boxes and more Macy’s gripes

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

It’s been six months since Macy’s virtually eliminated paper shopping bags – you know, the ones sturdy enough to hold several purchases and tall enough to contain a gift box. That’s right, welcome to the holidays at Macy’s, where you have to carry your box separately because it doesn’t fit into the flimsy plastic bag – that is, if you can get a gift box. Half the time, they don’t seem to have boxes behind the register (did the holiday just sneak up on them?) and I’ve yet to encounter a sales associate who offered to locate one for me. I went out of my way to the customer service desk to get a box – only to discover when I got home that they had given me one too small.

And why do Macy’s employees seem surprised that shoppers want gift receipts? Most associates don’t seem ask, and when you tell them you need one, they get all hot and bothered and have to void the transaction and start over. 1. Why not set up the registers to automatically spit out a gift receipt, like they do at Target, or at least make it possible to add one at the end of the transaction. 2. If that really is not possible, why not train associates to ask before ringing if the customer wants a gift receipt.

After all, we’re trying to follow the rules.

No coupon? No problem.

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

"Is there a coupon offer today?" I asked the sales associate in the contemporary department at Macy’s, and we both burst into laughter. Is there ever not a coupon offer? So I fished around in my bag and came up with a couple of expired 15 or 20 percent off cards . I needn’t have bothered. Krista, the sales associate, had a stack of them sitting at the counter. Same thing happened to me in shoes. So don’t miss out. Basically there is never a reason to pay full price at Macy’s – you know, the department store that promised to be less promotional.

Interesting addendum: Krista did have an ulterior motive. She wrote her name on the bottom of my receipt and asked me to go online and say nice things about her. (Does this count?) I’ve been told by company officials that this employee recognition program is not new, but someone must have recently clued in the front line staff because suddenly they’re all begging for accolades. No one seems to have many of them that they’ll need to actually work for it. | Mpls.St.Paul Magazine © 2008 MSP Communications, Inc. All rights reserved