Friday, June 22, 2007
Retail Therapy of the Handbag Type
Despite the title of this post, I don't actually go in for retail therapy. I am not a shopaholic. Frankly, I have neither the time nor the energy for that sort of thing. I do the majority of my personal shopping online. I receive a veritable cornucopia of catalogs in the mail and this serves to bring items to my attention.

Most of the time, however, I'd rather be doing something else. And the reason for this is that I am difficult to please. I just expect quite a bit from my purchases - that is to say, I expect them to fulfill my needs. I am not one who buys just to buy and have something new.

Let's take handbags for instance. I have posted before on my penchant for buying upscale leather. I've discussed the whys and the wherefores. What I may not have discussed is how difficult it is to find a bag that I'm willing to shell out $300 (or more) for the pleasure. Simply put, I have to LOVE the bag. If I don't love it, if it isn't perfect, it is easier to keep on walking than it is to retrieve the plastic.

And lately, this has been the case. The current fashion in handbags lately (and yes, there are fashion trends even in handbags) hasn't agreed with me. Mostly, I believe, because the majority of handbag designers are reminiscing about things that I'm not particularly nostalgic about. Of course, the same is true of fashion designers in general these days.

The current crop of handbags leaves much to be desired by me because they are rehashings of the designs from the sixties and seventies. This, in my opinion, was a decade without taste or sense or even reason. Bell bottoms, hip-huggers, peasant shirts, tube tops, platform shoes? Keep it all. It disgusts me. I don't care for the look, nor the way it looks on the great majority of people. If you want to bring a decade back, in my opinion, you'd do better with the 20's, 30's, 40's, or even the 50's, where the designs were about fit and clean lines and elegance.

Anyway, back to handbags...

There appear to be two dominate thoughts on handbag design these days:

1) Groovy hippy chick got cash

2) Guido's Studio 54-going Jersey gun moll got a gun in her handbag

The first category is all overpriced macramé crap with sloppy lines. It isn't elegant or even attractive. The second category is all tacky glimmer, flash, and jangle. They look so stereotypical, you'd think they were hanging in a museum sample case. They just don't appeal.

I told you all of that so as to explain the following story.

The other day in the mail I received a Bloomingdales sale catalog. On the back cover of the catalog was this handbag, only it was in red. It is a Michael Kors Santorini clutch.
And, more importantly, it appealed to me. It was on sale for $100 and I decided that wasn't a bad price for a summer handbag. But, I was still undecided until I got online and found out that there was a special sale going on that offered another 40% off. Finding out that the bag was now only $60 was a delightful way to push me into the decision. So, I placed the order, eventually settling on the chocolate instead of the red or white.
A few days later, I check to see the status of the order and find out that Bloomingdales has canceled my order. To put it nicely, I was dismayed. (Please understand that this is a gross misunderstatement.) I called the nice people at Bloomingdales to get the skinny on my bag. The gentleman was apologetic, but it seemed that the merchandise had been discontinued.
Unfortunately for him, I'm no sucker.
"I beg your pardon?" I said.
"We are no longer stocking that bag, ma'am. The order was canceled." Helpful Customer Service guy said.
"I don't dispute it. However, you might be interested in the fact that I just checked and the item is still online for sale, except now the special sale is over and the price has moved back up. If you don't have any more bags, why are they still for sale online. And, more importantly, why was the bag featured on the back cover of the catalog I received the day before I placed the order? Are you in the habit of wasting some of your most expensive ad space on items you no longer stock?"
"One moment please." I hear the tapping of keyboard keys and he is clearly confirming the truth of my words. "Oh, I see. Ma'am, it appears that only the chocolate has been discontinued. We still have it in the red."
"I see. Well, that is better. Can you tell me why nobody in customer service contacted me to make me aware of the problem and offer me the other color? Seems to me that would be a reasonable way not to piss off your customers and potentially salvage a sale. Because, as it is, I wouldn't even have known that the order was canceled had I not checked it on a whim today."
"Yes, Ma'am. I see your point."
"You might want to take that up with your superiors."
"Yes, Ma'am."
"So, you can sell me the red bag?"
"Yes, Ma'am."
"Can you honor the sale price that I had on my original order?" I asked, expecting the answer no.
"Of course, Ma'am."
I was shocked. "Delightful! Let's do it!"
So, my new red Santorini clutch is scheduled to arrive on Tuesday. It is going to be very sexxxy and I can't wait.
But, my argument over the whole deal still stands. They should have contacted me to let me know that they couldn't fill the order. And, as a matter of course, they should have offered me a replacement item (the red one) at the same price instead of me having to chase down all of the details.
But, this just plays to my argument about the culture that I identify by region in customer service at the nation's department stores.
My opinion? The best place in the world to shop is Texas. The sales people there are genuinely eager to help you. They want to make a sale. You aren't imposing on them by approaching their counter. You aren't disturbing their conversation or anything else. There are exceptions to every rule of course, but I'd rather shop in Texas than Chicago, for example.
The lovely people at Dillards are much better than the sales staff at most other places. I don't know. Maybe it is a corporate culture thing that some stores are better at than others. I can tell you that the sales people at Marshall Fields were better to the customer before they became Macy's, but that could just be because of the changes.
Even so, I really hate it when I have to do most of the work of making a sale when I'm the buyer.
But, yay! about the new bag.


posted by Phoenix | 9:26 AM


At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Christina said...

Definitely sounds like a trip to Texas is in order...

; )

(Yes, I am single-minded. Why do you ask?)

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Richmond said...

Red is my new favorite handbag choice - good for you! :-)


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