Sunday, August 18, 2013

What Happened?



Managers of brick-and-mortar retail stores who wonder why they’ve lost business to online retailers should attempt to shop at their own store.  The reasons for this shift in shopping trends would be very clear to them, especially if they run Macys and Sears locations in my area.

I have always been a focused shopper and I actually used to like shopping, especially for clothes, tools electronics and car stuff.  I am still a focused shopper but I have no patience for the current state of the retail shopping experience.  I just returned from a very frustrating two-hour visit to a local mall with only three of the ten or more items on my list and it is unlikely I will ever shop at that mall again. 

Macys used to be my favorite department store, especially for clothes.  My experience there today made me wonder if I was even in a Macys store.  Products were in complete disarray, Size S shirts were on size L hangers, sale signs were in the wrong place, there was one sales person in the whole department and he spent most of his time with each customer in line trying to get them to open a Macys credit card for a 10% discount.

Sears used to pride itself on customer service and knowledgeable sales staffs.  I know this because I worked for that company twice.  We actually had training before ever hitting the sales floor.  There was a specific way to answer the phone, specific strategies for working with customers and ongoing product training.  This was several decades ago.  Today I walked into a Sears store to look at three things in three departments.  Housewares had nobody in it, men’s clothing had two people at the register handling a line with at least ten customers in it and there was no clear indication of where fitting rooms were, even if I had been able to find basic Levi jeans in my size, which I couldn’t.  The electronics department had one person trying to answer questions from five customers, so I took my one item (a flash drive) to the register in the neighboring department.  After waiting ten minutes in line while the cashier completely ignored me while making delivery arrangements for an expensive mattress she just sold to the one customer ahead of me, I put the flash drive down on a counter and left the store.

For the ten years I lived at my previous address, I did most of my clothes shopping at an outlet mall.  I generally had better experiences there, maybe because I had lower expectations.  The outlet mall was only fifteen minutes from that house.  It’s forty five minutes from where I now live, but I might go out there again soon anyway.

What happened to customer service?  What happened to sales people who had a clue about their products?  What happened to store staff who took some pride in their store and their work?  Was it always this bad and I just don’t remember?

Add to this my attempt to dress in some stylish way that helps me look the way I feel and not my actual age.  I’ve been trying to break free from my Eddie Bauer/Dockers polo shirt-and-khakis look but at least I understand that look.  The old phrase “clothes makes the man” is not necessarily true but clothing style does usually project some kind of image.  Maybe I’m just in a transition in my life and I don’t really know what image I want to project.  This is not the first time in my life I’ve been out of sync with fashion but right now, today, I am frustrated with that situation.

So what did I buy during my two hours?  A shirt that looks like all my other shirts, some underwear and a Jerry Garcia tie.  I love the tie, whether it is stylish or not.

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