Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wretched Excess: Tales from a Former Retail Manager

Consider this a tip from me to all the clothing shoppers of the world: "Be Nice to Retail Store Employees; If You're Not, They Will Remember Your Name, What You Look Like, and What Method of Payment You Used to Make Your Purchase and/or Return."

I'm not an expert, but I do have 2.5 years of retail management under my belt at a well-known clothing store akin to Banana Republic, Ralph Lauren, Land's End and whose store name begins with an initial followed by a four-letter name (figured it out yet?). I worked at said store in an affluent neighborhood in Dallas. I have countless horror stories that make my blood boil every time I recall them. I thought at one point I might write a book but they make me so angry I thought a blog post would be better suited. (Once out on the Internet for you to enjoy, I plan to leave these stories behind and move on to bigger and better things, like birthing twins.)

Here is a quick conglomeration of my favorite tales:

The Expired Return - Lots of retail stores will be lenient with their return policies IF you are nice and not shady from the beginning. Example #1: Don't try to return a pair of two-year old shorts because you "just didn't like the way they washed." First of all, stores cannot return items if they have been washed because they cannot resell, send them back to the catalog, or even donate them. How wasteful does that sound? You might as well keep them to do your yard work in. Second of all, we know how old something is by the codes on the tags sewn into the seams. I use "code" loosely here because the store I worked at used codes like FA 07 or SP 06 to indicate the season and year. Third of all, learn how to wash things properly. It's highly unlikely that the store is responsible for how something looks after you have washed it for two years. Oh and blaming the severely shrunken cashmere sweater on your "cleaning lady" doesn't give you an automatic pass to no receipt return land. Especially the second sweater. (I kid you not, same woman tried to return two adult-sized cashmere sweaters shrunk enough to fit her toddler.) Always read the wash instructions on high-dollar items. Wool of any type doesn't enjoy being washed and dried. :-) And more importantly, don't try to return something you have washed!

The No-Receipt Return - Save your receipts! You will be far better off no matter how old the receipt is. Why? The store can tell when you bought the item, how much you paid for it, and what the equivalent item is now if you are that far delinquent on the return policy. No receipt tells the store nothing. Don't expect the total reimbursement onto the correct method of payment if the store can't verify what you paid or how you paid for it. Isn't that just logical? Some stores now have computer systems that allow you to swipe your credit/debit card and bring up your order history so perhaps they can find details for the item you want to return. This is not always the case so for the smoothest transaction and happiest store employee, bring your receipt with you.

The Price Adjustment - Definition of a price adjustment: You bought an item at full price. 14 days later or less, that item was marked down to a sale price. You can take your receipt into the store and ask for the difference in price returned to you. Definition of a SHADY price adjustment: You show the store your receipt, don't actually qualify for the price adjustment (b/c the item you bought was already on sale and then marked down again) so you kindly say "can't I just return it and buy it back?" Technically, the answer to this is yes but when you ask the store in this manner, it's grossly annoying to the salesperson because all they are trying to do is what they are told. And you are trying to work the system.

The Complaint About Store Hours - Probably not a good idea to complain that the mall is closing at 6:00 on a Sunday to the store employee. Even if you aren't a church-going person, it's not super fun to work both days of the weekend. Plus, 6:00 is the standard time for many malls across the states to close on Sundays. Not a new concept people. I applaud American businesses like Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby who are closed on Sundays giving all employees one consistent day off each week. So do 'em a favor and scoot on out of the store before closing time, no questions asked.

The Request for the Jacket Off My Back - I once had a customer ask to buy the blazer off my back because she was so furious we no longer had her size in the store. She just HAD to have it. Um, no is all I can say.

The Return of Clothing You Wore Into the Store - Just because the store now has a newer version of the item you purchased over a year ago, say a leather jacket, doesn't mean you can return the jacket you are wearing for the brand new model hanging on the rack. So many things wrong with this one. The "no receipt" issue, the "it's already been washed or dry-cleaned" issue, the "it's weird and completely obvious" issue, and so on and so on.

Whew! I didn't realize I had so many highlights from my retail career. I will have to continue this list in Part 2 sometime soon. In the mean time, feel free to share any of your own retail stories and questions via the comments below this post.

If you remember nothing else from these stories, remember this: In the grand scheme of things, it's only clothing. Just clothing.

To be continued...


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