Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You Had Me at Hello

Such a simple line, made famous by Tom Cruise, but such a powerful statement. And actually the opposite holds true, especially in fashion and retail. After a recent experience at Brooks Brothers at the St. John’s Town Center, I’m changing the phrase to “You never had me, without hello”.

You see, I must tell you a story. A fraternity brother was in town visiting on business. I wanted to show him some of the important places to me, in this place I call “home”. Of course, that meant a trip to my favourite and most frequent shopping destination. After making a few stops, we went on an unplanned trip to Brooks Brothers. My fraternity brother really likes the store, and shared with me that he had shopped BB for many years.

We walk inside. Directly in front of us, three employees are facing each other – in a triangle shape – talking mindless banter. No hello. Not a second glance, let alone even a visual acknowledgement. My fraternity brother and I walk through several rooms. We comment on the lack of service, and how it’s only more ironic that we’re being ignored, since no other customers are in the store. After five minutes, we start to head out. My fraternity brother is even forced to walk around the triangle of associates. No “thanks for coming in”, no “enjoy your day”, not even a wave.

Thanks to the glorious iPhone, I instantly Google the corporate number to Brooks Brothers from the bench right outside the front door. After being redirected to another customer experience line, I share this exact experience with the agent. I even tell him that I would have gotten better service at Wal-mart. At least Wal-mart has greeters.

About 15 minutes later, the manager calls. He seems disappointed with the service, and invites us to come in for the friends and family 30% discount and a US$25 gift card. I say we’ll try to come in soon.

After breakfast the next day, we head back to BB. This time, we walk in a little more hopeful. This time, it appears there are actual customers in the store. We walk in. Still no greeting. We walk around the store for a few minutes. Still no greeting. We walk in the room with the cash registers – and I start showing my fraternity brother how pairing several different ties with a few shirts can really change the entire look and feel of the ensemble. I probably gather and arrange 15 ties. Still, no greeting. No acknowledgement of our presence. Then, we are approached by a gentleman and finally helped. He shows us a few shirts, but we’re not thrilled with the colour options. I ask rhetorically if they make custom shirts. He takes us to the made-to-measure area and helps us while we look at fabrics. I thank him, hand him my business card, and tell him to tell the manager we stopped by. He gives me his card and tells me about the custom shirt promotion.

Thursday passes. No follow up with the manager. Friday, Saturday, Sunday pass as well. Monday, I have a business luncheon in the same shopping plaza. I decide I need to speak with the manager in person. I walk in to the store, and simply head straight to the cash wrap and ask for the manager. After I was directed to him, I introduced myself. I shared with him my disappointment. He told me it was disappointing to hear. I asked a few questions about the future of the company. We spoke for maybe two or three minutes total.

We exchanged business cards, and I left. The end. No invitation to return. It was the most insincere exchange I’ve experienced thus far in the retail world.

I understand that Brooks Brothers is a privately held company undergoing some business restructuring. No matter the industry, no matter the company, or even the location of your store – customer service must remain a priority to all. Ever customer should be promptly greeted. Every customer should be offered assistance. Every customer should be thanked for stopping by. Because, even with the most generous investors, without customers, stores cease to function.

I went out of my way to call Brooks Brothers corporate office and share with them my unfortunate experience. I even spent time explaining the experience to the general manager – while it was fresh in my mind – in hopes that other customers and potential shoppers wouldn’t have to experience the same lackluster, unprofessional, and quite honestly disappointing experience that my fraternity brother and I did two days in a row.

I’m disappointed. I’ve had much more positive experiences at other Brooks Brothers locations across the nation, and online as well. It’s a good thing fashion doesn’t play by baseball’s rules. Because this would be three strikes…and Brooks Brothers most definitely is out.


Brian said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks this about Brooks Brothers in Jacksonville. Stuck up and stuffy.

Curtis A. Gaskalla said...

It is idiots like you who go out looking for bad experiences that give the average customer a bad name...bet you are a shitty tipper too.

Joseph Shippee said...

Actually, Curtis, I didn't seek out a bad experience. To be honest with you, like I always am on this blog, I don't know how one would actually "seek out" a bad experience. And even if one were to "look for a bad experience" - I'm not quite sure how that would reflect poorly on the average customer. In fact, I'm all for people going out and identifying shitty customer service! If it weren't for the discerning customer, Circuit City would have never closed. It was never Best Buy. It's the customers who seek quality shopping experiences - highlighted by great merchandise, quality products, value, brand integrity, pleasant experiences, and pro-consumer policies - that keep good companies in business and signal to the retail industry that lackluster performance and subpar products are not acceptible.

I'm not sure how identifying a poor customer service experience, especially in the professional manner the situation was identified, could relate to one's decisions in tipping, either. But for the record - I probably tip too much in the first place. Not that it matters anyway.

I welcome comments. But ridiculous, unfounded, and unsound judgements and views will be given the consideration they deserve.

Micah J. Tappe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curtis A. Gaskalla said...

excellent....well....I will just call it an ATTEMPT a a rebuttal. Your experiences offer little insight into the core values of a company such as brooks brothers...and for the record I have been a customer since the store in Jacksonville opened and have had nothing but the highest of customer service, the one time it has been a little off for me the store was packed and I noticed and was ok with having to wait a minute or two. As for your tipping comment...you seem like as asshole so I am sure you tip like one...and as for your brooks brothers experiences...I am sure they are better off without a customer of your (lack of) integrity (let's just say I did a little insider recon and found irrefutable evidence to show a few holes in your story...brah) Ridiculous, unfounded...were you referring to your attempt at pop-blogging?? I can tell from your pompous attitude (oh it gushes from your writing) and AWESOME comment that you are the kind of customer any store, be it bar, restaurant (I bet the food network has turned you into the same blase food critique that queer eye has done for your insights on the retail fashion industry)or retail store. I always enjoy my days sir....and thank you for your leadership.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Shippee,

I may have believed your story if you if it had ended with the first visit, but I have my doubts that it happened three times considering the fact that you called the corporate customer service and received a phone call from the general manager. It is blatantly obvious that you felt slighted, since as your profile states, you are an icon in the fashion industry. I’m actually surprised that the alarms didn’t go off as soon as you entered the front door to announce the arrival of someone of your stature. The fact that you had to point out that the person you were shopping with was your fraternity brother proves that your a pretentious douche who feels the need to name drop for fulfill your self worth in life. By the way, I thought that the fraternity dress code from UCF was Abercrombie? When did you graduate from the gels and shells look into big boy clothes? I just find it amusing how you make yourself out to be someone. Obviously you didn’t get a business degree from UCF because your analogy about Circuit City is off base. They didn’t close because of the lack of customers. They closed because their managers didn’t properly structure their debt, but who needs facts. If it’s in a blog it must be true, right?

This sounds like a little better representation of what happened on your visit:

Since you stated that this was an "unplanned trip to Brooks Brothers", I think it would be safe to say that you had no intention of doing anything more than a lap around the store. As a said earlier, the fact that no one said anything to you made the Napoleon come out and you had to stir up some artificial drama. Since you are a jet setting fashion icon, you know that whining like a bitch to the corporate office normally equate to free swag, but since they aren’t in the business of negotiating with people looking for hand outs, you post a critical blog.

I understand that it takes all kinds to make the world go around, but you should really do something more productive in life. There isn’t anything that you do in life that will better our future, so do everyone a favor and get a real job. I know that blogging helps you get chicks, but you really need to have a back up plan for when blogging becomes about as cool as sending a letter. I say this with all sincerity.

J Patterson
“Blogging Icon in the Blogging Industry”