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.