Monday, December 30, 2013


There was a time when I loved shopping.  I could spend hours in stores looking at everything, touching the
fabrics, slipping on clothes in the dressing rooms.  There was a time when salespeople were abundant, helpful and attentive.  I never could afford the really high end retailers, but Nordstom was so service oriented it was my favorite place to shop even if I couldn't buy much.  I always hoped that all the stores would see their example and follow it - but instead, it seemed to slide the other way.

Before there was even online shopping, I shopped catalogs.  It started when I was pregnant with the twins in late 1987.  I tried shopping in a mall when I was 7-8 months pregnant; my doctor forbade me anymore trips to the mall when he saw what was going on with the monitor I was required to wear to detect early labor.

After they were born, well, try shopping with a double wide stroller - I was the entertainment for half the shoppers at the mall.  It was still a bit unusual to have twins back then and the sight of those two babies drew a crowd.  I am not kidding.  My sister can attest that people literally grabbed the stroller to stop and take a look and comment.

So the catalog shopping continued.  As we all know, if you get on a list for one or two of them, the mailbox fills up really fast after that.  And then when stores started having websites and I could safely shop online - well, let's just say that years went by without trips to the mall even without the excuse of  pregnancies, babies, toddlers, kids and, later,  full time employment.  I'd say about 98% of my holiday shopping is done online.

There has been much discussion about the malls being empty this holiday season and the online retailers raking it in.  Wonder if the brick and mortar stores will pay attention now?

I went to the mall on December 1 and couldn't find a single salesperson at Macy's to ask about  stock or a style I was looking for. The aisles were crowded with racks, clothes were on the floor and heaped on the shelves, it was hard to figure out the organization of the merchandise or to find sizes. I did find a couple of things I liked and after lunch with my sisters (and I had birthday money in my pocket) we went back.  They approved the sweater so we got in line.  It didn't seem to be moving so we walked around and found another register and another line.  There was a woman who was returning 2 bags of things she had previously purchased and re-buying them with coupons.  It was ridiculous.

Rather than try to find another register, I dug deep for my patience and waited to make my purchase.  That is when I realized I would rather shop online than wait in line. The former love of seeing all the merchandise, touching the fabrics and trying things on just pales in comparison with the irritation I experienced.

Anyone in the business of customer service knows the axiom "Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part."  Yet there has been a week of news reports over the failure of Fed Ex and UPS to make all their Christmas deliveries "ruining" the holiday for people all across the country.

If these folks didn't care enough to get their shopping done in the 11 and 3/4 months before Christmas - how is it the fault of the delivery service that their holiday was spoiled?

And now I hear that recycling centers are "overwhelmed" with cardboard boxes following this online shopping frenzy.  It's always something - isn't it?

I will now remove my cranky pants and get ready to go do a couple of errands, including making a return to a real store..


smalltownme said...

I hate shopping for clothes in stores. But my younger son is getting into nice menswear so...we really like Men's Wearhouse. The staff is so helpful with measurements, alterations, and putting combos together.

Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

I did most of my holiday shopping online too. Easily 90-95% of it. The rest was bought locally and I tried hard to at least shop at locally-owned stores.

In general, I prefer to shop online because it's so fast and easy. I do so much of my shopping online that I know the sounds of the mail, UPS, and FedEx trucks and can tell them apart from each other.

I will make some exceptions for shopping in person -- groceries (of course) and a couple of clothing stores where I don't get too aggravated.

Zac said...

Not to play devils advocate, but a big reason why you get little to no customer service at brick & mortar stores anymore is they can't afford it... because everyone is shopping on amazon!

Wages for workers is the highest cost for these stores, and so with less people shopping in store, payroll goes down. REI is one of the few retail stores that hasn't lost the "customer service is our #1 priority" mindset, and luckily people recognize this and still come in to shop.

Regardless of which came first, online shopping or poor customer service, the number of people doing all their shopping online is going up while brick and mortar stores are closing left and right.

Susan said...

Actually if you research it, labor coast are more like 10-11% of the expenses for retail stores.

It has also been reported that 33% of the customers who enter a store and leave without purchasing do so because they are not being helped by employees.

I think more people would shop in the stores if customer service was like REI - but they are in the minority with their apporach...