Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Update: Macy's Men's Fragrance Department

In response to my recent complaint about a rude salesperson in Macy's South Bay Galleria's Men's Fragrance Department, the store manager contacted me and assured me that their entire staff has been briefed on proper, professional sales etiquette. They also identified the person who interacted with my husband and me - a "Fragrance Model" - and spoke with him individually regarding the inappropriateness of his actions.

I definitely appreciate that Macy's made a thorough effort to not only educate the Men's Fragrance Department as a whole, but also to identify and correct the individual Fragrance Model who offended us. I also think it was very kind and thoughtful of the manager to leave all of this information in my voicemail; although I very much wanted to call him back and thank him, Christmas madness has kept me too busy during store hours. I'm not using his name because, as I said, I was unable to talk to him directly and ask permission.

All in all, I'm comfortable with the way things turned out, and I feel very good about the management at the South Bay Galleria's Macy's. I'm glad I spoke up about our discomfort that day; if I had not, I might have carried ill will toward Macy's for a long time and possibly missed out on some great deals. Also, if I hadn't said anything, none of the salespeople would know that there was anything wrong with what happened - it may sound trite, but I hope that this helps to create a better shopping experience for future customers.

How about you, readers? Have you ever written a complaint letter? Did the company make it right?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Deal: Spendy Euro Style at Old Navy

On the left, we have Old Navy's Fishtail Anorak, currently $23.99 plus 20% off online. On the right is upscale UK retailer Toast's Parka in ink blue, currently 155 GBP (about $240).

I'd spied the latter version 3 months ago when introduced to the brand's AW 2011 catalog (pages 23-24) via my very favorite online style forum, YLF. Boy did my britches burn that 1) I'd fallen for yet another brand based outside the US and 2) that cool coat with the rockin' fishtail hem was way out of my league!

Then, by some strange twist of fate, I found myself browsing Old Navy's site - I don't follow Old Navy's offerings closely, because I usually prefer to save money by shopping secondhand - and I was instantly drawn to their own blue fishtail-hem topper. It took me a while to order it, because I couldn't find it in stores to try on for size - but when the Thanksgiving sales started to hit, I pounced (I paid $30). I got it. I wore it. I LOVED it so much I bought it in alabaster, too (to be dyed red).

The coat is lightweight, but well constructed. It feels solid, and the metal zipper, snaps, and thoughtful design elements make it look way more expensive than it is (even at full price, it'd be way cheaper than they'd ask for something similar at Urban Outfitters). I'm 5'4" with a 33-inch chest, and the XS fits in a nice, closely tailored way, hitting just above the knee in the front. I could also see sizing up for a more relaxed vibe. If you have long arms, the sleeves might be short for you. For me, I like how the cuffs of my shirts can peek out.

The similarity my anorak to the Toast parka didn't even hit me until just recently, when I logged on to Toast to see if they had any new stock to wistfully ogle from afar... I was already pleased as punch with my coat, but the fact that I'd basically secured something I'd assumed I could never have - and for about 88% off -  just made my day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Custom Thrift Shop Party!

A good number of people have asked me to take them to the swap meets over the years, but  few have actually enjoyed the experience. It's understandable; it takes a specific personality to enjoy sifting through mounds of unwashed WTFs looking for a few precious gems (if you've ever thrifted with the thrift-averse, you know what I mean). Because of this, when a few of my former coworkers expressed interest in the swap meet, I didn't press it or take the initiative as I'd done in the past. I figured that, if they really wanted to go, they'd hit me up... it never really worked out.

Cut to a couple of months ago: inspiration hit. I knew there were people out there who wanted to shop secondhand but who a) didn't have the time, or b) weren't cut out for the process. I figured I could cut out the time and the process by just doing the shopping myself, picking up a bunch of stuff in their sizes and styles, and inviting them over to choose what they liked. It would be like a custom thrift store, where everything was cute, and everything fit!

I shopped, I bought, I dry-cleaned, I steamed. My friends got to come over and shop with a mirror, fitting room, and snacks. Three wonderful ladies agreed to test drive my hair-brained scheme.

I asked $8 for tops and sweaters, $12 for dresses, $20 for odds and ends that I'd actually paid - gasp! - retail prices for and needed to recoup some of the losses. I aimed for just above Goodwill pricing, to account for transportation costs, cleaning costs, and just a little for time and effort.

Friend #1 left with a cute Ann Taylor wrap dress, vintage periwinkle sweater, and Chaiken ruched wool skirt. Total: $28. Retail comparison: $118 for an AT dress, $436 for a Chaiken skirt.

Friend #2 left with an sheer blouse, cashmere Ann Taylor top, Gap wool sheath dress, seasonless wool Escada dress pants, H&M blouse, Garnet Hill burgundy cashmere cardigan, and leather belt. Total: $81. Retail comparison: $228 for short-sleeved Ann Taylor cashmere, $70 for a wool dress at Gap, $595 for Escada dress pants, $30 for an H&M cotton blouse, $148 for a Garnet Hill cashmere cardi.

Friend #3 took home a Free People sweater jacket, BCBG sheath dress, red Italian blazer, French made polka dot pencil skirt, J. Crew pencil skirt, and gray midi skirt. Retail comparison: $100 for a Free People sweater jacket, $300 for a BCBG LBD, $118 for a printed J. Crew pencil skirt. I don't know how to price the Italian and French brands, but they were darn sure more than 8 bucks.

Aside: See that picture at the top left? I don't know what I did to deserve such awesome friends, but my guests also colluded to bring me some early-birthday cookies and mini-cheesecakes made by her cousin. Three words: to die for!  In a world without consequence or calories, I would have devoured the lot in a single sitting. No hyperbole. 

How about you? Do you ever use your thrifty powers for the greater good? If you don't shop for your friends directly, do you help them spot deals online? Do people ask you about thrifty shopping, or are they just not interested?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Retail Review: Macy's Men's Fragrances

Alternate title: Insults: Very Poor Sales Tactics

While out doing a little holiday shopping, my husband and I were recently appalled by the actions of a sales associate in the Men's Fragrance department of the South Bay Galleria Macy's.

We passed through Macy's - hand in hand - on our way to lunch. We had planned to return to the store afterward, as I had a Macy's gift card and also needed to buy Christmas gifts. On our way through, a man promoting a new cologne jumped out in front of us.

"Hey man, buy this new cologne, and the girls will be swarming all over you," he said, following us as we walked.

My first thought: "What? Am I such a troll that my husband needs this miracle tonic to attract a new, better selection of women?" But it's December, and I'm sentimental, so I bit my tongue and simply explained that my husband is allergic (which is true; I've spent years collecting a precious few perfumes that he can tolerate).

"Allergic to what?" The salesman laughed derisively. "Girls?"

Oh. No. A sales associate did not just question my man's sexual orientation, did he? Was I hallucinating? Were we really talking to a guy hawking designer impostor sprays out of his Ford Club Wagon? Nope. It was really Macy's. If you don't buy Cologne X, then you probably like dudes - super classy slogan, eh? -_-

I was fuming and ready to read this guy the riot act, but my husband was hungry and pulled me away. Still, I could not get out of my mind how rude and inappropriate this sales person was, and I just finished writing a complaint to the company.

It is never good business to insult a potential customer's significant other. It is not appropriate to "tempt" a man with some kind of self-professed babe magnet right there in front of his significant other. Even if he did not see our rings, we were clearly holding hands, part of a couple. The sales associate showed blatant disrespect for me and my relationship by assuming that my husband must want women to swarm him if he's out with me.

It is also never good business to insult a potential customer directly - no matter what you're trying to sell. If my husband had not been my husband, and was instead a homosexual friend, this employee's derogatory comment about him being "allergic to girls" would definitely open Macy's up to discrimination or sexual harassment complaints. I don't know who is training the sales staff to insult potential customers, but the practice is inexcusable.

I am currently awaiting a reply from Macy's, and I hope that the company can use this incident to improve its level of service. The main hit to them: I have absolutely no idea which fragrance the SA was trying to sell. The product was completely overshadowed by our bad experience. Now, even if I thought of someone else who might like new cologne (my dad? my cousin? a crazy uncle with overactive sweat glands?) I will definitely not think of the product promoted - and I will definitely steer clear of Macy's.