Archive for the ‘Retail’ Category

Service of Marketing that Hits a Sour Note: Details and the Devil

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

New Yorker circ photo

I bought some items online during an after Christmas sale and almost three weeks later got a notice from the store that one of the items wasn’t available. OK. That happens. “LET US MAKE IT UP TO YOU,” came a proposal for a “gift”–$10 off a $100 purchase. This hit a sour note: It sounded like “heads they win; tails I lose.” Otherwise I like the store.

The next two examples are courtesy of the circulation departments of a magazine and newspaper considered top of the line in their categories. I subscribe to and admire both. However, they appear to be trying to save money by selecting under par fulfillment and promotion partners at just the time they need to excel.

  • The magazine has been nagging me to renew my subscription months early and if I do, I’ll get a free subscription as a gift. [Always suspicious, I envision losing the months I’ve already paid for, between now and the end of the original subscription, and I don’t want to waste time untangling this potential glitch.] Fine writing and elegance are just two of the magazine’s selling points and the subscription is costly. That’s why I didn’t expect to see a typo in the first word of the third line [“your”] printed on a piece of cheap scrap paper enclosed in their correspondence seeking my business. [See photo above.]
  • The newspaper didn’t deliver its weekend and Monday issues last week. I called customer service on Tuesday making clear that we didn’t want the credit, we wanted the newspapers. The operator [from a far-off land] said he understood. On Wednesday we received a second copy of the Tuesday issue. I called back and was told they would have to mail us the weekend and Monday copies and that this would take from seven to 10 days. I had already spent far too much time on this mistake and snapped “fine, do that,” and hung up. Still waiting.
  • All this reminds me of a restaurant we went to in the Berkshires years ago that served remarkable food in an enchanting setting with a terrible hostess who ran the room like a general during a military operation readiness inspection {ORI}. The tension her approach achieved added a false note to an otherwise pleasant experience. We learned later that her husband was the chef. Nevertheless, she ruined the evening.

Do you have other examples of an irritating detail that conflicted with the otherwise high quality of a product or service?

$10 off $100 turned

Service of Interpretation: Cartier, the One Percent vs. Everyone Else

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Cartier window January 2017 turned

Funny how one image can cause two people to come to such different conclusions.

I was walking by Cartier’s windows on a recent Sunday and after I’d passed by I backed up to take the photo [above] because something was so clearly missing: Jewelry.

I showed the shot to my husband Homer Byington and said “How sad. Look where we’ve come. The jeweler can’t display a thing in its windows on a Sunday when it’s closed for fear that someone will steal rings, necklaces and pins. Imagine the rent paid yet the store can’t take advantage of this marketing tool to showcase its wares.”

Homer replied “I think Cartier didn’t display its jewelry to signify to the one percent how valuable and expensive their pieces are—far too precious and priceless for a window display. The store isn’t interested in whether the 99 percent can see what it can’t afford to buy anyway.”

What do you think? In addition, should a brand with this stature think of a clever way to decorate its windows for the times it doesn’t show product for whatever reason?

Service of Pitch Perfect Marketing

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Hudson, NY

Hudson, NY

We visited Hudson, N.Y. over the holidays, a charming town in Columbia County that gets better every trip. I also had an exemplary retail experience in NYC.

India on the Hudson

We especially like the shops and restaurants on Warren Street and discovered a new one [for us]—Les Indiennes—with alluring merchandising that tempted as it exhibited textiles and ready-made tablecloths, pillow and bed covers, as well as clothing and furniture expertly upholstered in the fabrics also sold by the yard.

Les IndiennesI wish I could sew. Patterns were refreshing, crisp and appealing in a range of colors and the lighting showcased it all to advantage [Photo right]. A testament: My husband despises shopping and usually, regardless of weather, hangs out on the street while I reconnoiter. But he lingered in this shop, even drawn to the back to see what was there.

We also appreciated the smart move the town of Hudson made to encourage visitors and holiday shoppers to feast at the restaurants and patisserie—as well as their eyes: It wrapped parking meters like gifts up and down Warren Street, [Photo at the top.]

In the Pink in NYC

In a different but also heartening instance, I returned a blouse that I had ordered online from Thomas Pink, to the store on Madison Avenue and 53rd Street. I wanted the same blouse in a different size. Gerald, the first sales associate I saw, immediately stopped what he was doing to help me. I didn’t see the women’s section from where I stood and he insisted on dashing up the stairs to make the exchange for me. I’m inured to do-it-yourself-shopping in most stores these days, discount or not, so I was quite taken aback by his efficiency and helpful approach. We chatted while he placed the shirt in a protective sleeve [I passed on a shopping bag as I had a large tote]; he confirmed the amount remaining on my gift card and asked if I wanted water or to visit the ladies’ room. Gold star service from a luxury brand–the exception to the rule I fear and have experienced.

What a joy when a store, retail staff and a chamber of commerce get it so right. Can you share similar examples?

Thomas Pink box

Service of Comparative Value

Monday, December 12th, 2016

chocolates

Sometimes you can impact what you pay and other times you’re captive—take it or leave it.

How Sweet It Is

Waiting my turn at a well known NYC chocolatier I saw a pile of boxed chocolates—six pieces for $9—and noticed that when sold by the piece the salted dark chocolate caramels, that matched those in the box, cost $1.10 each.

I asked why six pieces bought individually cost $6.60 when the [undistinguished] box of six cost $2.40 more. The clerk looked surprised and mumbled that the $9 ones were in a box. I asked, “Wouldn’t you put my order in a box as well?” and he said he would.

I ended up buying 10 pieces, which he put in a much nicer box, [in my opinion], for little more money. The moral: Look around.

Wrap it Up

When a package is small enough to fit in the US Postal Service box Postage meter for Post about Value dec 2016container I use the do-it-yourself post office on my walk to work. There’s rarely more than one person ahead of me and most of the time it’s empty.

If you’ve never sent a package this way it’s easy. You do the work that a postal clerk would and you waste less time than waiting in a long line. Nevertheless, I object to the cost. The box [photo right] was a little over a pound. [I choose lightweight, unbreakable gifts.] I paid $6.95 to ship this small box and I saved the postal service the work of a clerk.

Juicy Value

Apple ciderAcross the street from the postal closet was the weekly farmer’s market where I bought half a gallon of fresh apple cider. Think of the number of apples that went into this sweet juice and the labor to turn the fruit into cider, pour it into the container and drive it to midtown Manhattan from the boonies and pay staff to sell it. The cider cost $4.00. I see more value in the apple juice than in postage.

Addendum

Postal clerk with packageI got weak in the knees later that day when mailing a large-ish box from a post office-with-clerk. It was so light I had no trouble walking it six blocks from home. [The box would never have fit in the package container mentioned above so do-it-yourself was out of the question.] When the clerk gave me the choice of postage it was then my legs buckled: $20.86 was the cheapest. And I had to wait in line 20+ minutes for the privilege.

Have you noticed pricing discrepancies when buying pre-packaged items versus by-the-piece? Am I out of it to think that $7 and $20 are a lot to pay for shipping lightweight boxes? When do you feel you are getting good value for your money?

More bang for your buck

Service of Gizmos You’ll Never Use

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Gifts wrapped

Tis holiday gift giving time again so what are you giving the person who has everything? Here are some frivolous things to avoid for folks who like to cook.

Gizmos and gadgetsI’ve written about my pasta maker bought years ago and never used. I had high hopes which never materialized. Who has time, anyway, when a box of excellent spaghetti from Italy costs so little?

I thought of the pasta maker when reading “Don’t Be Such a Tool,” in The Wall Street Journal in which Keith Blanchard writes about “questionable and highly specialized culinary tools.” [The online title: “Why Hipster Cooking Gizmos Are Killing Cooking.”]

The article’s subhead in the print version is: “A humble home chef bemoans the rise of sauerkraut-making kits, mini-donut machines and other dubious cooking gadgets.”

macaronsIn addition to the donut machine he identified a pen to draw a design on cappuccino foam with a spice; a mat to “perfectly size 48 macarons;” an ice cream cone maker [at this time of year?] and a tube you stuff “with rice and blowfish, then wrap with nori” to create your own sushi.

Are you tempted by gadgets for the kitchen or anywhere else in your home or office? Are there any you can’t live without? Are you the first to own the newest and latest? Do you have a robot or drone? Are you planning to give a specialized gizmo to someone this Christmas or Hanukkah?

ice cream cone

Service of Buyer’s Remorse

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Photo: realsimple.com

Photo: realsimple.com

“The Lists Issue: Style and Fashion” page of last weekend’s Wall Street Journal’s “Off Duty” section asked five “stylish men” to report their “most regrettable purchase.” These included three pairs of a Clark shoes–all the same–that the owner tired of; a suede Ralph Lauren car coat with too much fringe; Nike sneakers with pink and purple accents bought online while under the influence of Ambien; a $450 umbrella from London enjoyed for 31 minutes before being left behind in a taxi and boots purchased on Piperlime, [it’s out of business now], with too thin soles discovered while walking five miles in a parade.

Too tight shoesShoes that hurt account for most of my mistakes along with a pasta maker I never had time to use so I eventually gave it away after dragging it, with good intentions, from home to home.

However, the one that stings the most and longest was a red dress I pleaded with my mother to buy when I was in eighth grade so I’d have something to wear at a Christmas party at school. We wore uniforms—except on Friday when we could dress in civilian clothes. My mother said, “You don’t like red and will never again wear this dress.” Nevertheless she bought it for me and I don’t think I ever did wear it again. When I think of it I still cringe at my selfishness.

What are some things you’ve regretted buying? Have you learned something from each experience or do you keep making the same mistakes?

 Girls red dress

Service of Make Your Prices Clear, Please

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Price tag holders

A friend—I’ll call her Leslie–who is up to date on all things restaurant and retail shared a complaint that I’ve grappled with myself for years: She wants to know what something costs without having to ask.

hip female shopperLeslie wrote: “I ventured downtown to the new Target on Greenwich Street [NYC]. There is a Chobani shop inside that sells food and yogurt. The staff is very personable; however there are no prices on food on display like dips.”

She continued: “I find having to ask someone for prices so annoying. There is a tiny candy shop on the Upper East Side that also sells ice cream. There are no prices on candy so you have to ask about everything…..and you know the prices will be inflated. I said to the owner the first time that I think it would be helpful to have the prices listed and he said ‘I don’t mind telling you.’ But I am one of those people who decides in my head what something should cost so I don’t like not knowing, meaning I wouldn’t ask if I knew something is priced ridiculously!”

Back to the Chobani experience, Leslie added: “Chobani guy says: ‘Enjoy the rest of your day’ to everyone as they leave…that gets tiresome too if you’re in the store for a while! I ordered half sandwich and half salad. Pretty good. But they don’t accept the Target Visa….meaning no discount like I get on everything else in the store. Strange!”

Prices markedLeslie concluded: “What is it with the oh-so-annoying response to everything ‘No problem!’”

When I go to an art, craft or antique show—or store–I also much prefer seeing what the prices are without having to ask. And you? Do you know why retailers and restauranteurs force people to converse with staff? Do repeated expressions–like “no problem”–irritate you as they also do me?

Chobani half salad half sandwich

Service of Giving a Second Chance

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

Second Chance

After a more than trying experience at the china department of Macy’s New York many years ago—trying, the operative word, to buy a wedding gift where the bride had registered–I swore I’d not return to the store. I broke this pledge last weekend, not in the city but in Poughkeepsie, NY, and was rewarded ten fold.

We visited the men’s shoe department and lucked into a sales associate who knew shoes, fit, and his way around customers. Troy Capp outdid himself to help. My husband wanted a slip-on shoe in a wide width but the store doesn’t stock them; we’d need to order a pair. To increase the possibility that the ordered shoe would fit, Capp measured his foot and brought out a few shoes with ties in various sizes by the manufacturer from whom he ended up ordering a slip-on.

macy'sThe style my husband preferred was quite a bit more expensive than another one he’d looked at and Capp found a discount coupon to help in the decision. He also gave us a way to reach him should the shoe that arrives not be just right.

shoe measuring toolHe actually seemed to enjoy solving my husband’s problem and helping us. We were dumbstruck as we were no longer used to such care. As we arrived in his department I noticed a family leaving with smiles and a young man in his late teens reaching out to shake Capp’s hand. He was also in charge of “tailored clothing,” according to his business card. While he was helping us a couple came to pick up a jacket. He didn’t skip a beat and while my husband was trying on a shoe he went in the back for the jacket, accommodating us both seamlessly, calmly and almost simultaneously.

Have you enjoyed the assistance of a salesman like Troy Capp? Are his skills trainable or instinctive? Have you given a company a second chance? Did the second experience work out well?

 vintage men's fashion

 

Service of Facing the Music: It Doesn’t Get Better if You Wait, Yahoo and Target

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

face the music

When something goes wrong you’re better off taking action quickly—that goes for people and companies: Most have to fight putting off facing the music.

Dr. Alan JasloveUrged by my husband to move quickly I averted a disaster last week by immediately acting on a dental emergency that seemed overwhelming when it happened. My instinct was to hide and hope. My great dentist, Alan Jaslove [Photo, right]—I’ve written about him before—saved my tooth and a whole lot of stuff that depended on it, squeezing me in and staying late to do so. Had I waited, as he was scheduled to be out of the office for four days which I didn’t know, I might have damaged the tooth beyond repair causing a domino effect of horrendous proportions.

I know this yet avoidance is in my DNA.

yahooIt must also be in Yahoo’s. It took two years for the company to report and/or discover a humongous customer hack. It doesn’t reflect well in either case: That it knew and didn’t tell or that it didn’t know.

“The Yahoo theft represents the most accounts ever stolen from a single email provider,” I read on usnews.com from a syndicated AP story, “The Yahoo Email Hack is Bad,” by tech writer Michael Liedtke.

  • According to Liedtke, “Yahoo didn’t explain what took so long to uncover a heist that it blamed on a ‘state-sponsored actor’ — parlance for a hacker working on behalf of a foreign government. The Sunnyvale, California, company declined to explain how it reached its conclusions about the attack for security reasons, but said it is working with the FBI and other law enforcement. Yahoo began investigating a possible breach in July, around the time the tech site Motherboard reported that a hacker who uses the name ‘Peace’ was trying to sell account information belonging to 200 million Yahoo users.
  •  Jeff John Roberts on Fortune.com, in a fact sheet format, answered the question “Why did Yahoo take so long to warn everyone?” as follows: “Good question. It’s currently unclear when Yahoo learned about the attack…….All Yahoo has said so far is that a ‘recent investigation… has confirmed the breach.’”

The breach happened in 2014 well before the public knew that Verizon was planning to buy Yahoo. Did executives at the digital services company really think a hack involving so many customers could be forever hidden from the purchaser and that a sophisticated company like Verizon wouldn’t protect itself from such a bad surprise had the sale gone through before this news leaked? And what about 500 million hacked customers who turn to Yahoo for email, finance or fantasy sports—according to Roberts–who must take steps to change passwords and, in some cases, answers to security questions.

TargetTwo years seems to be the magic number for Target too. From August 2014 to July of this year it sold—for as much as $75–what it thought was 100 percent Egyptian cotton sheets and pillow cases according to Bloomberg news, the company bought the products from Welspun India that turned out to be lesser quality cotton.  Target has offered refunds to its customers. But I wonder why it took so long for buyers to discover this. Eons ago, at a party, a friend in the retail business remarked on the quality and thread count of the shirt my husband was wearing without touching it. He was right: It was a pricey shirt in soft, fine Egyptian cotton.

  • Do you drag your feet when you really shouldn’t?
  • It can’t help people sleep well at night to realize that it takes years to discover a giant email hack. Should it take two years to learn something’s amiss?
  • As for Target, did no buyer open a single package over 23 months to check the contents and did he/she even know what Egyptian cotton was supposed to feel like?
  • Do you pay for premium products and sometimes wonder if you are getting your money’s worth?
Photo: cbsnews.com

Photo: cbsnews.com

 

Service of What You Might Get For Your Birthday

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

 

POLaRT furniture

POLaRT furniture

I visited NY Now recently—formerly the NY International Gift Fair—to report on the kind of present you might receive on your next birthday or anniversary, especially if you like to entertain. As always I caution that my observations are impacted by the fact that I saw only a fraction of the summer market at the Javits Center.

I hope you like shiny things because I saw a lot of highly polished stainless steel, copper, platinum and some gold and silver tableware. In fact sparkling aluminum was prominent. In addition, there were plenty of nods to the past.

Arthur Court Designs

Arthur Court Designs

Here are a few examples that reflect the show-stopping SHINY TREND:

Aluminum

  • Arthur Court Designs exhibited gleaming sand-cast aluminum platters, serving trays, bowls and beverage servers.
  • Beatriz Ball

    Beatriz Ball

    Julia Knight’s website explains that her collections are “handmade of sand cast aluminum with a signature blend of enamel infused with crushed mother of pearl.”

  • No wonder Beatriz Ball’s bowls and ice buckets, platters and spreaders, wine coasters, frames pitchers and trays shine as they do: They undergo four levels of polishing. The pieces are handmade in Mexico of “molten aluminum poured into sand molds.”

Stainless Steel

  • Mary Jurek Designs

    Mary Jurek Designs

    It was hard to identify the medium just by looking at the exquisite tableware and serveware in Mary Jurek Design’s booth. Could it be silver? Turns out to be hand-hammered stainless steel.

Touch of Gold

  • Yedi HousewaresSome of Yedi Houseware’s porcelain coffee cups—in shapes reminiscent of the 1940s—were dressed in contemporary colors and dipped in gold like a hallmark Dairy Queen is immersed in chocolate [photo left]. Yedi’s traditional silhouettes featured gold rims.
  • Annie Glass enhanced the edges of some pieces in gold.

Precious metals

  • Cannes Fayet

    Cannes Fayet

    Shining silver handles on the canes of Cannes Fayet from France winked at passersby.

  • Also from the République Française I saw Design Sophie Villepique Paris’s decorative elements with dashes of silver, gold, platinum as well as gemstones and Swarovski crystals.

Some of you are going to say about the items that were UNUSUAL AND NEW TO ME, “Why that’s been around forever….” I’m not shy in revealing my ignorance: I call out below the glass ginger jars filled with fruit in brilliant colors that fooled me—I didn’t know they were candles—and they’ve been made in the USA for 22 years!

  • Lifetime Candles by White River Designs

    Lifetime Candles by White River Designs

    If I hadn’t overheard another visitor exclaim, “These are candles?!” I wouldn’t have known this about Lifetime Candles by White River Designs’ cylindrical and ginger shaped glass jars and perfume bottles filled with everything from brightly colored fruit and branches to pinecones, butterflies and flowers suspended artfully in clear lamp oil. Headquartered in Harrison, Ark. the company has been around since 1994. [At the booth, the candles weren’t lit yet the magnificent jars nevertheless caught my eye.]

  • Tote & Able

    Tote & Able

    Tote & Able canvas flasks in the shape of foil juice pouches were unusual and curious–useful too.

  • Uashmama [pronounced wash mama] washable, resilient, stretched and tanned paper that looks/feels like leather is transformed into lunch bags, traditional looking paper bags,  purses wallets, trays and such.
  • I loved watching steam dance out of the Cado Japanese air purifier, which itself was handsomely designed and a far cry from the ugly look of cheap, plastic boxy humidifiers of yore. The steam hitting the air was almost as mesmerizing as staring at a waterfall.

    Uashmama

    Uashmama

  • Sarut’s rubber chicken handbag made me smile. I wonder if it was designed for those who attend countless $250+ per person industry lunches where the menu consists of…rubber chicken?
  • Martone Cycling Co.

    Martone Cycling Co.

    I was surprised to see a bicycle at this show. Martone Cycling Co. stood out both for this reason and for the featured bikes’ clean, vintage design and creative–for a bicycle–colors.

  • Furniture in primary hues at the POLaRT booth [photo at top] made me stop to touch the polymer pieces in Victorian and other historic shapes. The faux button tufting was especially clever.

Do you like adding shiny accents to a dining table or to your décor? Can you point to evidence that some manufacturers, in addition to those I identified, are reaching back for design inspiration not only in decorative elements but also in fashion?

CadoCado humidifier

Sarut

Sarut

 
Julia Knight Collection

Julia Knight Collection

 
 
 
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