Service of Responsibility

December 21st, 2009

Categories: Customer Service, Fashion, Indifference, Manufacturing, Retail

Deborah Brown [Debby] is far more than a savvy consumer. She began her retailing career at Neiman-Marcus and currently runs a New York-based marketing and communications business, Deborah Elliott Brown &Associates. In between, she worked in marketing for household names in publishing such as House Beautiful and House & Garden.

Brown sent this post fresh from an experience with two other household names–a retailer with 800+ stores and a designer brand that aligns itself with elitist sports.

She wrote:

I turn to you and your blog — not to the store where my experience occurred.  Not the designer and manufacturer of the defective goods that supplied the store.  I would only be stonewalled and put in phone hell to report the incident.

Shopping at the Herald Square [NYC] branch of the store this afternoon, cruising for holiday clothes, I found on sale a fabulous-looking red quilted jacket,  50% off at $109.00.  While I did not need it for sure, the appealing price and great look wooed me.  The first try-on revealed a zipper that was caught in the interface lining.  Try-on #2 wouldn’t zip at all.  Try-on #3: no zip to the zip.  After five tries, I gave up.

I did, however find something to purchase and upon checking out recounted my experience to the sales associate saying, “I know it’s not your job and you probably don’t care, but I tried on five of those jackets and not any of the zippers worked.”

Her response: “Yes, they’re defective.”

So whose responsibility is it to “serve” the customer?

**The store’s–to have refused the shipment?

**The designer/manufacturer’s quality assurance inspectors at the factory?

**Where does the buck start?  Or stop?

We add, what is the point of going to a department store if it isn’t going to vet the goods it sells? And why do businesses not feel a twinge when they know they are setting up customers to waste time?


6 Responses to “Service of Responsibility”

  1. Charles Winston Said:

    The trouble with troubled organizations is that workers who were not troubled before catch the disease of being troubled. Many retailers these days are under huge pressure to stay out of bankruptcy. One of the best ways to do this, short term, is to cut costs and corners, as this store did in this instance. Of course, a side effect is that unhappy employees, who know they are going to lose their jobs after Christmas anyway, stop caring whether or not they offend customers.

    I know it is a stretch, but the way to solve this problem as a country is to have stores sell at fair prices things that people in the country, not the Far East, make for fair wages. Gradually pride in the process will return as will quality merchandize and good service.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Thoughtful answer, Charles. Thank you.

    I agree that we need to see more clothing, accessories and decorative items made in this country. And when you say “fair price,” it may cost more but will nevertheless be fair to both the manufacturer as well as the customer.

    It must by trying to be on the front lines and to get the brunt of customer disappointment because a whole shipment of merchandise is defective. The old saying, “that’s why they get the big bucks” does not apply to sales associates.

    The store in which Debby had her recent experience has been on my “don’t visit” list for years since I had a horrendous time ordering a gift for a bride. Therefore I don’t think that the economy is necessarily the problem at this particular place.

  3. Charles Winston Said:

    But, Jeanne, if that store is the one at Herald Square I’m thinking of, it has been in or near bankruptcy for years.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Obviously, then Charles, the model they are following isn’t working too well.

  5. Janet Schlesinger Said:

    Deb –

    Haven’t we all had that experience more and more often these

    Truthfully I’ve become more and more surprised when someone is
    polite and nice to me. But,that doesn’t mean a seat on the bus.

    On an up-note, the sales staff at Crate & Barrel are incredible. I was
    in a rush last Saturday and two salespeople ran around and got what I
    wanted and insisted I sit in a chair until it was time to pay. And then
    one of them walked me out to our car with all the bags. I was stunned!

    Happy Holidays, Janet

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Thank you for commenting on Debby’s post. You also refer to the blog-before-Debby’s–December 17, “Service of We Get What We Deserve”– regarding people who give up their seats.

    Speaking of giving up seats, I was at a party last night and none of the people there said they’d ever heard an older person be rude to someone offering them their seat. I again checked with Pierre as I waited for the elevator this morning and he shook his head in wonderment as this has not been his experience.

    We will all take note of Crate & Barrel’s great service! I love their sense of style as well–perfect combination. Kudos to them.

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