Thursday, October 30, 2008

Survival in Retail Hell

Today, I traveled to several retail stores looking for a new dress. I checked my cash budget (yes, I buy clothes with cash only) and was prepared to spend a good 'dime.'

I have to tell you folks - I was horrified.

Many of the salespeople were more preoccupied with socializing than customer service. The clothes looked a mess (cheesy looking, poorly made, lines off) and the experience was lousy at best.

I'm not talking about some ole tacky run of the mill mall stores. I mean MAJOR retailers.

Twenty years ago (oh..did I say that out loud?), my first 'real' job outside of a family business was with a major retail chain. I was trained to work in the department called Men's Furnishings (which was accessories, shirts, and ties) and was a personal shopper for several businessmen in my hometown.

Beyond focusing on the sale, the store's ownership taught all salespersons about levels of quality material, color coordination, and customer service. We were encouraged to take pride in our work and never lose the 'people connection' with the customers.

I had a great love affair with my customers. We chatted about everything from sports to business. And, because I cared about them, they cared about me. Many of my customers bought me gifts at Christmas and would later write me letters of recommendation for future employment. A few of them tried to marry me off to their sons (lol!)

As a direct result of my early retail professional training I am kinda picky about my clothing and my retail experience. I will walk out of stores where my presence is not acknowledged and salespersons are not friendly. Apparently, several of you are walking away from retail too because almost every retailer has been posting negative sales figures for the past year.

No wonder.

Today, I received a very little help from the salespeople I encountered (with the exception of one Sister in an Ann Taylor store who was great! I spent some cool cash on loads of accessories in the store because she was so fabulous).

Unfortunately, most personalized attention from salespeople is only offered to those who spend tens of thousands of dollars on clothing.

For the rest of us, service in general stinks.

How should Sister and Brother Socialites work around the quagmire of locating quality clothing and the retail experience ?

Only patronize those who are happy to see us, period. If people aren't try to sell you the floor in this poor economy, then our money is not green enough.

Also, you have to know your body type and what will work for you. Many of you email me questions asking 'What should I wear to X event?' It's difficult for me to respond since we are all so uniquely crafted.

For example, I have what is referred to as a 'hourglass shape.' My clothes tend to run very large and loose at and above my waist but usually fit fine below the waist. So, nine times out of ten, I have to get my clothes tailored.

In general , I can recommend that you should always bet on black. Every woman should have a few LBDs (little black dresses) in her wardobe. Every man should own a good quality tuxedo and a few good suits.

Good (operationally speaking) means well fitting and made with fabric that has some 'weight.' When you tug or grab it, it should not automatically wrinkle up. You should feel the fabric's heaviness (even if it's silk).

Thin clothing has a tendency to look skank and bad on us. It clings to the body in the wrong way and in all of the wrong places. This is why so many of us look kinda hoochie and cheap regardless as to how many we spend on clothing.

Your clothing should not bunch or gather anywhere on your body. The shoulders should fit firmly and the lines on the sides should lay smooth and flat down your hips. Clothes should never be 'see through' and you should never have panty or man-ty lines showing in your clothing.

Men who are under 5'10 should only wear suit jackets that hit right at mid thigh. Longer jackets make men under 5'10 look short and stout.

Make sure to wear proper undergarments when trying clothes on so that you can really see how the clothing really looks. And, take your time when shopping.

And of course, walk with confidence. A confident you will make a difference in how you see yourself and how others see you too.

We'll talk later everyone. Gotta get ready for dinner!