Monday, September 5, 2011

Macy's: Part 2

Subtitle: Cross-Dressing is Not Good Customer Service

I truly hope you got the impression from yesterday's post that I have an enduring love to Macy's as a brand and even as a store.  What follows, then, is no quarrel with Macy's, but rather a horrendous failure in what used to be a very great store.

As I mentioned, Macy's is my "go-to." When I told my husband I was going shoe shopping, he said, "Where, Macy's?"  It's just a given.  I need a pretty dress, I need stockings, I need a new purse, I need shoes.  Okay, I probably don't really need those things, but all's relative and I'm old-fashioned enough to believe that ladies wear stockings with their pumps.  In any case, I go to Macy's for all those needs.

Over the last two days, I bought a new dress and a shirt, a new purse, and a slammin' new pair of shoes.

I did not buy any of these things in Macy's, however, and they have no one to blame but themselves.

An unfortunate trend I've been observing (and trying to deny) for the last year and a half is the slow but certain deterioration of everything (except the organ) that I detailed in the last post.  In fact, when I was in the shoe department yesterday, the only male I saw was wearing a faded tee-shirt and jeans and I did not realize he was an employee until I saw him tidying up the catastrophic disaster of the sale racks.  On a side note, maybe I'm the only person whose mama taught her to put things back when she was finished with them, because I witnessed a few women trying on the shoes on the sale rack and then kicking them off and leaving them on the floor!

Anyway, back to Macy's.  Yesterday, I went there, full of hope that I would find a pair (or two!) of fabulous shoes, because that is usually how it happens.  I had already had a little wind knocked out of my shopping sails by a less than favorable adventure buying the dress and shirt, but I was determined to find a pair or two of shoes and a purse.  Truth be told, I found 4 pairs of adorable, classy, non-leather shoes and would have loved to try them on...except that in the 40 minutes I was in the shoe department of Macy's, not one single employee offered assistance.  When I realized I had spent about 10 minutes surveying the shoes and finding the ones I wanted to try on and 30 minutes spinning in circles looking for someone to help me, I left.  Before I left, though, I made a last ditch effort to find a purse.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to convince a person like me to drop over $100 on a purse when there is no one around to tell me why this purse is so awesome?

Now, the awesome part of the story is that by not shopping at Macy's I purchased my shoes, purse, dress, and shirt for less than $100 together.  So it worked out just fine for me, not so much for Macy's.  I thought they might like to know how much money their useless employees cost them yesterday, so after coming home and grabbing a tiny snack (Sabra Roasted Garlic Hummus on a slice of multi-grain bread...mmmm...), I wrote them the following email:
I want to preface this by letting you know that I have been a faithful devotee of Macy's for a long time.  My wedding shoes?  Macy's. Special occasion dresses?  Macy's.  Jewelry, cookware, my yearly shoe shopping?  You guessed, Macy's.  Unfortunately, I don't think I'm going to be able to do that anymore.

This is obviously a recent thing because to me, Macy's has been representative of the last bastion of old-fashioned customer service, but your employees are just awful these days.  I wish I could confine it to just one department, but I have had appalling experiences with employees in your shoe, lingerie, and women's clothing departments over the last year, and that they are only getting worse does not give me hope to continue shopping there.

I wanted desperately to buy shoes today.  I was in the shoe dept for 40 minutes and in that time fell in and out of love with four pairs of shoes.  I did not buy any of them, however, because in all of those 40 minutes, not a single employee offered assistance, even when I was standing in the center of the dept, obviously looking for help.  I did, however, hear multiple employees telling other people who asked for help that they had to deal with the same person that had helped them before.  I realize this is probably related to a commission pay structure, but it results in abhorrent service.  Another time I was trying to buy shoes, at least 2 employees were "indisposed" because they were busy laughing at a 3rd employee (nametag and all), prancing around in sparkling womens pumps - the employee was male.

This report I am making to you grieves me because over the years I have had astonishingly good customer service, even as recently as a year and a half ago.  I have not had that experience since that time.  Since that time, I have heard employees in the lingerie department talking to each other at the cash registers about how drunk they were going to get tonight/this weekend.  In the dressing rooms of the women's clothing department, I have overheard employees gossiping about baby daddies and who is sleeping with who.

These experiences are completely unacceptable for two reasons.  First, whenever the employees are gossiping or trying on shoes or telling customers they must wait for the person they had been working with, they are NOT HELPING CUSTOMERS.  If you expect a person to spend $100+ on shoes or a purse or a dress, you need to have employees who create an atmosphere in which that price sounds like a deal.  That leads to a second point - as a customer, not their friend or family or therapist, I do not want to hear about their sexual exploits or how much they're going to drink in 45 minutes when the store closes.  

I want to love Macy's as I have in the past. I want Macy's to continue to be the place I know I can go and come out with the dress, clothes, shoes, and purse I went in there to buy today.  I left with nothing but a bitter feeling about the direction in which your store is going and I hope you can rectify this.
We'll see what they have to say...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Macy's: The Good

Do you have a boutique or department store upon with you primarily depend?  Is there a "go-to" store where you know you can find what you're looking for and where you can count on helpful sales people and charming displays?  I think it's safe to say that most women - and probably even most men - have one "favorite" spot for shopping, one place they "know" they can pop in and out of and leave with the item(s) for which they came.

For me, for years, that place has been Macy's.  I don't know if that makes me a metropolitan New York type or a suburban grandmom, but for almost my entire adult life, I have depended upon Macy's to make me look great for weddings (including my own), bridal showers (including my own, again), graduations, holidays, new jobs, interviews, baby showers (none of my own, thank you!) and pretty much any other life event that "required" a new dress, shoes, purse, and/or accessories.

There are many reasons I've pledged my devotion to this department store above all others.  One reason is that in truth, I hate department stores.  For some reason, Macy's has always felt more manageable to me - possibly more like a collection of boutiques that all happen to be under one roof without much dividing them.  I've spent considerable time (and of course, money) in a few Macy's, but since I've been in the city and especially, since I've been without a car, I've gotten used to visiting the Center City Macy's.

Here are some other "favorite things" of my past decade of experiences with Macy's:

  • in the most stunning display of old-fashioned customer care, when the transaction is complete - merchandise is paid for and carefully wrapped before placed into its bag - the salesperson does not hand it across the counter.  S/He walks around the counter to hand it to you personally, so to speak.  To me, this is the equivalent of opening doors and saying "my pleasure" instead of "you're welcome."
  • The receipt has a place for the salesperson to write his/her name and they explain to you as they hand you the receipt that they would really appreciate if you would take the time to go to Macy's website and tell the store about your experience with them.  Good or bad.  That kind of transparency and accountability is missing from too many places today.
  • The men in the shoe department wear suits - full suits with a jacket and shiny shoes - and speak to you quietly and discreetly and are ever so eager to find you the shoes of your dreams.
  • A well-dressed woman with her hair in a French Twist, floating throughout the housewares effortlessly in high heels not only knew what I meant when I asked about a pastry blender, she knew exactly where to find them and helped me to decide between a wiry little fella and a sturdier (but deadly looking) Martha Stewart brand, chatting pleasantly with me all the while about how refreshing it was to know that "young people" (like myself) still baked from scratch.
Now, let me give you some background (and beautiful pictures) about the Macy's Center City Philadelphia store, specifically.

It resides in the historic Wanamaker building, which was a Pennsylvania Railroad station until John Wanamaker purchased it in 1876 and made it into the first department store in Philadelphia.  It has persisted in one form or another as a department store since that time, though the building changed hands more than a few times.  In the time I've been alive, it was Wanamaker's, the home of many childhood memories (more in a minute), then Strawbridge & Clothier for a short time.  My adult attendance began when Lord & Taylor took over and in 2006, it became the Macy's to whom I have faithfully given my money since.

Macy's CC Philadelphia, all decked out for the Flower Show

It may seem foolish, but one of the things that has kept me coming back all these years is tradition.  When I was a child in the far-flung suburbs of Philadelphia, my little family of four would get on the train one magical day each December and take the hour-long ride into Philadelphia.  Once we were there, my father would expertly (and at times dangerously) lead us through the underground bits of the train station so we would pop up on the side walk just a couple of perilous blocks from the store.  Hey, the city's a scary place when you're 4' tall and weigh well under 100lbs.  In any case, once we were safely inside the store, it was an amazing place - brightly lit and sparkling with elegant Christmas decorations (it was still ok to say Merry Christmas back then), lux crimson carpeting down the length of creamy marble floors.  There were grand, curving staircases (now closed to the public) and, best of all, a monorail that circled one floor's ceiling (giving all the good children a great view of the toy section and giving parents everywhere a heart attack as they tried to surreptitiously purchase presents for those very children).  That monorail is now in a museum...

Anyway, after all the oohing, aahing, and ogling from the monorail (which my sister and I rode over and over and over until our parents told us it was time to eat or leave or see the lights), we would gather in the main lobby, which opens up to a total height of 6 stories, and watch the annual Christmas Lights Show with all the other families.

The light show is narrated by the one and only Julie Andrews and tells all the classic Christmas tales: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and The Nutcracker.  Meanwhile, on a massive display against the East wall of the building, figures light up and "move" for her stories.  There is a three-story-tall Christmas tree that lights up and changes colors, and when I was a child, there was also a display of fountains.  They spewed their steams of water at varied heights and with a rhythm that matched whatever was going on, and there were floodlights set up behind them so that the water appeared to be colored as well.  It was really an incredible thing for young eyes to behold.

Truth be told?  It's a wondrous thing for all eyes to behold.  That's why every December, my father and I meet up on his lunch break (he works about 7 blocks east of Macy's) and head over to see the light show together, even in our advanced ages :)

my view from the main floor of the show just starting
The other neat thing about the light show is that the organ accompaniment is live and played on the largest operational organ in the world.  That's right, Europe's got nothing on Center City Macy's.

That is the front of the organ - the only part, beside the console, which is actually visible.  It takes up the second and third stories of the east wall.  The 28,543 pipes are hidden within the other three walls, although they are mainly in the south wall, which is opposite the console.  The organ itself was built in 1904, coincidentally the same year as my piano.  The organ, however, was built for the St. Louis World's Fair and then laid in storage, essentially, until John Wanamaker purchased it for his mega-store in 1909.  Since 1909, the organ has been played primarily by only 4 organists.  The current organist has been playing 2 concerts a day, plus the hourly Christmas light shows that go on for the entire month of December, since 1989.  The second organist, Mary Vogt, played the organ for nearly 50 years (1917-1966).

The history of the organ is truly astonishing - I urge you to read the entire article (it's not that long) in Wikipedia.  It has some incredible stats on the organ.  It is just a magnificent instrument.

So, you see, I have a long-enduring and great love for not only Macy's but also the space it inhabits.  That is enough for now.  This is, however, only part one of a two-part series, so please check back tomorrow for the second post.