We Can Work It Out...
Since the stores have opened, our brand has always publicly posted about the good. Day one, I decided it would be unprofessional to share the not-so-glorious side of our specific retail establishments because complaining typically does no good, and because we all choose what we do with our day. We are responsible for the happiness we create in the 24 hours we've got... maybe I'm tired, or maybe I've hit a 10 year limit, but I have to tell you that the decline in respect that I've seen in our environment over the last few years concerns me.
I started in customer service oriented jobs when I was 15. As soon as I was allowed to work I was washing dogs at the animal hospital, being a birthday party girl at the bowling alley, a sales associate at the mall.... I skipped from job to job and in each situation I noticed it was easy to let customer complaints wash away quickly, like one of those random rain showers that happen on a sunny day. 2 minutes of unnecessary anger over something that would have no great impact on either of our lives would be gone when I left for the day, and I could go back to doing hood rat things with my friends.
It's different when it's yours. For the first 7 years of our stores, I found myself giving the Nordstrom treatment to every client. Whatever I could do to make that situation right for you was what I was going to do. I took major losses on items and products where there could have been more compromise. I thought "I'm building a business! We have to get that good REP across the state so people know that we are going to do whatever it takes to give them the best special occasion client experience possible " - and while I love being the nice girl of the industry, the last 3 years have really helped me understand why being the nice girl in the game becomes virtually impossible as you grow from a small to not-so-small business.
The Customers: First, I'd like to say that I am beyond grateful for the friends I've made who are customers, the people who continue to show up for everything we plan and the people who spend their hard earned dollars at the stores. I would never diminish the wonderful people who support us...
The past few years I've noticed a real change in the attitude of the customer. Shopping for a homecoming or prom dress should be a wonderful, memorable, experience. Our employees work very hard to make sure that your time at our store is easy, that you feel you've made a great decision when it comes to picking our your dress and that we take care of all the special details for you. We used to see the client enter the store wide-eyed and ready for fun... but now we see a 'fight' mentality, where we are up against people who are (for lack of any better term) out for blood.
This year has been a whole new level of fight or flight for us. My heart breaks each time I hear someone talk to my employees in a way that makes them feel bad, or small, because I truly know how hard they are working. Outside of the 25+ hours these kids might be putting in during our busy season, they have families, school and activities that they balance. How they keep their composure, and accomplish everything they are responsible for, is beyond me. And they take it- they take every mean, negative, degrading or slight that comes their way. They bite their tongue, they smile through it and remain professional at all times. Sometimes I worry if this is the wrong thing to be teaching these young girls. Should I tell them to be more honest with the client? Should they ask someone to please speak to them in a nicer tone? When did we let online comments and star ratings become what we're working for? That's not why I built these brands- we built these brands because we love and want to help you- I have never, to my knowledge, hired one employee who did not have the client's best interest at heart, at all times. When I think about how genuinely nice our girls (and a few guys) are, I think to myself that they don't deserve half of what has been thrown at them the last few years at our shop.
We used to train our employees on our dresses, our brands, ordering, and sizing but now our training consists of how to talk down irate clients, how to deal when they are questioned about store policies, what to say when someone fat shames their daughter in front of a group of people, how to handle girls who are side-eyeing each other and talking negatively to other clients, what to do when they are harassed about the prices/rules, what to tell a client when something sells out and we can't order another style and the client flies off the rails.... the list goes on.
We now have to stand outside the store on busy Saturdays and give each client who comes through the door a 2 minute recap on how our operation works and the rules of our store... I wish I could just replace that 2 minute recap with a big, fat sign that says "BE NICE OR LEAVE."
I don't know when the 'Nordstrom' mentality got to me in a way where I feel like I can't set the rules of my own store, but I've found that I've hit a wall. There is NO situation in our shop that we can't fix by an easy conversation. This is a dress. A. Dress. It's not the end of the world, it's not cancer, it's not a death. This is a happy memory, something that we are grateful to be a part of, and a luxury that not everyone can afford. Where has the perspective gone?
This Monday morning post has been brought to you by a very busy Homecoming weekend and the heart of a tired retail worker who just wants her friends and clients to know, that everyone at our stores are doing their absolute best, all the time, to give you an experience that is going to make you truly happy. Everything we do is with purpose and reason. Just as we respect your needs, we hope that you'll respect ours. We are grateful to each person who takes the time to shop at the store and we are resting today, only to be back at it tomorrow because we never quit.
Please remember that kindness matters, always.
<3 <3 <3