Putting the Customer Back into Customer Service

Yesterday, I decided to do a little Blogher and new job clothes shopping. Ok, so maybe it was a little retail therapy too after some lameo business-related stuff. Anyways, I stopped into two clothes retailers and had two customer service experiences that were so completely different, I just had to write about them. Store 1: Wasteland (Ventura Blvd, Studio City)

I'd gone to Wasteland last weekend with the ladies from Wear to Go Girls and had found great stuff, reasonable prices, and friendly staff (the Melrose location in Weho). My bad for thinking this Wasteland would be the same. Ohhhh no. When I walked in, I found that the racks were a bit more organized than the ones in Weho, but that was the only plus. Instead of being greeted by the salesguy hanging clothes up, I got a very obvious onceover followed by a completely obvious stinkeye and sneer combination that practically screamed "What do you think you're doing shopping here?" 

I'm sorry, stereotypical hipster dude with the half-long-hair-half-shaved-head and your american apparel tank (gross) and stonewashed black jeans. Am I not unshowered enough for you? Is it because I'm not a size zero?

Guess what? My money is worth just the same as your hipstery friends' money, thank you very much.

I lingered a bit and browsed my way towards the back, hoping maybe that was just his normal facial expression and that he (or the other associate) would be nicer. Oh, was I mistaken. Same Asian hipster with the bad hair walked by me with empty arms (ie, not busy), and literally glared at me as I gave him a polite smile. Forget asking if I could use any help or if I'm looking for something in particular, a non-nasty expression would have been nice. As for the similarly-coiffed guy working the register? Same onceover + dirty look combo.

Yeah, screw you too, buddy. I'm never shopping there again.

With that unpleasant taste in my mouth, I made my way across the street to Gap, where they were having a sale (yay for sales!)


Store 2: GAP (also Ventura Blvd, Studio City)

Hellooo, totally different experience. I wasn't greeted immediately upon walking in, but that's hard to do when you have a busy store and such a large space to cover. I was, however, asked about 5 minutes into my visit if there was anything I could be helped with. Once I'd amassed a sufficient armfull of clothes, another sales associate came by to ask if she could start a fitting room for me.

Breath of fresh good customer service air!

While in the fitting room, I witnessed customer service that to someone like me (who's worked in retail before) took nothing less than the patience of a saint. A woman in her mid-40's was trying on pants. One pair was obviously too long, and the other was the right length but she wasn't sure if she should cuff them. Not only did the insanely patient sales associates help her by telling her how long her pants should be when you're wearing heels and show her how to nicely cuff the pants, they also offered to get other sizes and styles while this woman went back and forth over which pair and what length to get. Incessantly. I got roped into the discussion at one point, and all I can say is... yikes.

Anya (I think that's her name?) was super super helpful to me as well. I'd found a great pair of cropped pants that were on sale but so not my size. She checked the rack for other sizes and offered alternatives when my size wasn't there. She complimented me on the pants I did end up buying (always nice to be complimented!) and when I told her what I was looking for, also offered to check and see if they had my size in diff styles/colors, since I wasn't sure about the lack of pockets on my chosen pair. At checkout, she didn't push the Gap card on me, but did explain the amount I would save if I got it. She walked me through the process, answered all my questions about the card, and explained to me which coupons I was getting and for what dates/purposes. Totally helpful. And, despite the other customer in the fitting room, was seemingly unbothered and totally cheerful to me.

I walked out of the Gap feeling like that's what customer service is supposed to be. 


I've worked retail/food before-- a party store, Starbucks, Charo Chicken (oiy vey), a scrapbooking store up in Berkeley. I know what it's like to deal with ridiculous customer requests under the rule that the customer is always right. I know what it's like to be on your feet for 8 hours straight and to be totally wiped at the end of a frappuccino rush (never.again.) But the horrible experience I had at Wasteland? Reminded me that customer service isn't dead -- neither is chivalry, guys-- and that, in my new job at Papersource and in my own business, I'd do very well to remember that. The time I spent at Gap also reminded me how important dealing with a pleasant person can be to your overall experience. Had I found the same $60 pair of pants at Wasteland, there's no way I would have given them my money after the way I was treated. But at Gap, even though that's a pretty pricey pair of pants for me right now, I felt totally comfortable with my purchase, and I know that I will definitely be returning there in the future. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the're right across the street from Papersource. Oh, and Wasteland of Studio City? Your associates could really use some people skills.

So I guess, my customer service/life lesson (re)learned is: don't be a (hipster) jerk.