Monday, March 03, 2008


I'm no Oprah snubbed by Hermes in Paris when she was not allowed in the store while others continued to shop, but I was slightly miffed by my experience at the Brooks Brothers shop at Chicago's Premium Outlet Mall on Sunday.

I was the invisible shopper. I entered, looked around for at least 10 or 15 minutes and selected a wool jacket and a blouse. It would have been nice if the sales staff had offered to place the items in a dressing room. They weren't crowded as it was before noon and the church crowd was otherwise occupied. The fact that I was not greeted as I entered the shop could have been forgiven but not the complete and utter failure to acknowledge my presence.

I suppose, dear gentle readers, you might say, "Oh, Sheila this is just the way it is." But I remember the way it used to be.

I first became a customer of Brooks Brothers while we lived in Houston, Texas in the mid-80s. I found that navy blue blazer that lasted me until last year when the moths discovered it that I have written about in an earlier post. Quality and classic styles was always what attracted me to Brooks Brothers. I don't mind paying more for quality because I know an item will last. And back then, service was a concept Brooks Brothers staffers still remembered.

As a former secret shopper for Coldwater Creek, I know the things the corporate office looks for in stores that carry the brand name, and to Brooks Brothers I say, y'all need to work on some issues.


Leannie said...

Y'all... The problem was you entered a store in CHICAGO. Service is very different North of the Mason-Dixon line. I lived in Cobb County Georgia for 5 years prior to moving back to New England. Service levels ...even in the same change are very different. I went back to Altanta earlier this month. The service at the White House / Black Market was terrific at the Avenues in Marietta. I think my girlfriend and I tried on the entire store as it was brought to us in the dressing room. However, the next weekend, I was in the Danbury CT mall and visited the same change store. No one even bothered to say hello to me. I was wearing items I had purchased the previous weekend from their company... I was a bit baffled. You can't compare the friendly, casual, comforting service in a Coldwater Creek to a stuck up place like Brooks Brothers.

Groceries are not carried to your car. No one asks you if you would like their buggy. And doors are not held. If you want service in the North you have to ASK for it.

Sorry that is the painful truth.

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

i am so sorry to hear this. i know it is NOT the way bb does business. they are snobs, true, but that is just rude!

smiles, bee

Lorelei said...

There is no such thing as service in the Washington, DC area either. Sorry you were made to feel invisible!

Marshamlow said...

I am upset that that Walmart greeter never says hello to me, it seems that their job has become to check for shoplifters as customers leave. I remember when they would say good morning to us as we entered. I am sorry about your bad experience that is terrible. Perhaps if you were to write a letter to the management you would receive a lovely gift certificate and the staff would receive some lovely training.

Sheila said...

Thanks for stopping by. I think you are right about the inconsistencies in chains. However, I have had some of the worst service in the world in Montgomery, Alabama, and that's about as core South as you are going to get.

Contrast my experience at a shop in the same Chicago Premiere Outlet Mall--I was greeted and assisted, the suits I selected placed in a dressing room and I was addressed as I left as to whether the items worked.

I've lived in Cincinnati, St. Louis, Houston, Lexington, Montgomery and for over ten years, Chicagoland. I think it boils down to individual store management for I have been in Brooks Brothers stores in the midwest (Oakbrook, Illinois) and know that they are not all like my experience. I have no experience with the East or
West Coasts but you do have to ask and that I guess is what gripes me especially for the prices you pay at BB.

The Wal-Mart greeters are another inconsistency. Some are personable and others aren't. Yes, Brooks Brothers can make it up to me with a gift certificate. Definitely! So corporate blog watchers, take note. I'll let you guys know if I hear from them.

I once wrote about the chain of barbecue restaurants Jim n Nick's. It was just a casual comment on the local paper's forum about why the servers didn't bring out extra sauce. In less than 2 hours, I had gotten a response and an offer for a free meal. I wasn't even mad. Just curious and the explanation made sense. They serve the sauce warm. Now, that's service.

Jay Croft said...

Sheila, you were in an OUTLET MALL. There's an entirely different level of service there.

Prices are lower and service is lower, too. Don't expect the same level of service as in their regular stores.

As for Wal-Mart, actually I never felt comfortable with those old folks "greeting" customers coming in. I felt it was a useless gesture, and I felt sorry for the old folks who had that job.

Maybe it's just me, but if I go to a Wal-Mart (which is as seldom as possible) I don't want chit-chat. I just want to get in, buy what I need, and get out as soon as humanly possible..

Ditto with Lowe's and Home Depot. If I know exactly what I need I'll probably go there. But if I need help I'll go to Moody Hardware, which I'm sure you remember.

Marion said...

I tend to be one of those shoppers who would rather remain invisible. It is difficult for me to concentrate with someone helping me,lol.

But should the occasion arise where I actually want to try something on, I expect the previously hidden salesclerk to direct me to a change room. Especially in a store such as Brooks Brothers.

I remember the way it used to be, as well.

Sheila said...

A typical Brooks Brothers factory store is more like a regular store--not your typical outlet environment and certainly the prices aren't especially great except on a few items. I've shopped at other BB outlet stores and received much better service.

I do remember Moody's but most any small business is going to be more customer focused.

I sometimes like to be invisible but not while lugging around heavy jackets or suits.

Joe said...

I have to agree with Marion. I prefer to remain invisible in most cases. I don't mind being greeted, or asked if I "need any help," but if I say no, I mean no. I don't mean come back 30 seconds later and ask me the same thing, and if I have to tell him/her a third time I will leave the store.

I hate sales people, and High-end stores make me nervous - afraid I might have to buy something if I breathe on it wrong.

I have to admit, I am much more comfortable in Walmart, Lowes and Home-Depot. If I can't find it in there, chances are I didn't need it in the first place.

Proud to be a redneck...

Diane J Standiford said...

Seems service is all over the map. Howard Shultz based an empire on it, as did McDonald's, but over time they get bg, lose control, patrons try elsewhere. It almost seems a bit cylical too. But, bad customer service can ruin a day, good service hides many other flaws and just makes ya feel good.
Good to see you back, Sheila!