NotBlueAtAll

I'm just a fat gal with a blog and an opinion. Well, lots of opinions.

Communicating With Retailers

September24

After my Woman Within Fail post yesterday, I realized that many people do attempt communication with retailers. To this I say, “KEEP IT UP!” & “THANK YOU!” Because every time I have tried to rally fats together for a letter writing campaign or anything close to it I get nothing but negativity and, “It makes no difference.” “Who cares?!” “They won’t listen, what’s the point?!” And that bugs the hell out of me!

I’m a firm believer in feedback. Both in life and business. I would not own my own cafe without feedback. I would not still be in business without feedback. And I give feedback to the businesses that I support and who support me. It’s vital! I know to many who just shop at larger “big box” type stores it may seem futile, but I can assure you, even at the store manager level, feedback is a remarkable thing!

How I know this? I worked in retail (from clothing to music) for over ten years. I have held every position from stock girl, fitting room attendant, cashier, assistant manager and finally store manager. I know how feedback can impact a store/retailer. Feedback can hit you like a ton of bricks, sure, but it’s what you do with it that counts!

See, retailers who receive little or no feedback, they breeze right along, growing and strong, thinking the world is their oyster. They become bigger and more arrogant. They become “too big to fail” and such bullshit. And it is these that ruin an industry! I believe the key to success, no matter what the industry or field, is feedback and using this feedback to focus, restructure, maintain and grow!

I have written many letters to retailers. I have approached overworked and underpaid retail managers with my feedback and have been given that look of, “Are you fucking kidding me with this?!” and still do it today. And you can tell right away what type of manager/company you’re dealing with by their response. Sure, e-tailers will send you a form letter with a “you will receive a personal response within 24 hours” line. But it’s what is in that response that counts. They all claim “your feedback is important to us” but if they do nothing with that feedback? If they sit on it and it never reaches the right ears/eyes? It can seem utterly pointless. I get that, I truly do. But when you get a manager/company that does get it? Well, you get results!

I am still working on a specific Target store with my feedback about their plus size section (zero signage, always messy, shoved into a tiny corner), but I’m patient & persistent! Plus, I understand retail management structure, so that helps. Sure, one letter to a giant retailer may fall on deaf ears/blind eyes, but if many people do it and all have similar feedback? It should land in the right hands!

Take Dominoes pizza for instance: they received tons of awful feedback and I don’t know if they have a new president or CEO, but that guy in the ads sure seems to give a shit about what his company is serving its customers! That is golden! I talked smack about Dominoes for ages, having never liked their pizza. After all of those ads (specifically the one with the photo of the mushed pizza) my hubby & I decided to give ’em a try. And you know what? It was fabulous! I love that garlicky seasoning they put on the crust! But I never would have tried them again without those sincere ads!

That is what it’s all about! It doesn’t have to be thousands of emails/letters, either. It is more about the feedback itself. If you write Old Navy a letter saying, “You suck! Put plus size clothes back in your stores!” it’s not going to get any attention. And I know for a fact that they have received hundreds of those. Ha-ha! But if you’re more specific, “The sizing of your jeans varies so greatly that I’m spending too much on return shipping. HELP!” you should get the help you need while also letting them know that their shit is all wongo in its sizing! This is information they need to know!

Look, I love that fire-in-the-belly, rallying the troops sort of moments when people unite for a common cause or action…but the truth is not everyone feels the same things about the same companies. Certainly there are fats who still love Lane Bryant & Torrid. While some of us reminisce about the days when things uniformly fit across style lines or were more on-trend and less polyester. Ha-ha! Telling a retailer that fat people deserve cute and comfortable clothing at affordable prices? Certainly an important message, but not an actionable thing for one retailer.

The other thing to consider is that a lot of the associates/salespeople are  women (for women’s clothing anyway), while their higher-ups or executives are often men. Huge disconnect! (Speaking from experience here.) So I must repeat: Be specific, be clear, (don’t put ten things in your feedback) and keep it simple! I’m also a firm believer in giving positive feedback, too! Just think how your day would be brightened if a customer called your manager and said, “Wendy was so sweet! She really helped me decide on the perfect outfit! She was very patient with me and helpful in suggestions and options.” Let me tell you, I have had this happen, and I wanted to leap for joy and sing from the mountain tops! So don’t hesitate!

Also, don’t hesitate with the bad feedback! It is so important for a manager to know what’s going on when they’re not there. And believe me, it gets ugly! I had an employee stealing x-boxes and game boys. I knew who it was, but never had proof (he was the only other person with a damned key to the store). If you receive bad service (or good) get names. If you’re uncomfortable telling someone to their face that they are being inappropriate or rude, get their name or a good description at least (including time of your visit/purchase). It is near impossible for a manager to ignore feedback that has all of the facts and details straight.

I hope this all makes sense. I would love to hear from anyone who has received a decent response from a retailer or even had something changed due to their feedback. I know it’s tough. But damn, we spend our hard earned monies and so much energy to give these companies our business! We vote, so to speak, with our dollars. We need to follow it up with our words! =0)

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14 Comments to

“Communicating With Retailers”

  1. On September 24th, 2010 at 2:14 pm Regina T Says:

    I’m with you on the power of feedback. I give it often and for both good and bad things. I had a great experience at an Olive Garden once. The server was attentive enough to refill drinks, bring breadsticks, and ask if we needed anything all without being annoying or intrusive. She smiled and seemed genuinely pleasant all the time she was serving us. When our meal was over, I told her to her explicitly that I enjoyed her serrvice and gave her a big tip. I even asked for the manager at the front desk and told him that I thought our server was great, just so he’d know what a great asset she was. Then I went one step further and filled out the comment card and sent it to corporate. Excellent service is so rare that it’s worth the effort to point it out and encourage more of it. 🙂

    As for bad experiences…there are so many. Coscto once sold me some moldy Tilapia. I returned to the store without the fish, but with my receipt, explaining that I dumped the $13 worth of fish in the trash (after I had prepared it) and didn’t bring it with me. I got told that I needed to bring the product in with me to get a refund. Even after explaining that the fish had been sauted in garlic and butter, and would require being scooped out and bagged up and transported back to the store…..the supervisor still insisted that I needed to bring it back in for a refund. So I went home and did exactly that. The different clerk took one look in the bag and said I didn’t need to bring this back in! I got my refund, but still felt this was handled badly, so I wrote to the corp. office. The next day I received a phone call from the store manager asking me about my situation. I explained all that happened and was apologized to. She then told me to stop in to her office the next time I came in so she could talk to me about it again. The next week I did, and the woman handed me a $25 Costco gift card for my trouble! Not necessary, but certainly made the bitterness of my experience disappear much more quickly.

    Those are just two examples of how complaining can bring about change and satisfaction. Though there are many more that never get resolved, it still doesn’t hurt to voice your experiences to the right people. I think deep down most people want to do a good job and have people like their products. But that requires personalization that often gets overlooked by the silent and visibly absent heads of companies. Being out of touch with their clientele shields them from seeing us as human…..we’re often just a dollar sign…and that’s just bad business.

  2. On September 24th, 2010 at 3:04 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this with me. It is so sad when anyone sees an individual or group as nothing but a dollar sign!

  3. On September 25th, 2010 at 10:07 am Rachel Says:

    This is a great post. As someone who’s been studying business for years, I can tell you alllll about consumer sovereignty– they are the driving force of the business. Pay attention to your customers and you’ll be on top!

  4. On September 25th, 2010 at 10:23 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Thank you! And I love that phrase “consumer sovereignty!” That’s perfection! I was told last week that I am too young to care about customer service. I told her that it may be a lost art but it’s vital for any small business. I have considered another career in small business consulting in this field since I was so good at that before. Ha! Who knows. Thanks for reading & commenting. =0)

  5. On September 25th, 2010 at 1:15 pm Rachel Says:

    Actually, “consumer sovereignty” is a real economics term– much like how “incidence” means a lot of stuff in plain English, in economics it means “burden” of whatever’s being paid– like taxes, freight, etc.

    Consumer sovereignty is exactly what it says– the customers rule! 🙂 The example my professor used was the elimination of those round-dial phones once touch-tone phones came out, fewer and fewer people bought them until companies realized they shouldn’t bother making them anymore. Now a vintage fanatic or two may pick one up at an antique shop or estate sale every now and then, but companies don’t make them.

    In the feedback sense, consumer sovereignty definitely rules– unless it’s a good where no/few substitutes exist (like flights…yep, whole other can of worms, I know), consumers ultimately decide if a company still goes on or not. If the service sucks and enough people complain? They can change those things that suck. Positive feedback is just as important too so they know what to keep doing right.

    If academia wasn’t just as shark-ridden as the corporate world, I’d like to teach economics or management!

  6. On September 25th, 2010 at 7:03 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    Wow! I love it! Thank you so much. You have a magnificent brain!

  7. On September 26th, 2010 at 4:36 am Erin Marie Says:

    It’s so funny you write about this.

    About a week ago my boyfriend and I were having coffee at the local (chain) coffee shop when we were charged $3,600 for our meals. Let me assure you, they were not gold plated, nor encrusted with diamonds that we were allowed to keep.

    When the mistake was realised, no apology was offered, AND my boyfriend was asked to pay the cost of our meals, despite the fact that we were now going to be out a few thousand dollars for the ten days that it would take them to refund the amount to his account.

    I was pretty cheesed. This is a store at which I’ve been a regular customer for seven years, and where (mostly) I’ve had great food and service. I’d noticed in the past week or so that there had been a lot of new staff and that service had slipped. In fact, we were eating breakfast there because we’d been given a 50% off the second breakfast voucher we had received for inadequate meals the last time we’d been there.

    I tried to track down the email address for the local store, but all I could get was head office. I calmly and as concisely as possible noted all the details of our visit and, as un-emotively as possible, stated that I was disappointed with the level of service we had received, not to mention the fact that we had been greatly inconvenienced with no apology. I made sure to mention I’d noticed a disconnect in the level of service with the new franchisee taking over, and that if this was the level of service I could expect from now on, I would be taking my business elsewhere.

    I didn’t expect a response, but within three working days I’d received a telephone call and two emails from the owners of this particular franchise wanting to ensure they maintained our repeat business, and offering vouchers to be used instore. I declined the vouchers, free stuff not being the purpose of my email, and was just gratified to know that sometimes complaining does help.

    I’ve also complained about other things – like the bus driver who pulled over on the side of the road (not even in a bus stop or loading zone) to buy a packet of cigarettes, and the terrible, terrible service I’ve received from my phone service provider, to little avail.

    I think a lot of it has to do with the company’s philosophy, but it also depends on what you’re complaining about. Charging someone $3,600 for a $36 meal is a pretty big mistake for a local coffee shop, even if it is a chain, and in a suburb like mine where word of mouth means EVERYTHING, they were right to try to rectify the mistake quickly. The council for the bus or the phone company? They don’t care so much about my little complaints, even if it does improve their standards. They just want to get the job done for as cheap as possible so … what mistakes, right?

    Society is hard man. That’s really what I think.

  8. On September 26th, 2010 at 11:19 am Not Blue at All Says:

    Wow! That is a serious mistake…couldn’t they have simply voided the transaction? Hmmm…
    I would think that the bus driver thing would be quite a big complaint, buying smokes on company time? Yeah, he/she could get fired for that I would imagine. Or at the very least written up. It is too bad when new or even long-time business owners lose sight of what matters most, SERVICE! When hiring new staff though, I have personally been surprised by a sheer lack of training on top of the fact the customer service is not first and foremost in their company’s credo. *sigh*
    One by one, we can and do make a difference. Thank you for sharing this.

  9. On September 26th, 2010 at 11:35 am Rachel Says:

    $3600 for breaksfast? Holy crap that’s atrocious!

    That happened to me once at one of those indie sandwich shops downtown, I was charged $90 for a $9 meal but the cashier immediately voided it and apologized for charging my card too much so I got a free drink out of it. At least it was handled well unlike what was just described here.

    As for lack of training…oh yes, this is a pet peeve of mine. Too many companies are pissing away money on things like personality tests and “behavioral scientist” mumbo jumbo that doesn’t tell them shit about their employees, rather than employee training so they just expect prospective employees to be BORN WITH all this experience. I remember when I was in unemployment hell between college years and thinking, “I deal with so many rude and stupid people every day, I’m smart and nice, why the hell can’t I get a simple waitressing gig for crying out loud?!”

    If they invested in their employees– rather than wasting current workers’ and applicants’ time with bullfuck tests– with training, everything would be so much better. The quality of customer service would improve as would the company’s reputation and employees’ qualifications.

  10. On September 26th, 2010 at 12:05 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    I’m partial to the training thing for two reasons: I used to be a corporate trainer in customer service and I have had several jobs that put me right into the mix without a moment of training! You’re so right about companies wasting time/money on stupid things like tests. I think that they believe it to be an easier one-shot option than actually having to nurture the correct service behavior.

  11. On September 26th, 2010 at 12:27 pm Rachel Says:

    Absolutely. Truthfully I find most HR practices completely useless, they certainly don’t make things easier for companies or from my accountant’s POV, no real cost savings. From both a capitalist and humanist approach, it makes far more sense to invest in your employees with good training. It gives them the skills they need, sets a good example for other businesses, and enables management to work more closely with their human capital while personality tests don’t tell donkey dick. Seriously, people lie on those things, or will just answer according to what they think will get them the job/let them keep the job.

  12. On September 27th, 2010 at 4:26 am Erin Marie Says:

    Apparently because of the amount they weren’t able to reverse the transaction in store, so they had to do a manual reversal and they called the bank to make sure it went through right away. Still. Would be nice if the FRANCHISEE-OWNER-OPERATOR OF THE FRIGGING STORE knew how to operate the EFTPOS machine. Blech.

    We went back later on and he was apologetic to my boyfriend and we received excellent service. So maybe my fears were unfounded. I am glad that I complained though – I just think it is so important that the people in charge know what’s going on.

  13. On September 30th, 2010 at 1:11 am Kath Says:

    I work for a customer service organisation that takes legitimate feedback (all but the weirdos and cranks) very seriously. Every letter is considered and if possible, negative feedback addressed. If not possible, and the complaint is reasonable, we will do what we can to reach a compromise or at least let the customer know why we have limitations and that they matter to us.

    In fact, I’ve seen huge amounts of time and money spent to change something on the strength of one negative feedback.

    Personally, I give feedback to businesses as much as possible. I will praise a good business to the high heavens, and I’ll certainly let a bad one know in firm but polite terms. And I’ll tell my friends!

  14. On September 30th, 2010 at 7:52 am Not Blue at All Says:

    See, I love when companies actually listen or at least try to make things better for their customers. Thank you for sharing this.

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