Wednesday, July 29, 2009

J. Press: Socioeconomic Profiling?

For my recent 32nd B-day Christina got me a gift certificate at J. Press. Christina explained to me that when she went to pick up the gift card at the DC store the staff was polite, attentive and her experience was positive. She came straight from work and was wearing a dress.

A little relevant perspective: I spend a lot of money at Brooks Brothers. I have a handful of Brooks suits, dozens of ties, and a few odd trousers, blazers, shirts, pocket squares, shoes, an umbrella, etc. Every time I walk into the store the customer service is garbage. Even when I express an interest in an item, the sales folks act like I am a burden. Bottom line is that for my price point, I love the product, but I hate the store.

Since J. Press offers a similar product at a similar price point, I was happy to try them out, especially since Christina's initial experience was good. We went back together this past Saturday after picking up a new BlackBerry at Verizon across the street. I was wearing a pair of cargo shorts, a polo and flip flops. We walked in, and . . . . crickets. Not so much as an hello. I actually had to approach a salesman and ask whether the trousers were sorted by size. He said that they were, but was generally not interested in helping me find anything. I moved to the sport coats and put on a nice grey piece with an orange windowpane. Tagged $650. I asked whether they were all sacks (the cut) and how much the waist could be suppressed. I figured a few industry terms would make him realize that I knew my stuff and may be interested in buying. Still, no enthusiasm. I ended up having a pair of trousers I liked that weren't available in my size ordered from the New Haven store. I had them hold a couple more pairs of twill trousers until the third pair came in and said I would come back and have all three fitted at the same time. We left and I bitched about the crappy customer service.

Fast forward to today -- J. Press called me and said they had the pair in from New Haven. When I called back, the manager (Brian) made a point of telling me that they would only hold them until Saturday. This is probably standard, but I heard "since you probably weren't serious about buying, we aren't going to hold these trousers past Saturday."

I came in after work wearing a Brooks suit, and some suede Allen Edmonds shoes. As soon as I walked in I was greeted and asked whether I needed help. The experience, like Christina's first, was quite positive. They didn't even question my instructions for a 2" cuff and no break on the trousers. We chatted with the salesman, who happens to live in our neighborhood, about local restaurants. It was quite enjoyable.

I suppose we all judge people by their outward appearance, but it really aggravates me when salespeople are snotty or inattentive because I don't look (dress) like I am going to buy. I mean, really, almost anyone can charge a $1000.00 suit (or dress, handbag, pair of shoes, etc.). Doesn't this make every person who walks into your store a potential sale? And a guy like me, who does spend a lot on clothes, could be a future customer for years, even decades.

If I had more pride, I would swear off these places that don't offer proper customer service. I am just afraid that if I did, I wouldn't have anywhere to buy clothes.

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