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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Macy’s versus Nordstrom

We went to Macy’s to find toiletries for our son. We sought some sort of powder that might keep him cool and dry and not irritate his skin. This is not a product that our son could successfully purchase himself. We are trying to gather him into the adult ways of taking care of himself.

Beth delineated what was needed to a salesperson. This salesperson led us to a display of some newly-arrived cologne. Newly arrived and $70 a bottle were the only descriptors that she applied to the product.

Beth went into detail, namely that our son is a very hairy young man and gets inordinately hot. The salesperson said, Have you tried electrolysis or laser? Well yes, that is an expensive possibility, but right now we are looking for some kind of talc that might prove soothing for his condition. She recommended going to CVS.

Does that serve the customer? Had our son, who remains foggy about the concept, asked for help, he would either have spent too much getting something he did not need, or been sent away with nothing.

At Nordstrom, we inquired hopelessly for talc. We did not just want talc. we wanted to know what possibilities existed. A Nordstrom salesperson assured us that options existed. She led us to the counter, and introduced us to a salesperson. We got a clear message that we would be helped.

The salesperson eagerly—perhaps too eagerly—showed us a line of products that would serve our purpose. She went a little far into the product line and care regimen, but the products made sense and she was helpful. A second salesperson came along and tempered the first one’s enthusiasm; this second salesperson saw that we were being overwhelmed.

We ended up selecting more than we intended, because I vouched that I would try these products in case our son chose not to. In addition, Beth got some skin care products, having been introduced to the salesperson in that bailiwick. Except for some excess eagerness on the part of the first salesperson, we felt like our problem—why we came to Nordstrom—was effectively managed.

The lessons should be simple here:

  • Disinterest is offensive. I do not want to go to that Macy’s counter again.
  • Listening is important. We came to the store to buy something, not anything.
  • Empathetic imagination is a useful sales tool. The salesperson at Macy’s never understood what we wanted, nor could she rouse herself to care. This was in fact a sensitive hygiene problem. The Macy’s salesperson offered no relief.

That Macy’s did not offer the product that we sought is not the problem. Treating us like yokels is. The salesperson’s willingness to brainstorm with us, even if it meant sending us elsewhere, would have kept Macy’s in our minds as a place to go to. We would have come back with other needs, ones that Macy’s could supply. Instead, it is Nordstrom that won the day.

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