Thursday, May 03, 2007

Lord & Taylor 'n' Stuff

Many moons ago, while driving to a meeting with my then-boss Fred "Gopher" Grandy, we passed White Flint Mall with its highfalutin anchor store, Lord & Taylor. Out loud I wondered, "Why are all the stores with the high-priced clientele called 'This and That' but the low-end stores are all 'Crap 'n' Stuff' or 'Junk 'n' Things'?" Fred laughed and told me how his old Match Game PM friend Fannie Flagg wanted to open up a funeral home/gift shop and call it "Death 'n' Stuff." That amused me greatly. It reminded me of the movie "Roxanne" and how one of the characters in the film owned a taxidermy-ish shop called "All Things Dead." Sick, but funny.

Wow, one paragraph in, and I've already digressed from the story I meant to tell. I blame the drugs today. They've made me Miss Short Attention Span '07, big time.

So, where was I? Ah yes, at Lord & Taylor...

If you ever meet me, you will recognize immediately that I'm not exactly Lord & Taylor's target demographic. I'm not skinny, rich, or old. I'm a Target girl. Actually, these days, I'm more of a Freecycle girl, frankly. The point is, I simply don't look the part of the typical Lord & Taylor shopper. I can't fit into any of the clothes they sell, and I'm allergic to most cosmetics, and, other than that and the odd box of Godiva chocolate, what else does Lord & Taylor sell?

Answer: just about jack squat.

But something funny happened earlier this week. I went through my daily pile of junk mail and there was a slick, greeting card-sized piece of pre-sorted mail from Lord & Taylor. Curiosity got the better of me, and I opened it. Lo and behold, the card was basically a desperate plea for people to come and shop. So desperate, in fact, it included a $50 gift card glued to the inside. Fifty bucks, guys. (So, hey, peeps - don't just toss that junk mail!) No strings attached. Well, hell, I could at least go check it out.

Considering the cost of most things at Lord & Taylor, fifty bucks is just a drop in the bucket. I'm sure that the philosophy behind the cards is "get 'em in here, and they'll buy something priced more than $50, and feel like they're getting one hell of a bargain!" My philosophy, on the other hand is "find the clearance rack and maximize the $50 and walk away without spending a dime!"
So, there I was last night, hobbling through Crypt Keeper Central. The store was almost completely empty, save for the clerks, as I looked for something I would actually want and use. I walked right past the women's clothing. Had they sold decent sneakers, that would have been my one and only stop, but unless I wanted to pound pavement in a pair of tiny heels, I was out of luck. Two clerks gathered and sniggered as I walked through their department. Made me want to use my cane to knock crap over, honestly. But I kept on walking. Twice more, Lord & Taylor clerks giggled at me as I walked through. Apparently, there is a weight limit at their door, and I missed it. You must be this skinny to get on this ride, kids!

I felt like a fat Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" when she was treated like crapola by the exclusive Beverly Hills boutique clerks. I wanted to say, "Dudes, you have NO customers, you work on commission, and I have $50 burning a hole in my pocket. You lose!" Instead, for once, I opted to not confront the morons. Must have been the drugs, keeping me mellow.

I wound up in the accessories department. I looked at rack after rack of shi-shi handbags and had to stifle laughter. Seriously - who really needs to spend $280 on a purse? I mean, really, people! I buy my purses - perfectly fine leather handbags - at the luggage store at the strip mall behind White Flint. And I've never broken the three-digit mark (or a sweat) buying a damn purse. Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren and the fine people of Coach? Y'all can stuff your overpriced leather where the sun don't shine, as far as I'm concerned. If you spend $280 on a purse, you must be insane - and you probably light your fireplace with handfuls of $20s, too.

As I quietly laughed over the handbags and the awful, garish sunglasses, I realized I was being shadowed. One sneering clerk was constantly hovering a couple of aisles away from me, watching my every move. "Holy crap!" I thought. "This one thinks I'm going to rip them off!" I just ignored the surveillance and headed for a rack of long scarves on clearance. Cool colors, some pure silk, others a silk and linen blend. The silk guys were shorter and would still have cost $29.99 above my freebie gift card. I found one long, funky deep salmon-colored scarf in the silk/linen group. It was unusual, and I thought it would look good with some of my all-black ensembles. It was only $39.99. I pondered my options. There were boxes of Godiva chocolates for twelve bucks a few rows away. I could get the scarf and the box of chocolates to send off to a friend who's been down and walk away, paying just a dollar or so.

As I headed toward the rack o' sweets, a lovely older lady came up to me. She must have been around 60, petite, African-American - the only person of color I encountered in the entire store. She introduced herself, asked if she could help me, told me I had a lovely smile, and apologized if she didn't greet me quickly enough - she was a new hire. (And, I thought, *way* too kind to be working here!) I told her I was pondering a scarf, and she told me to come back and she would gladly help me. Very cool, especially considering the rest of the staff.

I went and selected a box of Godivas and started the slow hobble back to the scarves. I tucked the box under my arm so I could still hold onto my purse and my cane. In seconds, my shadow had pounced upon me. "Uhhh, ma'am! MA'AM!" I spun around. "You can pay for that right here!" Clearly, she thought I was going to walk the $12 box of chocolates out the door. I replied, "But I'm considering a scarf, too."

"Ohhhh, really?" She said in the most freaking condescending way possible.

"Yes," I said. "I'm combining my purchases." (The card was good on a single purchase only.)

"Suuuuure," she said, a smirk filling her face. She followed me back to the scarves, where I collected my salmon prize and called out to the older clerk who had been helpful. I turned to my shadow and smiled. She actually looked crestfallen that I wasn't a thief. "Uhhh... ahhh.... so you ARE getting a scarf, huh? I guess you can make your purchases over here."

"Yeah," I replied with a measure of snark. "I kinda figured that one out on my own, thanks."

The sweet clerk came up to me and took my purchases from my hands. She commended me on maximizing my gift card purchase and told me that most of the customers who came in with one lost out on much of the money by buying something small and then expecting - wrongly - that they'd get the value of the balance in cash. This woman was kind, courteous, and nothing like her coworkers. She treated me like a human being. I fear she may have too good of a heart to work in Trollville. I hope she finds a friendlier place to work, where kindness is appreciated.

So, thanks, Lord & Taylor, for the freebie. I shelled out $2.04, most of which was tax. I'm not sure if it was worth being laughed at and thought of as a thief, but I'll think of the kind woman in the accessories department when I wear my spiffy scarf and hope she got a better job somewhere else. I'm confident that Lord & Taylor won't be going out of business anytime soon - there are too many wealthy older ladies in this area for that to happen. And losing my nonexistent business won't matter a hoot to them. But I think it will be a cold day in Hades before I come back. Next time I get one of these cards in the mail, I'm going to hand it to a homeless person who genuinely needs new pants or a shirt. In retrospect, I should have done that with this card.

Next time, next time...


Anonymous said...

That's so funny - I was at the L&T in Chevy Chase just last night. I didn't have a $50 gift card but I had a 20% off coupon. It was great!

I didn't encounter the same rudeness you experienced. In fact the clerks were quite nice and attentive, without being overeager. I hope that if you go back you have a better experience!

Cyn said...

Having had the pleasure to meet you in person, you exude nothing but wonderful-person vibes, so I can't figure out how anyone could possibly suspect you of pulling a Winona Ryder.


But $50 is $50.

We have a L & T in our local Jersey mall -- I never shop there, because when I used to live in PA the one near my apartment was very la-ti-da and over-priced. So I feel your retail pain.

However, recently I really wanted to buy a new dress, and couldn't find anything between matronly & junior in Macy's. And I had a L&T coupon...

The store was fairly deserted, but there were racks & racks of deeply discounted dresses (it was October, so I guess getting rid of Fall merch.) I ended up buying 3 "designer" wrap dresses (the most forgiving of dresses - and comfy!) for Target prices.

The staff was invisible until it was time to pay (I HATE trying things on to begin with, let alone with someone breathing down your neck) so that made the shopping experience better too.

The only negative was the putting me back in a dress has put me back in pantyhose twice in the past month. Blech.