Monday, March 2, 2009

Snooty Service Out Of Style - It's About Time

From the Wall Street Journal

Angel Yimsiriwattana still remembers feeling intimidated when she walked into a Chanel boutique in New York two years ago. When she approached a salesman, he "was snooty and reserved," she says, and barely spoke to her. Clad in a casual sweater and jeans, she figured the sales staff sized her up as someone unlikely to buy. Even though she spent $7,000 that day, she still felt unwelcome.

The atmosphere is a lot different at the Chanel boutique in Soho these days. On a recent visit to the same store, the 27-year-old says she was treated like a princess. "As soon as I walked in, [the sales associates] were smiling and said 'how are you?,"' she says. "Everyone circled around me like little fish. They were extra nice and helpful." Even though she didn't buy anything, the sales staff cheerfully wished her "a nice day" as she walked out of the store.

Back when I was a young matron some 20 something years ago and a big fan of Chanel I had my own little encounter with snootiness. There was a particular suit and accessories (for about $10k...back in the day that was real money) that I wanted to buy so my husband and I stopped into the boutique in Paris after a business trip to Zurich. He and I were totally ignored by the stuck up shop girls and naturally he got pissed off, walked me out of the store and said never put up with that attitude. We promptly went shopping at the Ungaro and Dior boutiques where the sales girls were a little more solicitous. Later he wrote a scathing letter to the store from our suite at the Lancaster and I never again bought another thing from a Chanel store....ever.

According to this article that kind of snootiness is a thing of the past

As the luxury goods industry suffers a massive slump in sales - many sales clerks at designer stores who were famously haughty and patronizing suddenly have changed their styles. In the boom times, the aloof service was part of the exclusive aura cultivated by some brands, sending a message that only the coolest or richest customers were worthy of a purchase. Now, "that arrogant and snobby attitude of feeling people should be grateful to buy at their temple is a dinosaur mentality that is going extinct," says Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a consumer-research firm. "Now those brands have to be grateful for a customer."
We can only hope so.
Have you ever had an encounter with snobby service that was so bad that you walked out of a store and refused to buy that brand?
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Deja Pseu said...

Yes, the Hermès flagship store in Paris! Even though I was wearing an H scarf and looking intently at scarves in the case, none of the sales associates could be bothered to tear themselves away from two or three Asian tourists who were monopolizing them. They couldn't even do they "with you shortly" acknowledgement.

The Rodeo Chanel boutique used to also be quite snobby, but they've warmed up lately. OTOH, I've always found the staff at the Rodeo Louis Vuitton store to be quite friendly and helpful.

My biggest gripe at designer boutiques is when the staff don't know their merchandise. I'm a regular at The Purse Forum, and sometimes feel like I know the bags (model names, colors, release dates) better than the sales staff do!

Belle de Ville said...

Yeah...Hermes is on my list too. I end up buying Hermes scarves at Neiman Marcus rather than the Hermes store. The Hermes sales associates do know their merchandise though.

WendyB said...

Maybe I've been lucky, but I feel like the second people figured out I was ready to spend money they were happy to take it :-D

Maybe sometimes I felt a slight chill before they realized I was not just a looky-loo. But I have more sympathy for that now after I've had "clients" run me around like crazy, only to back out of the transaction. There are now people that I will give the cold shoulder to, because I can't waste any more time on jerks who just want attention.

Can you tell I've had a bad day? ;-)

Belle de Ville said...

In my business customer service is at the top of my priority list. Yes, some clients do back out of a transaction, but all in all, I've been blessed with awesome clients. I never push product...when the right item finds the right person, a sale will happen and everyone will be happy.
I guess that's why I get so pissed off at snooty sales girls. I appreciate and respect my clients and I expected to be treated that way wherever I shop. Even if I don't make a purchase, chances are that if I'm treated well I will come back and shop.

WendyB said...

I've treated some people too well, to be honest, and they just take advantage. It happens with the custom work, mostly. I've had to become more stern and above all protect my prices. It's one thing for someone to change their mind about a ready-made piece...that's no problem. I don't want anyone to have something they don't love. Having me do sketches, create a three-dimensional model, order supplies from the Philippines and then back out of a custom order? Never doing business with that one again, unless she's willing to pay twice what I originally quoted, 100% down! *sigh*

Belle de Ville said...

Wendy, I've had that experience too. Clients who have custom ordered something then conveniently "forgotten" or worse, denied that they ever ordered that piece. From now on for custom orders I need a down payment.
Luckily, I do very little custom work.

Nancy said...

On a business trip to Las Vegas a few years ago I killed some time browsing couture boutiques. The vibe could not have been friendlier--quite a contrast with Beverly Hills and San Francisco. My friends and I decided that in Vegas, salespeople dare not make assumptions about spending power. A customer could be wearing baggy pink sweatpants and Crocs and have just won a jackpot. Better be nice!

Belle de Ville said...

Nancy, you are so right. I always found that everyone who works in Las Vegas is friendly. They must all have thought that I made money at the tables...little did they know, I don't gamble!

WendyB said...

I like how people who work in restaurants in LA are SO nice compared with the ones in NYC. You don't get yelled at if you're a little late for your reservation!

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