I want to briefly tell you about what happened to us yesterday evening.
We had a baby last Saturday – that’s laid out in detail in my last post. My wife is a go-getter and has definitely done very well in the last week – another reason I’m crazy about her. She’s an amazing woman who quietly goes about her business and doesn’t let anything get in her way.
Her one wish this week was to go to Anthropologie, which was one of her favorite stores in WEM. We discussed throughout the week and agreed that we would head over there Friday night. We had it all planned out – quick supper at home, feed the little guy and head off – Aimie’s only agenda item was Anthropologie, and mine was to hit Kernels with my girls to buy us some special popcorn. We’d likely hit other stores up, but those two were our must-stops.
We came into the mall right by Anthropologie, and so it was the first stop. As we walked in, amongst other shoppers, the anti-theft alarm went off. One of their greeter staff immediately gravitated toward our family of 5 – my wife, my 2 daughters, my 6 day-old son in a stroller and me. She asked if there were any tags we had left on from previous purchases earlier, or perhaps any items we had forgotten to pay for. I said, No, we walked into the mall one minute ago, and came straight into this store – we have no merchandise on us. She advised that she understood, but as we made our way into the store, she continued following us. At this point, I’m starting to get pissed and I’m glowering at her. My wife says to not worry about it, obviously we haven’t stolen anything or whatever and this doesn’t matter.
About 30 seconds later, she comes up to us again and asks if it’s possible that our kids’ jackets might have anti-theft tags in them. I said yes, that’s very possible – as they were bundled up in the bottom of the stroller, I yanked them out angrily and quickly looked – there were no tags to be found. Thinking this would take care of her dire concern for the well-being of any lost pennies due to theft shrinkage, I put the coats back and looked on as my wife shopped.
Well, folks, that associate wasn’t done with us. She asked if it could be in the baby’s outfit. Now, I don’t need to clarify this to anyone who has kids – but I want this on the record – this is a 6-day-old boy. He’s bundled up in a polar-bear snowsuit, strapped into his infant seat, wrapped with one blanket, cozied up with another, and is wearing a toque and a hood for good measure. And he’s sleeping. This stuff takes time to arrange – I don’t have a fairy godmother that waves her wand and bippity-boppity-boo, my kid is dressed for the weather, strapped in and sleeping.
In complete disbelief, I said, yes I suppose that it could be in the baby’s suit, wondering to myself what kind of blunt-force cranial trauma this sales associate has experienced to lead her down this path of blunders. But again, she keeps going – and asks if she could maybe have a look. I said, you mean to tell me you want me to get all the blankets off him, unbuckle him, wake him up and strip him down to his one-sie so you can check if his polar-bear suit set your effing alarm off? I mean seriously, I know that’s now what she could have meant, but I was wrong again. That’s exactly what she meant. I essentially told her where she could shove her customer service manual and not gently and turned my back on her, but she just kept on going – she advised us that she was going to talk to her manager about this. I thought to myself, thank goodness – finally someone will take control of this situation. By now, numerous other customers had heard and seen what was going on, and were shaking their heads in disgust, and were voicing their support for us.
30 seconds later, The Persistent One returned, armed with an enormous orange scissor. She offered to cut out the tag from my son’s snow suit with it. I said no, you may not. I thought, in order to save my wife any further hassle and potentially ruin the one stop she wanted out of this evening, I will go ahead and do this. I started to take the blankets off little Andon, and as he jerked awake, eyes wide, startled by the movement and cold air, I decided enough is enough. I told the sales associate she was ridiculous and that this situation was out of hand. What I didn’t notice was that my wife was crying.
We left, disgusted. My wife’s one wish for the week after having a baby was simple – to visit a store she loves. This wasn’t meant to be, but it didn’t have to be that way. It may seem trivial, friends, but it isn’t. Think about the implication and put yourself into this situation. It was ludicrous.
I tweeted my frustration about it. I felt bad for a moment as I re-read my tweet and thought it misled people to think we actually had stripped our little guy down to satisfy Anthropologie’s requirements of us, but we didn’t. We weren’t given a choice in the matter, and so we felt our only other option was to leave. I returned to the store with my son in his stroller, leaving my wife out in the mall with our girls. I spoke to another manager who, after listening to the story, advised me that it is definitely not their policy to have people cut tags out. She said the associate was likely just offering the scissor to us for our convenience. I made it clear that Helen Keller could have communicated that intention better, and whatever she meant to say to us came out all wrong, as we felt all of the following at one point or another of the aforementioned conversation: a) accused of stealing, b) uncomfortable by having so much attention drawn to us in front of everyone, c) threatened by this sales associate suggesting SHE cut our son’s outfit tag out, and d) left with no option but to leave immediately for fear of being harassed further. To her credit, the manager did apologize profusely, and advised she would be discussing this with said associate. I told her that we have probably spent $5,000 or more at her store in the last year – she asked us to please come back, and I said well I don’t think you’ll be seeing us anymore, just on pure principle.
So, as is typically the case with me, this has become a long story – but it serves a purpose. I’m not sure what the pitbull associate was trying to accomplish, but clearly communication isn’t one of her strong points. I’m not sure what the manager she spoke to told her, but it appears that she was being backed up and supported in these extraordinary measures by that manager, which makes the staff doubly responsible for what I consider outrageous behavior. Yes, I could puff out my chest and proclaim that the salesperson and the manager and the whole store and the whole corporation needs to be boycotted and bitch-slapped with a dead fish, but really this next point is what matters most to me – I just wanted to see my wife relax and enjoy her first post-baby evening out, and wanted to see her smile light up as she found something that she really loved at Anthropologie. I feel sad, because my wife didn’t get that.
By the way, on our way out of the store in protest, AND when I returned to talk to the manager and left again – none of those three instances set the alarm off. Stark irony resides in the fact that it wasn’t even us who tripped the alarm in the first place.
Merry Christmas, Anthropologie in WEM, and peace and goodwill toward men. Heck, maybe even toward women and children who just want to shop there and aren’t stealing anything.
Edit, December 27, 2010: I feel compelled to edit, or rather add to my blog entry. The day after posting this blog, which has received an extraordinary number of hits, a manager from Anthropologie contacted me directly. I’m not sure what caught their attention – my tweets related to the situation or this blog – it doesn’t really matter because neither were written for them. What I can say is that the manager didn’t try to deflect blame, or point fingers – the company apologized, accepted blame and assured us that this was not their policy, and in this case, they had figured out which sales associate it was, and it was her first shift. Regardless of first shift or not, the company indicated that their sales associates would be better prepared for the retail floor from hereon in. After that, the local store manager reached out to us as well, sending us a very kind care package as a thank you for my wife’s loyalty and a hand-written letter – also assuring us that this was not typical, not their policy, that their associates would be trained somewhat differently in terms of these situations so this wouldn’t happen to anyone again. The manager definitely apologized for the incident and even asked to meet with my wife. I want to say that my wife and I are very satisfied with Anthropologie’s response – it was accountable, it made things right and as I sit back and think about this situation, there isn’t more we can ask of Anthropologie. We accept their apologies, we accept that these circumstances, though quite upsetting at the time, were extraordinary and not the norm for this company and my wife is looking forward to going back and continuing her relationship with this store. Thank you, Anthropologie, for making it right.