October 05, 2006

Getting Men Wrong part 1

I just got back from spending 1900 dollars at a Men's Wearhouse, and I'm upset. Not with what I purchased, those suits and shirts and ties look terrific, but upset because I'm always upset when I leave a Men's Wearhouse, because they always do something stupid to screw up. By always, I mean two different Men's Wearhouse stores, in two states, over the course of two years. Always.

Now, most of the shopping experience there is terrific; they do a fabulous job understanding what most men hate the most about shopping, and they create an experience that is painless and pleasant and effective. They get me to spend my money by making it easy for me to do so. You walk in, you pick out a few suits, and then while you're dealing with the tailor, a battalion of salesgirls (occasionally saleswomen but most often salesgirls) run around the store mixing and matching shirts and ties just for your suits. Like many men I'm horrible at determining what looks good with what, and certainly not audacious enough to put together some of the combinations they come up with. Additionally, I don't really care - I want to look good to get chicks, so having chicks tell me what looks good just seems to be the epitome of honest and efficient communication between the sexes.

Men's Wearhouse does the shopping part well; they get men and get the extent of the shopping experience most men are willing to tolerate.

And then they go and blow it in the homestretch. Most commonly, the tailoring isn't done when I come to get the suits. They've written the date incorrectly on the ticket, or they only have half the order completed, that's what I've come to expect. This time, it was a pricing issue, a matter of 80 dollars.

Here's what happened: I went in to buy two suits. I'm starting a new job, and my suits are a few years old and a few really need to come out of rotation. At the store I'm shown several nice suits, and I pick two I like, and waffle a bit over a third suit. I'm ambivalent, but I do need a tan suit, and this one comes with two pairs of trousers, and it's 350 bucks. "Tell you what," my sales man says to me "I'll give it to you for $250." Now, I know what he's doing, and I'm more than willing to let him do it. I didn't plan on getting three suits, but he's sweetening the deal, and for 250, I take it. Keep in mind, that's before tailoring, matching socks, shirts and ties... so even 250 becomes a significant investment, but he's willing to entice me, and I'm willing to be enticed. I'm easy that way.

Cut to Dan in his car, 45 minutes later, checking out the receipt. The tan suit rang up for $330, only a 20 dollar discount. When I head back into the store, my sales guy tells me he "was going to tell me about that, the computer wouldn't let him give me the full discount." So many things wrong here... so many things. Because I have a high tolerance for bad behavior, and because I don't like making people feel bad, I simply say that I'm very disappointed, and I considered myself somewhat screwed by him and Men's Wearhouse.

He's apologetic, he promises to make things right, he even comes out to my car after I left again to confirm he most certainly will make things right when I come back to pick up the suits (bets on whether the tailoring will be done on Thursday October 12th or no?). Like most stores in this situation, like most sales people, they'll attempt to assuage my anger by addressing the 80 dollars - a gift certificate or something - making that part of the problem disappear. Yet the more they focus on the money, the angrier I get, because it shows that they just don't get it.

I just spent $1900, so the 80 bucks is not the issue. I spend more than $80 on bad dates with chicks I'll never call again. So while the 80 bucks isn't insignificant to me, it's just not what I'm angry about. What infuriates me is the laissez faire attitude toward doing the right thing, towards integrity, and towards excellent customer service. What upsets me is that it was ok for an an 80 dollar issue to arise and annoy me in the first place at the tail-end of a 1900 dollar sale, leaving me frustrated, annoyed, and feeling like I'm getting jerked around because of their sloppy work.

It's a matter of understanding men just enough to get us to spend our money, but missing the most important facet of the male shopping experience, the most important key to male behavior - that no man anywhere in the world is ok being fucked with. Was my salesman trying a bait and switch on me and I caught him? Honestly, I don't think so -- but I likely wouldn't have bought the suit at 330 bucks, and so the end result is the same. The salesman didn't forget the discount, he tried to get away with not honoring his word to me, he tried to get over on me and he hoped I wouldn't notice. So sure, he can make the 80 bucks go away a number of ways, but my experience of Men's Wearhouse is now one of being fucked with, and not one of being respected as a customer (not to mention a good $1900-spending customer).

I can't speak about what women want and think about when shopping, but I can tell that for men, it's that last 20% of the process that makes all the difference for us. We're not browsers - we look for a place we can trust, one that doesn't let us down, and we go back there over and over. It's that last 20% of the sale that keeps us loyal, that makes the difference for us when we otherwise couldn't give a crap where we buy our suits from. The clothes are great and the suits look good at Men's Wearhouse, and I like the way I look just like their CEO promises. But I hate the way I get jerked around during the last 20% of the experience. I don't like the way I feel after shopping there.

I've been particularly sensitive to being misunderstood following my last romantic breakup, particularly sensitive to the assumptions and expectations placed on men in all arenas of life. Perhaps I'm even oversensitive to a common lazy sales-practice, but I'm reacting to the grander issue; that for men, not feeling like we're being taken advantage of is one of those foundational, cornerstones of our characters. Not being able to count on Men's Wearhouse to not screw me, or screw up, or otherwise take me and my sale seriously, reactivates that sense of being taken advantage of, which of course makes me wonder if that's where I want to spend my money.

Waaaah, I'm a big pussy, I know. Because they perpetually let me down, and like a big jerk I keep going back there to be disappointed by them in new and interesting ways. Is it too much to ask though, for that last 20% of effort? If we're all going to become consumer-slaves to mega-corporate greed in the 21st century, ok fine. But at least let's have some decent customer service...


At 9:28 AM, Blogger Mr.T said...

That's why I only by my suits at Bloomingdales.

At 9:29 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

You don't buy your suits, you convince chicks to buy 'em for you... I actually have BUY mine.

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Mr.T said...

True! One day you may attain my level of skills. Until then I guess you gotta keep going to the MWH.

At 9:50 PM, Blogger poonaji said...



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