This Isn’t a Shopping Blog – But . . .

My grandson’s birthday is this week. He turns four. And last night I drove to an outlet mall where I knew I could find something in the way of a gift. Not toys. The kid already has so many he could open his own store.

After trying to figure out the directory with the “You Are Here” arrow, and challenging my spacial-relations skills beyond their capacity, I found the row of children’s stores lined up like turrets: Carter’s, Osh Kosh, Gap, Gymboree. I first browsed Gymboree.

The manager smiled when I walked in the door and asked how she could help me. A tall, 30ish woman, Shelby had hair piled on top of her head and clear, kind eyes that connected with mine.

I told her I was shopping for my grandson and she immediately came out from behind the counter. “What sort of things are you looking for?” she asked.

I can’t remember the last time a clerk came out from behind the counter without my first having to plead for their assistance.  I had her full attention.  I explained that my grandson gets dirty. “They live in the mountains,” I said.

She put back the white pants she’d removed from a rack.

The months will be getting warmer, I said. So maybe something short-sleeved? How about pants and a shirt – size five?

Shelby made suggestions. Not pushing, just offering possibilities. She rummaged through stacks of folded shirts, searching labels for size fives; and when I changed my mind, she didn’t grit her teeth. I’ve seen that look before. The one sales people flash before disappearing back behind the counter.

When I had narrowed down the entire boys section to a few basic styles and colors, she arranged mix and match outfits on the counter.

I can’t remember the last time anyone did that. Maybe never.

I ended up choosing a pair of shorts covered with camouflage-print dinosaurs. My grandson will think they’re great. And a three-button shirt with a fierce T-Rex clawing up one side of the burnt-orange knit.

Shelby told me the company makes their clothing so that kids won’t be irritated by the designs. “Feel underneath,” she said.

I slid my hand inside the shirt.  Sure enough, no plastic under T-Rex; only smooth cotton.

My seventeen-month-old granddaughter, the “un-birthday” child, will want to open something too, I thought; but decided to patronize one of the other shops for her gift.

After a quick tour of the remaining stores, I went back to Gymboree. Their customer service put the other stores to shame. The “50% Off” signs didn’t hurt either.

I browsed the clearance stuff and found some cute things, among them a pair of lime green fleece pants and a white cotton top with the words, “Snow Sweet” appliquéd in matching colors across the front. I know, I know. White isn’t very practical.

Maybe it has something to do with the apron I made in seventh grade home-ec class, but I have an eye for flaws. And just as I was about to check out, a few brown specks on the lime green pants jumped up and screamed, “Hey! Lookie here!”

Shelby ducked into the back room and seconds later emerged with another pair. “I brought you fresh merchandise,” she said. “These are right out of the plastic. You’re the first one to lay hands on them.”

How could things get any better? I swiped my debit card and she asked if I wanted a gift receipt. I wouldn’t have thought of that. She highlighted the company’s website on my copy. “If you go online and fill out the survey,” she said, “you’ll be entered in a drawing to win $500 worth of merchandise.”

That got my attention. And even though I’d sworn off working past ten, when I got home I put on my pajamas, made a cup of tea, and fired up my laptop.

Most of the questions asked me to rate the store and clothing on a scale of 1-10. But two of the questions required written responses– one about why I chose that store, and the other describing my shopping experience.

This morning, when my head was clear enough to think, I wondered why I had gone to the trouble of making sure my spelling, grammar, sentence structure – everything – was perfect on that stupid survey. Whoever reads these things on the other end probably doesn’t give a flip. They probably wouldn’t know the difference between a semi-colon and a comma,  I said to my husband at breakfast.

“Why not?” he said. “Shouldn’t we have those expectations of everyone all the time?”

He’s right. In the devolution of written expression, we’ve come to have few expectations. And I realized that I had few expectations of customer service, as well. That’s why last night’s experience came as such a shock.  Usually when I can’t find an item, the sales person (if there even is one) says, “If it’s not on the shelf, we don’t have it.” They don’t even lift a finger to find out.

But Shelby restored my faith. And as I wrote those two paragraphs before falling into bed, I made sure I told them. Whoever reads it will find a glowing report, along with perfect punctuation and spelling – because some things in life are worth caring about. FFG

Comments are closed.