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"Servicing the Customer!" - Elf M. Sternberg
"Servicing the Customer!"
I blogged a while ago about my bookbag giving up the ghost. I've been carrying it around ever since. True, the zipper's broken and it has no shoulder strap anymore, but dammit it still carries everything.

I decided the other day to try and do something about it. I'm rather picky about my bookbags, and what I want is something that looks rugged and, well, Indiana-Jonesy. Something khaki and canvas.

I walked into Bergman's Luggage, a downtown luggage shop, rather mid-to-high-end. It's next to Zanadu Comics, which is why I know of it. I was willing to pay upward of a C-note for a decent bag, maybe even exceed that. I've shopped at Bergman's luggage before, and even bought my laptop sleeve from them three years ago.

A woman greeted me. I presented my case: I was looking for a new laptop bag with a durable over-the-shoulder strap. That's all. I figured if I found what I wanted I'd know it, I just wanted her to lead me to the messenger bags and laptop attachés. I was dressed for work: my work drag is pure work drag: collared shirt, slacks (usually unironed), often with a day or two's worth of stubble but otherwise, y'know, software geek drag.

She took one look at me, up and down, and said, "You're probably not going to find what you want here. Maybe you'd be better off shopping on-line?"

I was stunned. She wasn't even going to try. "Fine," I said. "I'll do that." I'll take my business elsewhere.

But I have a small clue for her. Geeks are often very passionate about their bookbags. We have to carry them every day; they carry all our electronics and ephemera, and often much of our daily life is in the bag. They also get heavy, so we need to get one that's strong and sits well across the shoulder and back. And we need to know if they fit the big things, like the laptop. I don't want to shop "on-line" for a bookbag. I want to try them on, see how they balance, maybe slip my machine into it and make sure it fits well. I may not shop often, but when I do I try to find the best product possible for me.

I'm extremely annoyed that this woman took one glance at me and decided that she wasn't going to get a commission, and she said so. I mean, she should tell that to the last guy from the store who sold me something. Anyway, I'm just not going to shop there ever again.

Current Mood: annoyed annoyed

21 comments or Leave a comment
bayushi From: bayushi Date: February 23rd, 2008 03:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Should have demanded to see her manager, to my way of thinking. In this day and age, it's foolish to decide who's likely to buy what based on appearance. She needs retraining in her job.
mouser From: mouser Date: February 23rd, 2008 03:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Seconded. Reguardless if she was getting a commision or if you were just browsing it's her job to at LEAST point you at the bags!

Oh, and Eagle Creek (don't know if you've hit REI yet) has some pretty rugged gear.

Edited at 2008-02-23 03:43 am (UTC)
phyxis From: phyxis Date: February 23rd, 2008 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd vote pen-to-paper dead-tree edition letter to the management, rather than just speaking to them. Having hand written letters show up (good or bad) is very rare.

Also, doesn't REI stock much of Eagle Creek's production line in their stores?
mouser From: mouser Date: February 23rd, 2008 04:06 am (UTC) (Link)
They stock some not all of the EagleCreek like. REI would make a good stop to see if they have one that a fit.
ladyallyn From: ladyallyn Date: February 23rd, 2008 04:13 am (UTC) (Link)
T hirded!! This is Seattle ferdogssakes!!! It's chock full of geeks who have more money than she'll probably ever see -- especially if she tosses commissions out the door. Don't call the management, *write* the management in your ever inimitable way. Mark it cc the 'who's talking' or whatever it's called at the Seattle Weekly these days. Whether or not you actually send it tot the press doesn't matter so much, that they *think* you did does.

There is a national line of jewelers that I will never do business with again (comprised by Gordon's, Kay's and whatever they're called in other parts of the country). I walked into one in Texas intending to buy something BIG and Shiny and couldn't get sales help to save my life. That was more than 20 years ago and I still tell people what crappy customer service they had.
mouser From: mouser Date: February 23rd, 2008 05:28 am (UTC) (Link)
ladyallyn From: ladyallyn Date: February 23rd, 2008 06:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Nah, not quite... have to retrain all the employees they're putting out on the street by burning the shop down to be decent, respectful human beings. Then I'd be satisfied.
bldrnrpdx From: bldrnrpdx Date: February 23rd, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've got a jewelers in my life I'm the same way about. I had something a little out of the traditional in mind for my wedding ring. Four shops told me "sure, it'll just take some extra time and money". No problem. At The Shane Company though (it's kinda telling when I keep typoing it as "Shame"), which makes a point of saying they'll bend over backwards for customers, the saleslady (who was neither young nor new to the business) flat out told me "no, that's not possible", could she show me something else? No? Then walked off. There are just too many shops and salespeople willing to work with me for me to ever go back again. And I'm still quite happy to dissuade people from going to The Shane Company if I can help it.
abostick59 From: abostick59 Date: February 23rd, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
In this day and age, it's foolish to decide who's likely to buy what based on appearance. She needs retraining in her job.

Have you ever had a sales job?

Deciding who is likely to buy is an essential skill of a salesperson. Appearance is full of cues. (But they aren't what you might think. A person who makes her living selling her own jewelry tells me that the most important cue she takes in sizing up the pocketbook of her potential customers is the customers' shoes.)

This particular salesperson who blew Elf off may well need training or experience in how to size people up -- because as Elf described himself, he was wearing "I've got money, please take it!" clothes.

Judging people by their appearance is important in sales. Knowing which aspects of appearance to judge (shoes: good; skin color: bad) is also important.

I think Elf should contact the store manager; but if he doesn't the salesperson will undergo Darwinian selection in any event.
wolfwings From: wolfwings Date: February 23rd, 2008 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)

I've had a similair situation before.

And it just reinforces with me that a lot of customer-service and sales-related folks can't quite 'grok' people that are willing to be clean, but care more about getting a job done correctly than being spit-and-polish perfect at first glance, and that will use a tool until it's unusable, not until the first blemish, but want to buy really good-quality tools.
jenk From: jenk Date: February 23rd, 2008 04:35 am (UTC) (Link)
FYI, I got a great messenger bag at Franklin Covey a few years ago. Now I have a Tumi ballistic nylon backpack and skydancer's using my messenger bag.
From: codeamazon Date: February 23rd, 2008 04:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I often make a point of shopping for big-ticket items in old jeans.
pixel39 From: pixel39 Date: February 25th, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
When I bought my car I brought the scruffy boyfriend with, and the guy was *still* polite and professional and all that.

And we traumatized all the money types who were there to get their BMWs serviced. ;-)
ideaphile From: ideaphile Date: February 23rd, 2008 04:48 am (UTC) (Link)


It isn't as if you look particularly disreputable even at the worst of times.

Anyway, I recently bought a big Victorinox case which was well designed and well built. Wenger is also making good gear with the Swiss Army brand; the two companies use very slightly different logos. Another popular brand right now for computer luggage is Briggs & Riley; also very good quality.

Apple stores carry a lot of nice computer luggage, including some things you generally won't find in other retail stores.

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lisakit From: lisakit Date: February 23rd, 2008 05:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree that the woman's attitude was atrocious, but just not shopping there anymore isn't fair to the store itself.

Write the manager a note and tell them why.

And WTF?!? Is she new to the Pac Northwest or something? Doesn't she know it's the scruffy people that have the money in these here parts? Sheesh! (Also, you in geek drag is pretty damn hot, what's wrong with her?)
moiety_tx From: moiety_tx Date: February 23rd, 2008 05:51 am (UTC) (Link)
wtf, you'd think Seattle would know better. I'd nth the dead-tree letter, so so their management knows where their people are screwing up.

Anyway, my husband and several friends have gotten bags they're very happy with from Tom Bihn. It looks like they're local, so maybe something to check out.
acelightning From: acelightning Date: February 23rd, 2008 10:34 am (UTC) (Link)
I was just going to recommend Tom Bihn's laptop bags and protectors myself. Many of them even come in khakhi ;-)

doodlesthegreat From: doodlesthegreat Date: February 23rd, 2008 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree with the consensus. Don't shortchange the store because of a single employee's idiocy. Contact the manager, politely state your case, and if they blow you off, then you you can drop them in good conscience.
idancewithlife From: idancewithlife Date: February 23rd, 2008 07:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Reminds me of the scene in "Pretty Woman" when Julia Roberts first tries shopping on Rodeo in Beverly Hills. The next day she takes all her purchases back in there and reminds the saleswoman she wouldn't wait on her saying, "You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Huge. I have to go shop now."
bayushi From: bayushi Date: February 23rd, 2008 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was EXACTLY what I was thinking of!
mg4h From: mg4h Date: February 24th, 2008 01:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Oof. I'll nth the writing a letter, but only if you think the store will still be there someday. If she's an example of what kind of employee they have working there, they'll be belly-up in a few months, easy.

I remember when I needed a new backpack, and I did exactly what you said. I went over to the bookstore on campus (because work was going to pay for it, yay!) and took my old backpack, plus my laptop. And I walked in to the counter, told them what I was doing, and showed them that my old bag had only my laptop in it, and nothing else. And I was going to be a while, sorry for taking up space. I proceeded to take down a sample of their bags, try each one on, load it up with the laptop, walk around, try the straps, etc. I finally settled on one which was *very* nice, fit me well and all, and I've been happy since. It took me a half hour, mind, but it's what I wanted.
21 comments or Leave a comment