Sunday, January 28, 2007

She May Know Fashion, But ...

In today's Baltimore Sun there's an article that got my goat. First of all, they are running a series called "The Middle Ages." This is not about that dark period just before the brilliance of thought and art that flowered in the Rennaisance. No, they are talking about the booming generation of people that the rest of society doesn't quite know what to do about. Boomers. Middle aged. Semi-senior. No one has come up with a good name yet - for there is none - but plenty of people have advice.

Now there's a fashion manual for the boomers from someone who, by age at least, is one of their own. But if you believe the Sun article, mostly she has disdain for the clothes choices of her group. She focuses on "unflattering, frumpy and dated looks" and offers advice on transforming them into hip, with it styles.

Some of her advice is good but obvious and unrelated to age: tennis shoes with a skirt suit for women never look good. Frumpy is rarely flattering.

What I take issue with is her handed-down-from-on-high statements. Teal is a nursing-home color. White shoes say old. Pastel jogging suits are out. A colorful pullover sweater for a man is a no-no.

What if you have spent your working life in black or navy suits, looking forward to the day when you could live in pastel jogging suits? What if you happen to love teal and look especially good in it (says she with the red hair)? Where is comfort in her plan? Where is the familiarity and ease of a favorite sweater or less-than-hip jean skirt - another item on her "don't" list?

Early in the article the author points out that boomers are spending billions on clothing. Somehow, all I got from this article was another "expert" doing what "experts" have done all our lives...tell us what we are doing wrong and how we can fix it by simply buying something else, including their books.

I suspect a lot of boomers are too busy writing their own books to worry about whether a "style expert" approves.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

How To Get Rid Of a Customer

What's the fastest way to get rid of a customer? Without saying a word?

You got it. The answer is not saying a word. Being unresponsive. Showing that you really don't care what their experience was, even if they go to the trouble of pointing out - politely - that there might be a problem with your quality or service.

Two big names in women's apparel have recently provided me with an up close and personal example. Delta Burke - the clothing line that bears her name - has some nice designs. A few months ago I started swimming in the local indoor therapy pool (great for creaky knees!), and I bought a Delta Burke bathing suit at Lord & Taylor. Between the two I expect good quality and excellent service.

Right. My dismay quickly turned to ire when, after barely a dozen wearings, the suit began to disintegrate. The fabric lost all its oomph. Tiny gray ends of broken elastic fibers covered the surface. When wet, the skirt hung below my knees! Now my knees are not a great sight, but I don't want to have to fight with fabric when I'm swimming.

Yes, I rinsed the suit carefully and repeatedly after each wearing. The pool is state of the art and uses salts and very little - if any - chlorine. Clearly, there was a quality problem with the fabric.

So I wrote to Delta Burke Fashions describing the problem and my suggestion that they have a problem with quality, and I sent a copy to the Women's Buyer at Lord & Taylor at their headquarters store. (I would have written to a specific person, but the very helpful department manager at the local L&T couldn't give me a name.)

The result? Resounding silence.
My response? Two new swimsuits purchased - neither of them a Delta Burke, neither of them from Lord & Taylor. And one blog article.

In a dentist's office once I saw a sign: Ignore your teeth and they'll go away. The same goes for customers. The fact that I won't buy anything else from Delta Burke or L&T probably won't even register on their radar. Or maybe it will.

Addendum: Thanks to Alex for reminding me of the Demotivators to be found at Herewith a pertinent example: