Oct 1, 2006

Would you put that in a paper bag, please?

[Skip to paragraph six if you don't have time for a stylistic preamble...]

Over 20 years ago back in high school, I used to love J. Crew. Part of it was the whole preppie thing (although I'd gone toward the whole Ska schtick in style), part of it was the great cotton, part of it was the crazy striped shorts they sold. Damn, we all loved those shorts.

Anyway, I got into college, developed different tastes and J. Crew remained the same. Out of school and into the work force I discovered (in order) baggy, pleated pants, slightly less baggy pleated pants, baggy plain front pants, then slimmer plain front pants. (Oh yeah, cuffs were de rigeur back in the 90's but we too parted ways.)

I also discovered the "tailored" dress shirt (read "Euro style") and developed a distaste for chinos. I'm not a wide guy, and Crew's dress shirts were like tents on me. And khakis just didn't have the style I wanted...or something. Either way, these tastes drove me and J. Crew even farther apart.

But times change, and I got older. Nowadays, most of the time I wear Levi's 501s and dress shirts with a blazer. It's the new corporate creative uniform in my town. (The Levi's may not be, but I refuse to pay $200+ for a pair of goofy, jacked up "luxury" jeans--Citizens for Humanity indeed. This whole "reasonable" thing, however, becomes really hard when it comes to shoes.)

I try to buy quality clothing b/c it needs to last a long time. And as I get a little older, the less I want or need to look hip. So after reading that J. Crew had great quality denim, I checked it out, eventually buying a pair of sale jeans online. It has been a very positive shopping experience.*

[This is paragraph six]
To start with, the website is super easy to use. But we should expect that. Then my jeans arrived in the mail, in a paper envelope (photo above) that has a wonderfully crisp, crinkly texture and says "recycle me" at the same time. (I can't say enought about that darn package--I found myself holding it for far longer than necessary just to hear the crinkly sound.) In fact, the only plastic in the whole experience was the bag holding the jeans, but it too is recycleable.

The fabric of the jeans felt substantial. The buttons are substantial. And they've changed their tags a bit to look more simple and retro. It gives the whole thing an authentic, quality feel. You may be laughing at me (I kinda am as I type this) but I know, and every person in business worth his or her salt knows, that these intangible, seemingly unimportant details add up to build a sense of satisfaction that creates loyal customers. (Apple's packaging is actually nicer than many products out there.)

So, the basic part has been achieved: I like my new jeans and have a newfound interest in J. Crew's products. But it hasn't stopped there. The company also has the post-sale thing locked:

--• Two weeks after my purchase I received a "welcome offer" for free shipping. I didn't buy anything, though.
--• A month later they sent me another free shipping offer, but I think it's a basic seasonal thing.
--• Two weeks ago they really got me: A $25 gift card with an announcement of a store opening in Walnut Creek. And this time, they got me. I'll probably end up spending over $100, which will be $75 they otherwise wouldn't receive.

Now, if you're really a clothes person, you'd probably only buy some very selected items from a mass merchandiser like this. And I'm cool with that. But I'm definitely not a heavy-duty clothes person, so when I can find quality items that have a unique and/or timely classic look, I'm happy. And when a retailer provides a positive, non-intrusive, value-based experience I'm definitely interested.

What positive shopping experiences have you enjoyed lately?

* True, shopping is hardly an important activity compared with spending time with loved ones or giving back to the community. But purchasing is a necessity, and there are many sellers, so the experience should be as positive (or painless if you prefer) as possible.


Richard Thompson said...

And then there's France. I recently bought over €2500 of heating oil from a national hypermarket chain. To thank me for my business they gave me a €10 gift card. Less than one half on one per cent of my purchase. Gosh, how generous of them. Instead of cementing their relationship with them, they have put me off for good.

Tim Rickards said...

I'm actually surprised they offered you anything. ;-)

They don't quite have the same mentality over there when it comes to forming customer relationships, do they?

Whenever I buy something in France I feel like they've done me a favor. Even when the salesperson is nice and polite (and most are), they still somehow put me in my inferior place. Maybe it's the rote polite grammar.

EVK4 said...

I just ordered from shutterfly for the first time (they have borders and Apple doesn't). I didn't buy much, about 100 prints, but they gave me free shipping and the first 15 free. Great deal and the free shipping and first 15 made me order a few more than I would have otherwise.

But then the good marketing kicked in, I got the follow-up offer that I can order 12 free prints from my previous upload, just paying for shipping. So I sent 12 prints from the previous order to the inlaws for about $0.85 or something and now shutterfly has their hooks into another customer.

Good job and they have borders/matte printing.