Choosing the dress is easy. Buying it is hard.
Troy Media – by Kelly McKenzie
Thank God my other child is a boy. I’m not sure I could survive back-to-back years of grad dress shopping.
It’s not my daughter’s fault. Meredith has approached the entire process with a serene calm. Perhaps this is because it’s not her first formal gown. Fortunate to be a bridesmaid for two of her cousins, she has a pair of elegant dresses hanging in her closet already.
Nor do I think it’s my fault. I have been the model of restraint, encouraging Meredith to take her time, do her research and ignore her brother’s frequent suggestions that she simply wear what she’s already got.
Blame it all on the shop clerk
No, the source of the stress is the actual purchase. The simple matter of choosing a dress is now a case of convincing the shop clerk. Warned by both her friends and mine that this could be an issue, we’d foolishly assumed they were simply exaggerating. Unfortunately, it proved to be true for us as well.
Ignoring these friends’ sage advice to either shop online or go to the States, Meredith is determined to shop locally. She leads me to a nearby bridal shop where a magenta number in the window catches her eye. With positive thoughts, we sail inside.
You can’t fault the content. A tiny shop, every inch sports a dress. The walls are covered, the window is full and the six clothing racks are jammed. Better yet, the prices are as reasonable as advertised.
A smartly dressed clerk glides over and assaults us with questions. “Have you just started shopping for your dress?” (pretty much), “What style do you like?” (elegant drape not princess poof) and “What is your price range?” (we’re splitting the cost so it’s open, within reason). Eyes squinted in concentration, she nods and guides us through the shop, flicking her wrist with authority at certain dresses and instructing us to cho0se a handful. Shuffling sideways, we battle our way through the racks and emerge with several different colours and styles.
The first choice is a definite no as it leaves my fair daughter woefully frumpy and pale. We have better luck with the second; she suddenly has curves. We hit gold with the third. Cobalt blue, a twin to the magenta one in the window, it transforms my girl into a vision.
As the sales clerk trumpets “ok that’s your dress!” I steal a quick glance at Meredith. Her hesitation is obvious. “Do you like it, honey?” I quietly ask. “Yes, Mom, but I’d like to try the magenta one in the window, please.” Shutters descend on the woman’s face. “NO. It won’t suit you. I only recommend that colour for my dark-skinned clients. I insist you buy the blue.”
My daughter blushes but speaks again. Slowly. “I’m sorry but I’d like to try the one in the window before I decide.” Wow. This is different. Normally shy and hesitant to speak up, her assertiveness is refreshing.
The clerk stands rigid, unimpressed, fists clenched. “NO dear. It won’t fit. Alterations will be excessive and expensive. In addition to hemming there with be strap and side seam adjustment. Very expensive. You must take the blue!”
Excuse me? Did we not say cost wasn’t too much of an issue? Or does she simply not want to dismantle the window? Unbelievable. We should walk. Unfortunately, my daughter’s face confirms this isn’t an option.
Rising to salvage the situation I offer to retrieve the dress myself. Abject horror spurs the woman into action. She schlepps to the window, muttering a stream of curses as she snaps off the plastic arms of the mannequin.
Whatever happened to customer service?
Ten minutes later my daughter emerges from the dressing room beaming. Other than minor adjustments to the hem and straps, the magenta gown is tear-worthy perfect. This is the one. The sales clerk refuses to meet my eye and busies herself with the phone while another woman writes up the sale.
As mentioned, friends encountered similar attitudes. One girl was reduced to tears as she struggled to convince the sales woman she wasn’t fond of the proffered mud brown frock. Others are simply shopping online.
We were lucky to find a dress so quickly I know. However, a month later I’m still shocked by our woman’s obstructionist stand. My personal experience of working 10 years in retail taught me the value of service. Nothing was too difficult to ensure consumer satisfaction. Without question the customer was always right. How very sad that is no longer the case.