Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Market Share

Once upon a time, I wanted a kickass pair of knee high black leather stiletto boots. Real bad. It is true that my fantasy pair were made by Manolo Blahnik, but the year I was finally able to afford a pair (2000), was a year in which the heel on the Manolo Blahnik boots was not quite right. Having money burning a hole in my pocket, I endeavored to see if the boots I sought could be acquired elsewhere. It was about this time that a certain Jimmy Choo was garnering a lot of positive attention and had opened a boutique off 5th Avenue. I had walked by and seen a pair of knee high boots, so one afternoon I went to check them out.

I walked into the store and was the only customer. This did not seem to influence the employees who waited a good 90 seconds before inquiring if I wanted anything, and with the kind of inflection that implied it was preferable if I didn't want anything. I said I was interested in the black boots. There was a sigh that accompanied the inquiry for a size. When the boots were delivered to me in my size, the sales girl walked off, not offering to help me into the boots, etc. etc. And for those of you who live beneath rocks, these are not 20 dollar boots. These are boots that should only command such a high price if accompanied by the kind of service one more closely associates with Cathay Pacific first class and not the phone company. Sadly the boots were way too narrow. I say sadly because they were quite attractive. I explained this to the salesgirl who looked at me like I had killed her dog. I left the store with a foul taste in my mouth vowing I would never ever buy a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes.

And I've kept that grudge real good.

Sure, I wasn't in a Chanel suit when I stopped by that day, but had the shoes fit, there is a 96% chance I would have parted with the thousand dollars on the spot. And these ladies work on commission. A year later I bought the boots at the Manolo Blahnik store five blocks up and they remain a prized possession.

The point of this story is that I am the person for whom you never get a second chance to make a first impression. There is too much competition for my money for me to waste a moment on a store that demonstrates it doesn't need it. Some people might get off shopping at places that are indifferent, but I am not one of those people and, truth be told, most people aren't.

So this weekend I went to two stores in Greenwich for the first and last times. The first, and yeah, I'm naming names because if the owners of these places ever google themselves, they should find this instructive, is a shop on the Post Road called Plum. I drove by it and was entranced by the words "cheese shop." Yes, it's true, the nice kids at Whole Foods have a whole bunch of cheese, but I do, in theory, enjoy supporting local business and am willing to pay a premium to do so. I think small businesses are important for a community so I'll do my part to make sure we keep them. Plum did have a nice, if small selection of cheeses. Nice because they stocked a number of my favorites. I was perusing the wares and trying to decide what I wanted when a salesgirl asked if she could help me. I responded by saying I wasn't sure yet because they had several of my favorite cheeses. She then started in on a slightly unintelligble rant about how she had lots of stuff to do downstairs and how she wasn't going to be able to get to it all because there had been a party they had to cater etc. etc. I didn't quite understand her motivation. Was it going to be too much trouble to cut me a hunk of friggin' cheese? Did she think complaining about her work was going to make my buy more cheese? Did she think, frankly, that I gave a shit? I came for cheese, I wanted cheese, and unless she was prepared to make cheese-positive conversation, I didn't anticipate conversational interaction - certainly not of the griping variety. It absolutely turned me off because I didn't understand what could possibly possess her to make it seem like my entering the store to buy something was an inconvenience to her.

I'll be buying my cheese at Whole Foods from now on.

Then I went to the yarn store. String, which has an outpost in New York, just opened on Mason Street in Greenwich in the selfsame location that had been occupied by a previous yarn store. I am back to knitting these days and am determined to actually assemble the pieces I knit this year as opposed to packing assorted sleeves and panels in boxes and forgetting the shame I feel that I am too chickenshit to try to sew them together for fear it will look bad. As such, I would benefit greatly from a knitting circle, or stitch 'n bitch, something for which my new local yarn store might be a great resource.

Now, I know, crafters are a breed apart. Generally women of a certain age who like cats and caftans, they fear outsiders, shoes with heels, and solid, patternless dress. However, a cursory census of the Greenwich market would reveal that the crafters in Greenwich will tend more towards Martha Stewart and less towards The Crazy Cat Lady, so perhaps the brand of crazy being sold needs to be tweaked. The store just opened this week so one would assume the employees would be interested in meeting and retaining new customers - the fact that the store is not the first of its kind in that location would suggest to the savvy capitalist that success is not assured - but instead, after greeting me and asking what I wanted (to which I replied that I knew the store in New York and was eager to see their new branch), I was completely ignored by all staff members who, upon discovering sister crazies tended more towards banter and gossip and less towards making an honest buck off me.

I had, in fact, come to shop. I had bought a hank of yarn for a quick project at the Manhattan branch and had decided to make a scarf instead of a hat necessitating more yarn. Getting this for me proved to be a heavy imposition. When I had been given the yarn and I went to pay, the woman at the counter, who may well be the friggin' owner, continued to type away as I waited - no eye contact, no voice contact, nothing. I audibly plunked my credit card on the counter next to the yarn and walked off. I returned twice to the counter and neither time was there any acknowledgment. The third time I just stood there until caftan-lady deigned to look up and ask if I was ready. I smiled my best shit-eating grin while answering in the affirmative.

So now for the instructive part of today's lesson. There is an invention known as the internet. Perhaps you are using it right now. The internet permitted people to buy merchandise and sell it to others without the headache and hassles of a physical location; as such, these people were able to undercut the prices of what we refer to as "brick and mortar" businesses since they had no overhead. Additionally, the customer never would discover what kind of anti-social, smelly, hideously disfigured, serial killer ran the internet business because buyer and seller never met. It was win/win all around. Perhaps you've heard of some success stories. Like

To the nice people at String, allow me to give a good example. While you had no time for me in person, you have put me on your email list and have sent me information about your current special: 40% off a kind of yarn. Guess what? If I type that yarn into the magic google, I find a wealth of other stores that want to sell me that yarn for $8 less per hank. So, given your personalities were so far less than sparkly, please explain to me why I would pay a 33% premium to shop at your store? A place where, as is my understanding, I will have to put on pants to attend. The internet is a pants-optional place. I can save money and not wear pants. This is the very definition of the value-add!

So, in summation, thanks, but no thanks Plum and String. I can find your wares elsewhere. If you would, however, like to see how it's done (and because A.B. bitched at my short post on Friday - bet you wish you'd kept your mouth shut now), visit the nice people at Patricia Gouley on the Post Road around the corner from Greenwich Avenue. The only lingerie store in town, the nice folks there welcomed me, asked me what I wanted and, upon learning I was new to the neighborhood and just seeing what was on offer, proceeded to speak to me in a kind and friendly manner about the store, its wares, and the inventory that would be stocked in the coming months. I didn't buy a single thing, but I will choose to purchase the same bra or panty at the store as opposed to the internet when the option presents itself because the experience didn't suck. Yes, I might pay 10% more, but I'll be supporting a local business - something that matters to me. But it only matters to me if it matters to the business itself, something I'm sorry, Plum and String, that doesn't seem to matter at all to you.

1 comment:

  1. See my earlier email about crafty women. Hateful creatures.