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Spring Shopping

2012 March 29
by Jill

Please note: I started writing this post last Sunday night, but haven’t been able to finish it until now, due to work travel and a mean cold that just won’t. go. away. Apologies for the radio silence! I’ve missed you!

As I mentioned in last Friday’s post, I went shopping this weekend to update my closet for spring. Though I didn’t get everything on my shopping list, I did manage to stay slightly under budget and came away with a few things I’m pretty excited about. I got a pretty blue cap-sleeve blouse at H&M, a bright floral scarf at Zara, a navy and green striped tee at Loft, leopard flats from Chelsea Crew, and cropped black pants and a purple skirt at J. Crew.

Leopard Flats

J. Crew Scallop Sateen Skirt

J. Crew Minnie pants

Zara scarf

No doubt, I got some great stuff for my closet, and all just under the budget I had set for myself. However, I came away with some very important shopping lessons. At least, shopping in NYC lessons.

I spent no less than 2-3 hours waiting in line, both for the fitting room and in line to pay, between Zara and H&M. I came out with a scarf and a shirt. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do love me some H&M. The prices can’t be beat, and they do have some really cute stuff that’s always on trend and sometimes even fits. And Zara has some really great pieces…but the prices can definitely be beat. I can almost never justify Zara purchases, and their quality leaves a great deal to be desired.

After these shopping experiences, I was frustrated, tired, and hot. AND I still had so many items left on my shopping list! So I did what any reasonable American woman would do…I crossed the street to J. Crew. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was like walking into an oasis from the desert. It was organized, neat, softly lit, and NOT crowded. I didn’t have every kind of man, woman, child, and stroller jostling against me as I tried to peruse tangled racks. As I debated over some pants, a woman came over to ask whether I needed a particular size, and if she could start a fitting room for me. Why, yes, you lovely lady you. Please do! So I continued my leisurely stroll around the store, and then went back to the dressing room, where my items, and an empty room were waiting. Even the dressing room was a vast improvement over those other rooms. In the fitting rooms at Zara and H&M, the rooms were about the size of a bathroom stall, with no bench or place to put  your purse or clothing. There was ONE hook on the door. At J. Crew, there was ample room, a bar to hang your items, and a stool to sit on/place your own clothing and purse. It actually makes a huge difference.

So, I spent more money at J. Crew. I normally don’t like to spend that much money. HOWEVER, taking these experiences into account, I would have gladly paid the extra $10-20 above the Zara prices to avoid that nightmare, and get the quality goods I actually wanted in the first place. Does this mean I’m developing adult shopping patterns?

What do you guys think? Are you willing to pay extra money for a better shopping experience, better customer service, higher quality?

4 Responses Post a comment
  1. March 29, 2012

    I think it is worth it to pay more for customer service. I don’t mind waiting in line to pay for something, but waiting for a fitting room drives me nuts. I’ll leave a store immediately if I see that I won’t be able to try things on without waiting. J. Crew’s clothes are consistently high quality, I always love their color palate, their sales people are so helpful. The only other chain stores I can think of that give a similar level of service are Anthropologie and Banana Republic.

    The H&M that I’ve been to in Washington DC is horrible, an absolute zoo, but the one in Richmond is OK. The last time my daughter and I were in New York we went to a Zara in Manhattan–I remember that it was near the Union Square farmer’s market and it was not crowded at all, and the H&M on 5th Ave was busy but not as awful as the one in Washington.

  2. Raquel permalink
    March 29, 2012

    I have shared your experience! Good customer service makes a huge difference and I think it is worth the cost to the consumer. I don’t know why Zara is always such a clusterfuck. I shopped there ONCE. There was a huge line for these horrific, uncomfortable dressing rooms. The lighting was awful. And the clothes are pricey for the quality. I mean, the two tops I got there are nice enough, but not so nice that I should have paid that much for that quality and that shitty of an experience.

    H&M is also always a clusterfuck, but honestly, I know to expect it because their clothes are so cheap. Somehow, knowing that I am getting a bargain on cheap clothes makes it a little more bearable, but I don’t shop there too often. I feel the same way about places like Target, which actually have better, less insane dressing rooms than a place like Zara! I don’t understand the appeal of Zara. Their clothes aren’t even that special. It isn’t worth it to me.

    So it all comes down to the fact that yes: at this point in life, I am willing to pay more when I want a top-quality experience and top-quality clothes.

    In that vein, I now do almost all my shoe shopping exclusively via Zappos. Due to my foot issues, there are precious few brands I can wear anymore, and they can be hard to find in a lot of stores. The lovely Zappos people upgraded me to their VIP program for free (YAY!) and now I get free next-day shipping. Knowing I’ll get to prance around the house for up to a year in the shoes before I decide if I want to keep them or not and then being able to return them with free shipping is amazing. Now I can order a bunch of pairs to try on at home and can send back any I don’t want without much hassle. Top-notch customer service and bountiful selection of select brands really justifies the fact that I am paying more for my footwear.

    But if I just want some basic, cheap T-shirts, I have no problem dealing with the clusterfuck experience. I think it all comes down to what kind of experience you want to have!

    In closing: I really dig that purple skirt! :)

  3. March 30, 2012

    I don’t know why, but I’ve never made the correlation between cost and the overall shopping experience. In my head, cost should just have to do with quality and nothing more. That’s obviously not true – Anthropologie is an excellent example of paying money for the experience.

    But I tend to get around the annoyance of crowds and lines by shopping at weird times of the day, like during a lunch break at 11am or something. Because when it comes down to it, I’m still not willing to pay more for something that I can get at a lower place, somewhere else.

  4. Kelli permalink
    March 30, 2012

    I love those leopard flats!

    I try to only head into H&M/Forever 21/any of those types of shops on weeknights after work. They can still be a tad messy but they are leaps and bounds better than on a weekend – hardly any college students, less of a disaster within the store itself, a dressing rooms are WAY easier to come by…
    (And isn’t it a kicker that with H&M you HAVE to try things on seeing as their sizing is so wacky you can’t just “take a guess” and purchase without trying it…)

    I definitely “reward” stores with better customer service, helpful employees, etc. I can’t stand it when I’m in a place ready to spend MY money and they look annoyed that they have to help me. Lately I’ve been trying really hard to think about quality not quantity.

    Oh, and one more rant/annoyance about dressing rooms. I HATE, HATE, HATE when you’re only allowed to bring a certain number of items inside and then have to swap them out for the others. It’s SO ridiculous to me! It slows things down in the dressing room, you have to worry about the items you left outside being re-shelved (or picked up by someone else) AND who wants to wander out of the dressing room while in the midst of trying on clothes anyhow? ARGH!

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