Ms. Bonnie Brooks, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Today is HBC’s 341st birthday and next week is also my birthday – so what better reason than to go pick up a few items at The Bay? Especially since there were VIP discounts this whole weekend – today being the last day. Unfortunately, The Bay didn’t want to let me celebrate.
All I wanted to do was find out if a particular Ralph Lauren bag came in a different colour. The collection on display had two styles – satchel or tote and three colours – tan, pearly grey or black. I wanted the satchel in the grey, but that was the only combination that wasn’t available. I assumed it wouldn’t take very long to find an answer. I was clearly wrong. My first hurdle?
1. LACK OF STAFF
Actually there was no staff manning the handbag section at all. You would think they would staff at least ONE person in a whole section filled with hundreds of handbags ranging from $50 to $400 a piece. And did I mention today was still party of their VIP Birthday Sale? And yes, the section was of course a mess.
My mom and I wandered around the handbag section holding the tan satchel and grey tote and finally came across a lady crouched over a pile of handbags doing markdowns. I asked her politely if she could help me, but without turning around to look at me, she simply said – “I don’t work in this department.” Well, I’m sorry – you were clearly physically working IN the department, so was it so erroneous of me to assume that you would help me? I asked her if anybody could help me with my question and she pointed over to the Coach department. There was one lady ringing up a customer at the till. I was pretty sure this lady working in Coach wouldn’t be able to help me much either because the Coach operates like a separate store that’s just located in The Bay. Nonetheless, I wait.
For at least 20 min.
She took 20min to ring up a customer. Don’t these people have hourly transactional goals?
During the 20 min, there was another lady working at the make up counter directly across from the purse display who had watched my mom and I wait for help. We made eye contact and she asked what I was waiting for. When I told her, she knew instantly that the grey satchel did exist, but this location was probably out of the inventory and I should just ask the Coach lady to check which other location would have the bag still.
I was pretty hopeful at this point. Unfortunately…
2. INEFFICIENT INVENTORY SYSTEM
Finally, Coach lady is available. She starts off by saying she doesn’t work in the handbag section (yes, I know, nobody does apparently.) Still, she tried to help. I explained the situation and I asked if she could just check other locations to see if they had what I wanted. For anybody who had worked in retail, all you usually need to do is pull up the style number on the computer to see if other colour options are available and then *store locator magic* find out quite easily which store has the item.
Seriously, this normally takes less than 5 minutes.
Coach lady says she needs the actual UPC to do store inventory searches on the computer. WHAT? If I had the UPC, I would have the actual bag that I want already, so why would I need to ask you for help?
3. INCOMPETENT STAFF
Coach lady (Janice) was still willing to help. She offered to call other stores and describe the bag and colour to them. Alright, this will take longer, but I was grateful for her help.
During this time, she had another customer who just wanted to pay and I knew Janice was already slow – 20 minutes for the previous transaction?! But I didn’t want to make someone else wait – who knows how long it would take Janice to make a phone call.
It took Janice about 5 to 10 minutes to ring someone in.
Sigh. By this time, I really just wanted to leave, but I also really wanted the bag.
Janice calls Oakridge and I listen to her describe the colour of the bag that I wanted “gold-ie bronz-ie” – wait, the colour I wanted was more grey than gold. This isn’t going well.
The other person on the phone confirms they have the bag and when Janice hangs up, I ask her if she confirmed the UPC was different than the tan satchel. On the phone, she confirmed that the style number was the same (great, same style – but I want a different colour?). She said the other person had called the colour “Newbury” which – she pointed out – was on the tag of the grey tote. I pointed to the tag of the tan satchel and told her – “Newbury is the NAME OF THE COLLECTION.”
Seriously, what kind of training do HBC staff go through? I can’t imagine how Janice runs the Coach section herself – they all have different collection names, colours and style numbers.
I was getting pretty annoyed – I’m not going all the way to another Bay location only to have the wrong bag. Janice calls back to confirm the UPC and of course, it’s the wrong one – they were holding the tan satchel for me.
At this point, she offers to call another location, but I have had enough. The whole ordeal took almost an hour. I told her this was just wasting her time and mine and I did not need her help anymore.
I was pretty annoyed, frustrated and disappointed at how difficult (impossible, in this case) it was for me to FIND a staff person, let alone have a question answered. I ended up dumping the rest of the stuff I was going to purchase and going home. This whole experience wasted my time and left a bad taste in my mouth. At least my wallet is still full.
The Bay is still no Lane Crawford or Harrod’s… yet. There have been great improvements made to HBC in the past two to three years – the White Room at the Downtown location, better website, lots of new exclusive brands and being the official supplier of Vancouver 2010. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of work to be done. Others have also had recent bad experiences at The Bay and sadly, their staff isn’t loving working there either.