Why I didn’t shop the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale…

I can only think of one thing I didn’t buy, that I have ever regretted.   It was a miniature owl.   A real, genuine, live, miniature owl.   

…make no mistake, I tried to shop the NAS.  I walked into Nordstrom's in early August, with $500 that I had budgeted for fall purchases, burning a hole in my pocket.

But nobody seemed to want to assist me.   I walked in, planning to seek out a pair of black, fitted, over-the-knee boots, preferably leather, but I was willing to consider suede.   Ideally they would be flat-heeled, but I wasn’t ruling out a wedge.   I also wanted to see what kind of dressy flat shoes and sneaker-wedges they might still have in stock.   The NAS had some leather sneaker wedges by Converse that have haunted my dreams.  (Well no, not really.   I’m using metaphor as a means of poetic exaggeration.  Cute shoes though.   Sold-out pre-sale.  L  )

On my way to the shoe section, I allowed myself to be sidetracked by the Petites section.   As seems to be the norm in most department stores, the Petites offerings seem to skew towards the preferences of a woman-of-a-certain-age, planning to head down to South Florida at a very near point in the future.

I’m not Helen Roper yet.

Nope.  Not quite there yet.   This is my Ghost of Christmas Future, though.

There was a sales associate nearby who gave me the up-and-down once-over.  If this were a TCM film, she would have offered to buy me a drink and asked what a nice girl like me was doing in a joint like this.   But no.   She turned back to her conversation with someone who looked like another sales associate, but may have been a customer – although, a customer without merchandise, who was not checking out.   I did not get so much as a “Let me know if I can help you find anything.”

So I mentally shrugged, and counted to 20 in my head, in case she changed her mind and decided she wanted to try and sell me something loose and drapey and perfect for those 90-degree Fort Lauderdale October nights.

She didn’t.  So I continued on to shoes.

Two sales associates nodded to me en route to getting someone else some shoes to try on.   I don’t fault them that.  But there were also three associates who did not appear to be assisting anyone.   Just hanging out, chatting with one another.

I spent a good deal of time looking at some pointed-toe ballerina flats by Frye.   VERY cute.   VERY tempting, even though I would normally exhaust my eBay and Amazon options for this style of shoe, before forking over $168 for mere flats.   But I had a pocketful of cash, and a devil-may-care shopping attitude.  I picked up two different shoes in two different colors, and looked around.   Nothing.

I took a few steps away from the display, with those shoes.   Nobody – of the several associates hanging around doing nothing – came forward to help.

So I put the shoes down.   I’m not going to beg someone to come help me spend my money.   I can do that well enough on my own, thank you very much.

 On my way out of the store, I spend several minutes examining (read:  drooling) over a pair of Sam Edelman black suede over-the-knee fitted boots.  Oh my, were they just perfect!  Even though they had stiletto heels and I already have black suede stiletto boots… even though flat boots are more practical for my life right now...  I could have eeeeeeasily been talked into these. 

If anyone had been there to do the talking.

This isn’t merely a Nordstrom’s thing – this has increasingly been my retail shopping experience at most stores, from Macy’s, to Banana Republic, to Ann Taylor Loft, and J. Crew.    Please don’t think I am gunning solely for Nordstrom – because by and large, I like Nordies.   I don’t shop here often, but when I do, the purchase stays in my closet for a very long time, and sees a lot of wear. 

But Nordstrom engaged in some very heavy-handed, clumsy marketing techniques for their NAS this year, and I think they deserve to be called out on this.  Don’t fling this kind of crap-hype at your customers, and then ignore them when they do wander into your store.  

I think every retailer should take note, and should ask their customers (and really listen to the answers), "What brings you back?"

What brings me back to a store?

Clothing that is well-made, and looks like some thought and care went into the design and execution of the garment.  

Clothing that wasn’t made from the tears of others (i.e., made in China).

Genuine leather shoes and bags.   Did cows suddenly become endangered?   Try finding a pair of leather soles on any pair of women’s shoes, and then tell me otherwise.

I won’t even get started on return policies and sneaky ‘final sales’ notes on the receipt that are not noted anywhere else in the store, or disclosed to the buyer upon checkout.  (Forever XXI, J. Crew both got me on this.  And HSN’s return shipping policies for GIFTS, is terrible. That's another post I will be writing in the near future).

But the biggest factor that brings me back into a store – versus shopping online, where I don’t even have to put on clothes to buy stuff -  is the experience of the visit.   Being courteously and enthusiastically  greeted by staff.   Being asked if they can assist, or if there is something special I am looking for.   Offering to start a fitting room for me, when I am carrying multiple items.   I found this recently at Athleta and I have every intention of going back.

Retailers take note:  this isn’t brain surgery.  This isn’t the Enigma waiting to be deciphered.  


Let me note, my fall budget money is partially - well, mostly - spent.  While I was in Ontario, I walked into the local Danier, my favorite leather-goods retailer, ever.  Gorgeous leather jackets, that wear well over the years. Adorable handbags, like nothing I've seen anywhere else.   I was greeted, and given wonderful customer service - which has uniformly been my experience at every Danier store I have visited.  I walked out with a gorgeous blush-pink leather jacket (planned purchase) and a really cute black leather convertible clutch (unplanned, but this bag will be a workhorse).   I am having my cobbler re-sole my old black over-the-knee boots - which are genuine leather, with genuine leather soles, and have tramped many places over the past four years, including to the top of Sacre Coeur, and all over London.  I plan to use the leftover money towards alterations on existing items.


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