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Dear Victoria’s Secret: In need of some new bits, I visited one of your stores yesterday and was reminded of one of the more annoying things about your stores: In the dressing rooms, there are these square bumps along the wall that will conceivably hold a hanger with one of your sassy bits hung on it. However, to try on your bits, I must first remove my clothing. When I do, where the hell am I supposed to put it?

There’s a tiny stool in the room but that’s already holding my purse, sunglasses and, depending on the time of year, perhaps a coat, so my clothes, which get piled on top of all of that, invariably fall on the dressing-room floor. This floor is carpeted and, while I assume you vacuum it each night, still holds the essence of every shoe that’s tracked dirt, grime and goo in from the outside world today. Or perhaps, someone’s sweaty bare or socked foot. Either way, this is disgusting. I don’t leave my clothes on the floor in my own home and I know exactly who’s been walking around in there and what they’ve likely tracked in.

Sure, there’s a single hook on the back of the door, but you’re using that for marketing space; it’s not for me. On this trip, you hung a t-shirt telling me to try it on and see what a difference the right bra makes. Even if I had hung my coat up over your egregious marketing ploy (I’m already in the freaking dressing room!), the rest of my clothes are still precariously piled on that tiny stool.

And, if I’ve chosen bits that aren’t on hangers, then I’m piling those on the ridiculous stool, too. Or maybe they’re falling on the floor, too. Now I’m trying on bits that have been on your floor. Ewwwww, gross.

For a company that built a scantily-clad empire on great marketing, it is beyond comprehension to me that you have not thought through one of the most fundamental – and universal – customer experiences in your stores. Every single person who tries on your wares must remove some amount – maybe all – of their clothing. That you don’t provide a reasonable, elegant place for us to put our clothing sends the message that our clothing isn’t nearly as important, or worthy of care, as yours.

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Now, as lathered up as I got about this experience, there’s not a chance that Victoria’s Secret is going to do anything about it. However, you, as a business owner or manager, can learn from their folly.

Go through the process of being your own customer. Go through each step, process, line or form they go through. Dial your 800-number; listen to how the phone is answered; get lost in “press 5 for customer service” maze. Have a friend come into your shop and order something as if they were a customer and then get their feedback. Listen to it all, especially the little things. Mostly, it’s the little things that make your customers either deliriously happy or complaint-worthy unhappy. Give those little things some thought and you’re likely to delight your customers, prospects and anyone else who comes in contact with your business.

While I’m in complaint mode, a few more about my recent VS experience:

  1. Over the years, the store has become more and more about sassy bits for over-sexualized teenagers than real-sized, adult women. How else can you explain the piles and piles of size XS and S and the laughable lack of sizes L and XL? The message: if your butt is bigger than a size 10, you can choose from a couple leftovers in the less-desirable patterns but don’t think you can get the pretty colors or new patterns. The one L and one XL in that shade/pattern/style have already been sold.
  2. There was a man working the cash register and that made me much more uncomfortable than I expected it to. I wasn’t thrilled that he was handling the two (practical, boring) bits I did find. While I’m all for equal-opportunity employment, I don’t think it’s appropriate for a man to be working in a women’s underwear store, and I’m one of the least queasy women I know. If I was uncomfortable then I know all the women further down the scale from me are, too. If that means I’m turning into my grandmother, so be it.

Epilogue: This entire experience forced me to get creative and I just found that Zappos sells bits! Free shipping both ways and incomparable customer service, plus I get to try them on in my own home? That makes this girl very happy!

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