Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Your New Best Friend

No wonder Ethel and Lucy always looked so stylish

Make a personal shopper your new best friend. I don't mean the $$$-to-hire expert who will cull your closet and address your needs while re-dressing you. I mean the personal shopping programs available to us ordinary gals in many of our favorite shops and even online. This option is the store's way of offering enhanced customer service at no cost to you— in other words the customer service we used to expect in the days of Miss Alice at Halle's (see November 5).

A sample of department and specialty stores offering personal shopping:
Banana Republic
J. Crew
Neiman Marcus
Saks Fifth Avenue
White House Black Market

How to go about finding a personal shopper
> While it's considered advantageous to book an appointment in advance, it's not always necessary. A boutique may only have one person specifically trained as a personal shopper; a department store may have a fleet on call. It makes sense to book if you have something specific in mind— an outfit for a special occasion or jeans that really fit. This way the personal shopper can ask questions and have some items pulled together for your appointment.

> If there is a sales associate whose style you admire or with whom you've enjoyed shopping, request that person on a one-on-one basis. Even if the store doesn't have a "personal shopper" program in place they will love the idea you are a customer with a real desire to shop there and will surely accomodate your request.

What to expect from a personal shopper
> The best personal shopper can dole out tough love with a tender tongue. Her job is to make you look— and feel— wonderful. She doesn't want the responsibility of your leaving with a bad outfit. Your satisfaction is both her reward for a job well done and an invitation for you to return and shop with her again.

> If you and she have a chance to chat ahead of time, she will ask you specific questions about height, coloring, size, likes and dislikes. She will figure a way (or better yet you will tell her) your age range and your specific concerns ("I don't like my arms"). If appropriate she will ask your budget and/or time constraints. If you have $50 to spend and need it that day, let her know! By the way the bread and butter of personal shoppers is not the customer who blows in and spends a bundle. It is the woman who comes in regularly and over time has established such a pleasant, successful relationship with "her" shopper that she won't go anywhere else. Make sense?

> A personal shopper who gets to know you can look out for you in future and let you know when items that suit your style or needs come into the store. She can also give you a heads up when something pricey you admired hits the markdown rack. She will usually take personal charge of special requests, such as ordering your size from another store. And of course she will take the responsibility to sort out any mishaps that you both hope won't occur.

How to get the most out of the personal shopping experience
> Be prepared. If you are looking for a blouse for a particular suit, bring the suit.

> Bring heels if you are shopping for dresses. Not every store has a pair of heels available in the fitting room.

> Dress comfortably, wearing well-fitting undergarments, ie your best bra not the sports bra you might wear with a t-shirt. Wear makeup. In other words, be the person you won't mind looking at in the mirror.

> If it's okay with you for the personal shopper to be in the fitting room with you, let her know. The process can work more efficiently if you don't waste a lot of time trying on things that won't work.

> Try it on even if it doesn't speak to you on the hanger. There are items that look like nothing until they are on you.

> As I've mentioned in a previous blog, there is no such thing as standardized sizing in this country. If it doesn't fit in an 8, it might fit in an 10. Size is only a number. Don't let a number keep you from finding something wonderful.

> If you have only a limited time to shop, let her know. If you have all day, realize that she may have other appointments and be respectful of that. Besides, after two hours you should have found some degree of success.

How to reward good service
Store personal shoppers are strictly forbidden to accept tips, much as you might like to give one. A lovely gesture would be to send a note to the store manager or the home office singing her praises. Then tell all your friends and call her again next time.


  1. Perfectly said, Michelle. I hope people will see this and really use the service.