(originally published September 2nd, 2005)

Last night I went with a few people to one of the big, famously named department stores, one of those where you're surprised they don't charge you to walk through the doors. Suddenly, I'm surrounded by suits that are around $1,500, watches as high as $4,000, sweaters starting at $400, even sunglasses around $200; I definitely felt like I was out of my league.

However, I found something I could identify with, that was well within my price range, that I knew I'd enjoy. I asked someone where I could pay for it, and was directed to a cash register. The woman there was on the phone, and it was plainly obvious that it was a personal call. She continued talking to her friend on the phone as she was ringing me up; I meant nothing to her at that moment, even though she was at work at this expensive and exclusive store. After I got my purchase, I looked at the receipt and saw that I'd been overcharged for the item, as it had a big sticker on it saying how much it cost. It wasn't exorbitant, but that wasn't the point. I went back to her and pointed it out, and she said that I would have to go downstairs to customer service, because she couldn't take care of it.

Downstairs I went to customer service, where I presented my issue. This person went on a rant, not at me but at the incompetence of people at the store in general, saying I shouldn't have been sent downstairs because it wasn't her responsibility, and that the people upstairs should have known that. I just looked at her, then said "They sent me to you"; I wasn't going back upstairs, where that person was still on the phone. She continued to rant to her co-workers and anyone else she could find, all the while leaving me standing there just wanting her to take care of it. There were two green chairs in the waiting area, and I went to one of them, sat down, and closed my eyes, while she was calling around, trying to figure out what to do.

Eventually, she came from behind the counter, told me she'd be back, and went off on a walkabout, trying to find someone to help her. Eventually she came back to the area, though not back to her desk, and found someone who began to help her. I then heard this woman say "This is only for 50 cents; who'd bring something back for 50 cents", to which the other woman replied "The customer is sitting right there." I never opened my eyes, though I should have.

Eventually it got taken care of, and I got credited the overage, plus the tax. But the dye was cast; I was irritated, and felt like I wasn't wanted, that I didn't belong. After all, I guess they cater to a more exclusive type of client, one who doesn't mind paying way too much for normal things and wouldn't care if the person who took their money gave them the time of day because, after all, it's Gucci.

It would seem that good customer service doesn't have a price tag on it, but it took me going to a place like this to learn that. Obviously, a place like this is trading on its name; it certainly hasn't learned the lessons of Walmart on how to treat customers, no matter how much they're willing to pay. Not everyone can afford the luxury of treating their clients with disrespect; how's your business doing?