We have all heard of the phrase “retail therapy,” correct? The minute segment of the populace who haven’t heard of this phrase, please take a few seconds away from reading this, to google the meaning.
I don’t find shopping in the retail world particularly therapeutic. When I find myself in immediate need of an item, which I do not wish to wait to have delivered, I resolve to spend as little time as possible in its procurement. For example, if I feel that I am in need of a new winter coat, I determine the locations most appropriate for my search, set a total time dedicated to canvasing the locations, and set a specific end time, by which I am committing to cease my retail perusal. Should I find a coat in less time than allocated, I consider that a win/win in not only finding something suitable to my tastes and needs, but also in reducing the amount of time engaging in the search.
This highlighted scenario, admitedly, is specific to a solo shopping venture.
When I am shopping with another person, I recognize that each person has different items for which they may be looking, as well as considerably different approaches in how to shop, and how much time to dedicate to the shopping experience. While I may wish to hit specific spots, and only dedicate two hours to scavenging for a purchasable item, another person may like to take their time, wander into unexpected shops, and to extend the shopping experience because they truly find it, therapeautic. Bonus time may also be a contingency for which one must also be prepared. As in the game of soccer, occasionally there is stoppage time, snacks, lunch, bathroom breaks, traffic, wardrobe malfunctions etc. all of which add to the time considerations.
Occasionally, when shopping with another person, the specificity of shopping style, interest, and time allocation aligns.
Though a rare thing for both of us to be interested in doing at the same time, my father and I decided to go to a nearby outlet shopping location to look for similar items.
We discussed our time limits, and came to an agreement on how long we wished to meander around the outdoor shopping complex. We both had specific stops in mind, and we were both, in fact, looking for coats. The targeted company stores were highlighted, and we set out on our journey.
The calculated precision by which we attacked our retail shopping experience was prompt and exacting. We hit the first location, which offered many options, but within ten minutes, and without discussion of the limitations on schedule, recognized the pull of our imposed timing, and agreed to move to other stores.
We stopped at a few other locations, neither able to find an item for which it was compelling to exchange our currency to obtain.
Then we stopped at a premier clothing establishment, one which was named after a great state of yellow-skinned fruit, and decided to look for outerwear, there.
It was in this place, that a curious deviation from our systematic approach occurred.
My father, who rarely places much value in clothing, let alone becomes interested in a piece of clothing for which he is not specifically searching, found a pair of jeans that he actually liked.
He liked them so much, that he took the time to seek out an associate, so that he could access a dressing room, to see how this pair of jeans fit.
This, of course, was not an item for which either of us was searching. But, occasionally, because one, or more persons is drawn to an unexpected item, despite their resolute intentions, “bonus time” must be observed.
“How did they fit?” After he came from the dressing room, recently tried on jeans in hand.
“Really good. They are very comfortable, but just a little long in the legs.”
“Did you see a different size on the shelves?”
“Ok, I’m going to run to the store nearby, just to see if they have any coats available. I’ll be right back.”
“Sounds good, I may try on another pair in the meantime.”
My father, again, is rarely that interested in a particular piece of clothing. The fact that he was interested in trying on a different style, showed that he really liked the jeans that he had tried on, and was hoping to find another that fit him a little better. He actually wanted to spend money on an item that he hadn’t been looking for, but impressed him.
When I returned to the store, he was ready to leave.
“Didn’t find your size?”
“No. There wasn’t anything available, ” he said.
“Let’s try asking the salesperson.”
“They probably don’t have it.”
“I’ve had good experiences here before, lets just ask.”
“It’s not a big deal, I wasn’t even looking for these, but they were a really nice pair of jeans.”
“Dad, I have a card for this place, I’ve had good experiences here ordering things from in the store, shipped to my house, that they didn’t have in stock, let’s go ask someone.”
We tracked down a sales associate not long afterwards, and my father posed the question regarding the size of the jeans for which he was looking.
“We don’t have that size.”
“I know, I looked through what you have on the shelves, and I didn’t see it, ” my father said.
“I’ve had a lot of success ordering in the….” I offered.
“That size isn’t in stock here.”
“I know its an odd size, but I think a 29 length instead of 30 would fit better, ” my dad said.
“It’s not a size that’s available.”
“I’ve been in your stores before where a size, or color wasn’t in stock, and the associate there was…..”
“We just don’t make that size, 29, we don’t do that.”
“I can understand that, it’s an odd size, I was only trying to say…..”
“Not online, in store, we don’t make it. That size isn’t available.”
“Ok. I’ve ordered from in the store before and I’ve been….”
“You can’t get it. We don’t make it. We can’t order it to ship to you from the store because there isn’t an option for that size.”
“Ok. Dad, let’s go, I guess we can’t get this pair of jeans, even though you like them quite a bit. I wish this person would just allow me to talk so that I could actually communicate what I was trying to say.”
All that I wanted to the communicate to the individual, is that I have had many great experiences with the ordering process from in the store, and have been able to get exactly what I wanted through assistance from the staff, who looked up inventory online, and processed ship-to-home orders. I wanted to say that I’ve been happy with the customer service I’d received from the company, and that it was unfortunate that my father couldn’t purchase the size he wanted.
I just wanted to pay the company a compliment for the exemplary customer service that I had received in my past experiences, but every time I tried to articulate my adulation, I was told, perfunctorily,
“We don’t have that size.”
The rest of the shopping experience was executed mechanically, our visits to subsequent establishments brief, uncomplicated, and devoid of purchase.
We never returned to the first store, where we had internally marked items that we might purchase.
Then, we departed with nothing tangible in our possession. We had intended to spend our money. We wanted to find ourselves with the object of our desire. Unexpectedly, one of us found an item we didn’t realize that we desired, but found wanting.
Ultimately, we could have left without the retail items we sought, and felt completely fine, knowing that there were alternatives online. Instead, the singular, negative, interaction, imbued our overall experience with profound disappointment.
We weren’t expecting retail therapy, just basic, shopping ease, and delivery. Instead, through an unexpected, vocal rigidity, we experienced, retail calamity.