On service, scarves, supply and demand

Retailers in America are responding to the recession by offering customers champagne as they browse according to the New York Times. Good idea, if you ask me. As well as making the customer feel all warm inside (literally and figuratively), supping a tipple or a brew is clearly going to make you linger for longer, thus upping the chances of a sale. In fact I don’t know why more stores haven’t cottoned on to this. The article goes on to discuss improvements in customer service generally, illustrating with an example from Hermès about a sales assosciate who searched high and low for a particular bag for a customer. Whoopee. My experience with Hermès is this.
1) Covet scarf seen at press day.
2) See scarf in Liberty pop-up Hermès shop. Alas, not available in my colour. “Can you order it?” “No, try Bond Street.”
3) Attempt Bond Street. Ignored. Finally served. “None in stock but we can call you when it comes in.” “Great! When is that likely to be?” “No idea. But I could keep you updated?” “Thanks.”
4) Times passes. Finally a month later, a message to say the scarf has still not arrived. (Translation: “We give up.”)

In Selfridges this week I decided to try my luck one more time. The apologetic Hermès sales associate looked in a drawer but didn’t have my scarf. I moaned and groaned. “What can I do?” I huffed, “why can’t you order one?” Her explanation was that they just don’t do this. Demand is greater than supply, they simply can’t keep up so they don’t, i.e. they don’t have to try, the customer will still come back. How lovely. And then I realised that she has a point. By making it difficult to get what you want, what happens? You want the bloody thing even more! Well, I’m not playing that game Mr Blanckaert*. I’ll take my money elsewhere. I know The Shop At Bluebird has some very nice scarves and the customer service there isn’t half bad either.

*executive vice president of Hermès