A Lost World
In the mid-eighties I worked in a department store in E. Lansing, MI
. It was a higher-end store that was clinging to the last remnants of the old style department store I visited as a child, like the Smith Bridgeman’s in Flint, or the Hudson’s in downtown Detroit. Jacobson’s
was a treat to shop at.
They carried all kinds of products from kitchenware, to jewelry, to toys and furniture. Whenever my Mom took me there, I was always fascinated by the books of receipts the sales clerks used. Narrow burgundy notebooks with tissue paper copies of the sale slips they had written. They were always overstuffed with notes, secured by rubber bands, and each had their own table which allowed them to figure out the sales tax. Sometimes they decorated their books with special calligraphy of their names, or stickers.
They began the sale by asking the name of the customer, if the item was to be sent, the address and phone number followed. This was how they kept track of their customers and sent them thank you notes and reminders of upcoming sales. Also, for their special customers they would call and tell you when something the suited you had arrived in the store, then they would hold it until you could make it in.
In the mid 1980’s this style of customer service was fading from the retail world. Replaced by shells of the salesperson of old, the new breed was there only to scan numbers into a machine with a red lighted wand and deposit a product in a bag – most often without acknowledgement or a smile for the person giving up a portion of their allotment of currency.
Jacobson’s held on for as long as they could to the old way of doing things. They tried to fight back by opening various outlet stores to help them re-coup their outlay, they stressed their special, and now unique, brand of personal customer service, but to no avail. They lost the battle with big retail sometime during the mid-nineties. As we stand in line now, while the one (or maybe two, if we are lucky) cashier grudgingly rings up our purchase, those of us who remember a different world of retail, wax nostalgic once in a while for a time when the sales person knew us and looked forward to our visit to the store, they personally took a great deal of pride in being a part of.
* The preceding post was by Martha - due to blogger issues she's having trouble logging into her account on RW.