Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Bought: boots at Davids aka a tale of two sisters

I bought a pair of black leather La Canadienne boots. I’ve never spent so much money on boots in my life and the last few pairs I owned were all on sale for less than $100 each. This was different. I really wanted a pair of fashionable black leather boots and with my hard-to-fit feet getting anything to fit is a big deal.

I should have started looking a while ago to get the best selection (those of you with easy-to-fit feet may want to hold out a bit for the sales – they’re just around the corner), this year I was late. I lucked out and found a pair of boots from La Canadienne that fit me comfortably that were also fashionable, insulated and waterproof. Best of all, they have six-month guarantee and they’re made by a Canadian company.

But this post really isn’t about the boots. It’s about the service.

Two weeks ago, I went to Capezio at Yorkdale. The sales associate helping me had helped me before and I trusted her opinion. After trying on several pairs of boots that just weren’t right, I tried a pair of La Canadiennes. They fit perfectly. I planned on buying fashionable boots. These boots also doubled as winter boots, helping me justify the expense.

Only one problem – there was a split in the leather. The sales associate said she could order another pair from another store but they’d arrive tomorrow and I had to pick them up that night. Huh? Not gonna work with my schedule.

The other option was to pay for them right then and there. A 10-day return policy would apply from the date of purchase. I was cool ordering them and even paying for them on the condition that the 10-day return policy wouldn’t begin until the pick-up. Mr. B was planning to go to back to the mall mid-week and he offered to pick them up for me. That idea wasn’t working for her. During the conversation, while she was trying to decide what to do, she left me hanging there while she rang in a couple sales at the cash.

Yes, those were definite sales and my purchase was uncertain but c’mon. Remember, I wanted those boots but the only ones available were defective. I’ve also been a Capezio customer for almost 30 years. I usually by at least one item of footwear there each season. Do the math and it’s not hard to see I’ve been a very good customer over the long-term. Unfortunately, with staff turnover and multiple stores, it’s not necessarily something a sales associate would know. But I did and my bank account did too.

I left and walked down the hall to Davids. Yes, you read that right. Bargainista went to Davids. Davids at the mall not only carries some of the higher-end footwear found at it’s Bloor St. flagship store. It also sells more moderately priced items, including La Canadienne. They didn’t have my size in stock. The sales associate offered to order them from another store. Knowing they were the higher-end big sister of Capezio, I wasn’t sure this was going to work out.

“No problem, we can hold them for you and you don’t need to pay for them now,” said Anthony, the sales associate.

My husband went to pick them up at mall a few nights later. I asked him to take a look before brining them home. Et voilà, they also had a rip. No problem, Davids ordered another pair. A couple days later I received a call from Michael, the store manager apologizing for the delay. They had several pairs on hold for other customers. They’d either have a pair for me in a day or two or they’d put a pair aside from their next order. Nice.

Last Monday, I received a voicemail telling me they had a pair on hold and asked me to call them. I didn’t – I was distracted with some stuff on the homefront and it slipped my mind. Saturday morning I gave them a call. The boots were still waiting for me. Wow, impressive.

That afternoon I went to pick up the boots. I tried them on again, making sure they fit and there were no rips or tears. Nada. While I was at the cash paying for the boots, Michael treated me as if I was spending a lot more coin – and keep in mind, they have a full collection of the likes of Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choos – most of their merchandise way out of my budget. (Mind you, that didn’t stop me from drooling or entering a contest for a $500 gift certificate.)

I mentioned my experience at Capezio and he was surprised. His response surprised me too. I expected the difference in policy and service was because Davids deals with a higher-end customer has a well-earned reputation for stellar service. Michael said there was no excuse since they were all part of the same company. (Capezio and Davids are sister companies.)

Bottom line: the moral of the story is, don’t let the high-end stores fool you. They often sell some of the same merchandise sold in lower-end stores and treat you much better.

Have you had a similar experience where you bought something at a higher-end store because the service was so much better, even when the same thing was available at a store with more affordable merchandise?

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  1. I am often intimidated by high-end stores. Thanks for the story, I am more apt to try shoppoing in one now. I just purchased my 2nd pair of La Canadienne boots (my 1st pair are 5 years old). They are warm, waterproof,comfortable and look great. Totally worth every penny. Enjoy!

  2. Glad you were able to find a good pair of boots from Davids. The sales people are amazing there, always kind and willing to help whether you're there to just browse or purchase a pair of shoes.

  3. Laura and Kimberly, thanks for your comments. I have only heard great things about La Canadienne boots and Davids staff has always been known for their excellent service. Too bad that service model hasn't tricked down to everyone at their more moderately priced sister company. Service is so important and they'd be taking a leading role since service at competitor stores isn't much better from what I've experienced.


  4. Great post! I love hearing about store experiences in Toronto! So weren't you worried about the quality of the boots if two were ripped before they even left the store?

  5. Lisa, thanks for your comment. The rip in the leather was certainly something that crossed my mind. However, knowing that as a skin, leather can tear and scars occur naturally, I was somewhat forgiving. I may have been less so if I didn't think Davids would stand behind their products and La Canadienne boots didn't come with a 6-month guarantee.


  6. Thank you for the post and the peek into consumer psychology - namely, yours. I agree that expectations for improved customer service increase for businesses that offer higher-priced products/services and cater to an affluent clientele. Even so, I don't think there needs to be a relationship between the two. For instance, it costs nothing to smile, be responsive, and treat customers with genuine courtesy and respect. This appears to be the difference between the two shopping experiences that you described.

  7. Steve, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Not so sure I'm a fan of the public psychoanalysis but if you've been reading my blog for a while, you'd probably know that I agree with your point.

    The bottom line remark was actually a bit of a wake-up call to retailers. There is NO excuse for poor customer service no matter what type of consumer a business is targeting. Friendly, respectful and courteous service costs little except for the initial up front time investment of hiring, motivating and training the right people to deliver on that promise.

    However, there is a second message addressing store policies that goes beyond front-line sales associates. The point I was making about shopping at higher-end stores is that often their policies are more customer-friendly and that consumers shouldn't be afraid to shop there, especially when the same merchandise is offered in stores known for better customer service, regardless of the average price-point.

    In fact, I was trying to break down the barriers for members of Bargainista's community so they won't shy away from shopping at any store.

    Happy shopping!



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