Saturday, July 2, 2011

Weekend Rant - July 2

I hadn't planned to write this rant. Nordstrom set me off. The last time I was in the store, my friends in the beauty department started telling me about the Anniversary pre-sale and how I could come in on July 5 and buy new treasures. Yes, they know I write a beauty blog.

Today, I called my favorite counter manager to make an appointment to come in. Quickly in our conversation, he told me I had to have a Nordstrom credit card to be eligible to "pre-order." I don't. Years ago I learned a lesson with credit cards. Keep the number to a minimum. I try to use my AmEx card for everything. I get one bill; it's convenient; and I can keep track of my purchases online in one fell swoop (really good for a gal who tends to spend too much). Besides that, AmEx has amazingly good customer service and fraud protection. Nordstrom doesn't. Take my word for it; I could tell you a story that is on record with the police department.

Apparently, last year, Nordstrom's credit card holders who had been asleep at the switch complained. They came in on the first official day of the Anniversary Sale, and all the great offers were sold out (they sold out in pre-sale). They complained. So, Nordstrom, in its infinite wisdom, decided that they would reward them this year. Only cardholders would be eligible to purchase during pre-sale.

The rest of us who might spend more than their average cardholder in a year? Out of luck. So sorry. One ding-a-ling who worked there suggested to me that I should open a credit card, just for this event. No thanks! I've chosen a better way to manage my affairs.

I received a loud and clear message from Nordstrom. They don't care about my business. They have no way to distinguish between those who spend and those who happen to hold Nordstrom's credit cards. It's sad, but it's OK. Most of what they sell can be procured elsewhere. The good news is that I won't be stretching to pay my bills this month!

If I can't purchase on July 5 with their cardholders, I won't purchase at all. It's a matter of principle. To their credit, when I tweeted my dismay, Nordtrom replied quickly that I didn't have to use their card, just have one. Huh? I replied, and the response I got was, " We apologize. Please let us know if there is anything that we can do to help."

I would never ask a store to change its policies for me (that would be crass, and few deserve special treatment), so it appears there's nothing they can do to help. I hope that someone at Nordstrom carefully considered the potential consequences of the new policy. If not, they need a good (better?) customer relationship management consultant.

What do you think? Has Nordstrom lost its luster? The store used to be known for customer service. Am I just whining?

Photo courtesy of


michelle said...

Although I an a Nordstrom Platinum card holder (never more than a $50 balance, EVER), I NEVER try to use my card for these types of events, as I have one Visa that I use for EVERYTHING just like you with your AM-EX card. It's got a way lower interest rate, AWESOME customer service (USAA rocks!), and I never have problems with stuff, ever.

I agree with you that it's ridiculous in that you have to pre-order also. If they're going to have exclusives then that should be it: Nordstrom Exclusives.

I'm a member of the Nordstrom Advisory Committee, and I can't tell you the amount of times I've complained about your issue, the lack of men's clothing and/or the decline of clothing for professional men OVER THE AGE OF 25 who can't wear jeans, t-shirts, and the NO YOU'RE NOT WHINING! You have every right to feel this way, I to too!!!!

Have a nice Fourth though, okay?

You can always go on, that's what I've been doing now for about a year, and they ALWAYS treat us like a queen!

Laura F. said...

I hear you. I also have one Amex and one Visa and NEVER apply for any store credit cards. Your experience goes to something I have been thinking about with respect to the Anniversary Sale in general, which is that it has become too much of a free for all. The special sets and products are lovely, but they sell out so quickly and then they went to pre-sale, then pre-sale for Nordie's cardholders only. I assume the next step will be some absurd super-exclusive pre- pre-sale. I just don't have enough time in the day to fight everybody else for the limited edition stuff. In that respect, I think the Anniversary Sale has jumped the shark.

Diane (Orange2LA) said...

This is a tough one. I think it's nice that Nordstroms wants to reward their credit card holders by giving them a special pre-order event but at the same time non-credit card holders should not be punished.

How could a sales associate tell you to open a credit card just for that event? Seriously? That would have pissed me off beyond belief.

I know exactly what you mean when you say they have no way to "distinguish between those who spend and those who happen to hold Nordstrom's credit cards". I don't like using my Nordstroms card I would rather use my other credit card that has 0% APR or my debit, but to get Nordstroms "Points" you have to use their Credit Card.

Recently I heard Nordstroms is trying to change their CC since they are having so many complaints about them. They told me they want to tie your Nordstroms account to your debit card that way you can use your DC yet they can still keep track of your Nordstroms spending and Points. Have you heard anything like that or am I crazy?

Stand your ground! But... if you end up REALLY needing something bad I would be more than happy to get it for you with my Nordies card. LOL. =)

Hopelessly Devoted To Makeup said...

I feel exactly the same way as you, I need to open a credit card to have the best chance to buy something in their store? My hubby would not be too keen on the idea of me opening a cc just to procure some Chanel. It's disappointing that Nordstrom is taking this approach and I hope they change their methods come next year.

Nemo said...

No, you are not whining. Stores, especially the high-end ones, continue to shock me in their utter stupidity. And that's what this is. Here our economy in in the tank and some moron decides on this credit card prank? No wonder retail stores are on the wane.

Fabulous Over 40 said...

No you are not whining. It is beyond annoying and I ran across the same issue. They do have a a new card that works as a debit card against your checking Acct so you can keep points. I'm considering that, but it still ticks me off.

Eileem said...

Credit cards such as VISA AmEx, etc. have given people the freedom to take their business anywhere rather than just shopping at the stores where they have credit cards. That makes for fickle customer loyalty. In addition to grappling with a more competitive environment, the department stores also lose out on the interest that would normally be generated by people using their credit cards. Adding insult to injury, the stores have to pay fees to other credit card companies when customers use those non-store issued cards. All considered, I don't think we can really get upset with the stores for trying to lure their customers back to their own specific credit cards, but the way in which it's being done has obviously offended a lot of excellent customers. Personally, I don't mind using a specific department store card because I always pay off all my bills in their entirety every month so the interest rates, minimum monthly payments,, etc. aren't an issue for me. AND, I like being rewarded with special perks.

Bottom line: I think Nordstrom's does care about its
customers. That's why they cooked up this crazy loyalty ploy in the first place. It was I'll-conceived to be sure, but I think an e-mail and letter writing campaign can quickly convince them of their error. In facf, I bet they're already regreting it.

Lisa said...

Shocked by a little retail blackmail in this economy? I'm not, and I'm a cup half-full kinda person. Kudos to youfor not folding. I am quite sure all the beauty counters hated seeing you walk out the door. Shame on the person who invited you to the pre-sale without acknowledging the fine print. I, like you expect good customer service to the counters I frequent. They have your info, including how you normally pay. Having you show up on a fool's errand is unforgivable. Lick your wounds and shop at SAKS. I avoid NM since they work on commission and remind me of used c ar salesmen.

MickiD said...

I'm a Nordstrom Card holder but I also have a Mod card which is not a credit card, rather is an ACH card, which withdraws the money from your checking account - no interest, and I still earn points. My sister has a Nordstrom credit card but because she's only a Level 1, she can't partake of the pre-sale. She was told you have to be Level 2 or above. I attended my first pre-sale last year and was grateful to get first dibs, and working with a personal shopper is the best way to go anywhere. Mine happens to be the best. About 2 months after the sale though, a lot of the items went on regular sale, and in too many instances were less than the anniversary sale prices. I lost out on the better deals!

Deb said...

No you are not whining. You have every right to your outrage just based on the principle of the thing. But here's an even better question: what the heck is so special about Nordstrom? I was a cardholder years ago and gave it up for many reasons, not the least was that the sales people were always so condescending. And quite frankly, they pretty much suck now. When you really think about it, they are just another department store. Yeah, so maybe they are having a sale and you want something they're offering and want to pre-order it. Well, the worst that happens is that you don't get whatever it is you were looking for. The best that happened is you saved yourself some money and better cost them money for their crappy CS. Just a different perspective.

MrsIvan2004 said...

Ahhh my dear, you have my utmost respect & admiration. I am terrible with money & would have opened the Nordie's account without a second thought & it would have joined all of the other amassed debt that I have. Like I said, I so admire you.

Now, on to the issue at hand. Nordstrom's customer service SUCKS. One of your other readers mentioned condescending, and I couldn't agree more. With the exception of 1 store I now frequent b/c of their splendid friendliness, I have never been treated as badly at ANY store as I have at a Nordstroms pretty much anywhere in the San Diego county area. Rude, demeaning, condescending, caustic & just plain hateful. I have left in tears from hurt feelings & frustration on more than one occasion. When did it become ok to treat your loyal customers like gnats?? So, no, you are not whining. I feel you, my sister!!

Polarbelle said...

Every store has their own card anymore. Many have credit cards and many have reward cards. Some have both. All have special offers open only to their special card holders and for some, it depends on how much you've spent there.

None of what I said addresses your issue, but when I got my home in another state, I was dismayed that everywhere I went, I had to have that store's special card. I had to buy a new wallet to hold them all. Not kidding. Had to get a bigger purse to hold the bigger wallet. Again not kidding.

It still irritates me that at a certain store, (not Nordstrom), my friend gets special discounts and incentives that I don't get when I'm standing right next to her just cuz she's shopped there longer.

lizzybee said...

My first comment here on your terrific site!! You are a breath of fresh air, and I thank you for it. Nordstrom's is idiotic in their reasoning. Period. Amen. You are wise, especially the way our economy is at present, and my hat's off to you for sharing this with your readers. Many thanks for all your hard work, a wonderful site, and great writing (not to mention, prized opinions). You're a winner.

Jellytea said...

I only have one store credit care, Macy's/Amex and that is all I want! They allowed me to pre-sell but told me I can only pick up my items on the 15th, not the 5th. I think there is some misinformation around this whole thing because at the Chanel counter I was fine, but in shoes they told me I could not presell, but then a manager came and told the associate "that is NOT the policy, she can pre-sell her order!" Someone, somewhere dropped the ball on us customers. If my order is not available when I go in, I will boycott the store completely.

Anonymous said...

I personally think you are over reacting.
I am not a card holder and I already presold at my Nordstroms. I know all the SA's and personally they could care less how much you spend.

If you don't like the rules, don't play. It is only makeup and not brain surgery.

Anonymous said...

I love what you have to say! Hold your ground. I know the new policy seems really nice for Nordstrom card holders, but in reality, the store comes out the winner. Yes, they pay visa a fee, but when the cardholder goes overboard and can't pay off the charge, Nordstrom gets the finance charges. This is why they want us to make an appointment so after you get your beauty exclusive you can also get a new bag, outfit, etc. Don't feel bad, I was told I could not buy the Regular Chanel fall makeup collection unless I had a card. I don't have words in proper language.

Charlestongirl said...

Thanks, everyone. I really value and appreciate your comments - pro and con - and want you to know that some of them were eye-opening.

I have probably never told you that I have spent most of my life as a management consultant. In fact, I helped one extremely large company improve its own customer relationship processes. When I see things that annoy me, but feel they might ring true with others, I write about them. I try hard not to slam well-meaning folks. There are two sides to every story.

I realize that Nordstrom makes more money when people use their internal card. Simple math. However, when they tweeted me that I had to "have" a card for pre-sale, not "use" it, I knew their motive wasn't entirely about profit.

What upset me was that they know I'm a good customer who spends a LOT of money - on my AmEx card or cash. I was told there was a list and that I should check to find out if I'm on "the list." Oh sure, I have plenty of time to call Customer Service to find out if I'm on their big-spender list. They called last year and gave me $50 just to thank me for my business! Someone knows I spend money there.

I was also told by a makeup manager to call Customer Service and make a lot of noise. I'm not that kind of person. I make noise about things like fraud, not company policies.

It was one of the personal shoppers, not mine, who suggested I open a card for the sale. I know she was trying to be helpful, but she wasn't. It was a lame idea.

Believe me, I don't want another debit card. A few years ago, Nordstrom accepted my debit card at their Pentagon City store from someone who spent $900 in the men's department who did not have my card in hand. It was my bank that detected the fraud after the charge came through. Because it was a debit card, it took 10 days to get my money back. I try not to use debit cards for that reason. Nordstrom Security told me they suspected it was an "inside job."

I get good service from those who know me there - and many who don't. I can't complain about the service I get when I'm buying, but feel for MrsIvan2004 who hasn't been treated nicely. That is a complete turn-off.

Michelle, have at 'em!

Diane, thanks for the offer. If I wanted to go around their poorly conceived policy, I could enlist one of my shopping friends here. Thanks, though!

MickiD - really? Only Level 2s? Amazing! Talk about being a second-class citizen! Sounds to me like the internal training on this new policy has been "spotty."

And, Anonymous, you're right. It's only makeup. In the grand scheme of things, I'll live without the Anniversary specials. :)

The whole thing leaves me wondering, as some of you did, why stores would turn down money in this economy. Last time I checked, we were still in a recession. There's a big difference between someone who holds a card (and doesn't use it) and someone who spends money regularly. That's the part I can't understand.

Feeling richer...

angela said...

I was kind of mad about this too. I was in Nordstrom a few weeks ago, and the Bobbi Brown counterperson (who is not my favorite person, the rest of the counter people are ok, but I somehow get her when I go there) told me about this when I asked what the anniversary sale set was going to be. She wouldn't even tell me and got kind of snotty and said she could only share that info with cardholders (which I'm not, like you, I only use an AmEx). Luckily another clerk overheard us and did tell me what it was, but by that time I was like, no thanks. So I'm kind of annoyed about it too! I spend a lot of $$ there too.

Flyavsted said...

I agree with you, and I don't think it is "just about makeup". I think this will have a negative effect on the economy of Nordstrom.

Charlestongirl said...

Hi Flyavsted!

We'll see. Those Anniversary sale exclusives always sell out.

I don't wish them economic woes. Lord knows, there are enough failing businesses these days, and start-ups could not have a worse environment.

Just think...I'll have more money to spend at Zuneta!

Nina said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
lovethescents said...

I think you had the right to be annoyed, and I think you have the right to vent, here, on your own blog. We only have one credit card as well. If I was a frequent shopper at any particular chain store, I would hope that store would be grateful for my business. End of...otherwise, I could easily shop elsewhere.

Charlestongirl said...

Hi Nina,

I think I was clear that I believe it should be about the amount you spend each year, not what card you use. I think I was also clear in explaining my decision to limit the cards I carry.

Consider this...if you owned a business, who would you rather have there on July 5? The customer who spent thousands last year on his or her AmEx card or the one who spent $200 all year, but used a Nordstrom card - and paid it off on time? I know which one I'd try real hard to keep.

Enjoy the perk! Let us know what beauty exclusives you buy and love. :)

Charlestongirl said...

Hi Lovethescents!

My rant was echoed by a few beauty bloggers who were also frustrated by the new policy and wrote me, rather than comment. I suspect there will be a bit less blog coverage of the Nordstrom beauty exclusives this year.

Who ever knew what a nerve this would touch?

Cheerily, that leaves us all with more money to spend on Chanel's upcoming collections, fall/winter LMdB, the to-die-for Armani fall eye shadows, and more. From some other source, of course. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, i also find it interesting that only Nordstorms is doing this. All it's done is make me not want to shop there any more. My SA apologized about 10 times, I know it's nothing to do with her, but she knows that this is bad for her loyal customers and that I can go somewhere else that values my business, no matter how I pay,

My husband, who was listening to my conversation with my SA, said it's their right to sell who they want to, but its excluding people who can't get a card or try not to get into debt by paying cash.

Either way, it looks like this is one collection that I won't be getting.

Anonymous said...

In previous years Nordstrom offered early access to Level 2 and above cardholders, they were just a lot more discreet about it then. This year it's all "bring on the circus tents!" and make a spectacle of it to drive customers to open Nordstrom accounts. Maybe they make more money in banking than retail these days?

My bigger concern with Nordstrom, however, is that I often buy cosmetics and discover (when I get home, of course) that they have been purchased returned by other customers. Such a bummer!

Charlestongirl said...

Hi there, Anonymous x 2!

I heard about that Level 2 thing also, from a fellow blogger and here in the comments. I have no idea! Last year, I had no trouble spending mega-money during pre-sale. Using my AmEx card. :)

You can bet all retail outlets with their own cards make money from interest charges - and I know they have to pay AmEx higher commissions than Visa or Master Card. But this Nordstrom discrimination is against all of us without a Nordstrom card. I don't see it as a reward for holding a card, since they told me I only needed to have a card, not use it. I'm still in "huh?" mode over that one.

By the way, purchasing returned cosmetics is one of my pet peeves. I seldom experience this in department stores, but I am dead sure I've received returned items from Sephora (and other online orders) - even though they claim it's impossible. I don't even like to shop at Sephora where the items for sale can be opened and "pawed" by others.

I will be sorry not to be at Nordstrom tomorrow, but I'm counting the money I'm saving. Unless they do an about face overnight - for all customers who spend money there, not just me - I will be boycotting the sale this week and hereafter. I'll have more money to spend at Neiman Marcus, where I know my business is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100....this is so silly, especially given that all it's done is given them negative PR.

luv2smilexo said...

I don't by any means condone this practice but Neimans does this as well. They offer exclusive gwp to their card holders and such. I dont think holding a card should determine purchasing power. I could probably not even get a neimans credit card bc I am in college and dont make a ton of money but I spend money there quite frequently. I think practices such as that are ridiculous for that reason, personally.

Charlestongirl said...

I am cutting off the comments on this rant now. There's not much more that can be said. One semi-anonymous "reader" managed to cross the line last night, oddly using a Google profile that was set up on July 2, the date this rant was posted - a bit suspicious regarding motive.

The long comment contained untrue accusations, gloating, and general anonymous petulance. There's no place on my blog for such nonsense. There was nothing constructive about it - nothing that would help a reader understand the "writer's" point of view. Therefore, it's gone, as is everyone's ability to comment on this rant.

I was reminded last week by one loyal reader that it's my blog. She wanted me to remove another comment that had been left here. I felt the comment fairly expressed the writer's views (everyone's entitled to an opinion) and left it up. I will always do that when someone has something constructive to say.