On Shopping: Medievalist vs The Gap

Wordy, ranty post. I’m just warning you.

Remember these jeans? I know. We’d rather not. But I was on a quest for baggy ankle length (relatively cheap) skinnies and I momentarily erred. I returned them with nary a blink; in fact, The Gap didn’t even need my credit card to return them because they had it on file, which gave me pause. In any case, I thought I had found my baggy ankle-length skinny, again at The Gap, with their straight leg, some-other-descriptive-detail jeans, which Sales Associate Hilary was super-helpful with. I bought them on sale and with an extra 25% discount for about $50.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t wear them for a month (it turns out for exactly a month) and I have FIVE other pairs of jeans, not including the pair I just put in the giveaway pile. So I decided I didn’t need these extra Gap jeans I hadn’t even worn yet. Because obviously I don’t.
But here’s the catch. I (somehow) did not have my receipt for the jeans. This is rare as I am a chronic returner and never throw out receipts; A-Dubs calls me a Shopping Bulimic, which is alarmingly accurate. So yesterday, after a very productive, yet very trying, day that included a scheduled meeting with a colleague and a long, unscheduled lunch with another colleague, I decided (stupidly) to drive to the mall and return my unworn, still-with-the-tags-on jeans. Without the receipt but I was resigned to settling for a credit note if I had to.
You have 30 days to return things to The Gap. After that Sales Associates who were willing to search for your saved credit card via the computer will tell you they can do nothing for you. I left The Gap grumpy but then returned because I knew I was being fed a line to get rid of me–there is always something someone can do. I have worked retail. A lot. Usually as the non-manager underling unable to do a complicated return who is the first line of defense against an unhappy customer.
So I returned, because I was ONE DAY late returning the jeans (and there was a stat holiday during that time so I think I was on Day 30 anyway) and I asked if they could make an exception and I requested that I speak to the Manager. At which point the Sales Associate informed me, as she had not done so the first time I met with her, that she could issue me a credit for the current sale price of the jeans ($30 less than what I paid for them) despite the fact that the price tag was still attached to the jeans. I explained to her that I could produce a credit card receipt, if not a Gap receipt, to prove that I paid what I said (and what the tag said) I paid for the jeans. She said she had no way of knowing that I was telling the truth. Again I asked to speak to the Manager, whom she called.
The Manager was more sympathetic and friendlier than The Sales Associate and explained to me that there was little she could do because the computer system wouldn’t let her do anything. I suggested that there were probably manual overrides for the computer system and that if she needed to discuss the situation with a Regional Manager, I was willing to wait. She figured out a way to do the return. I have to wait for it to come in the mail, but it is for the full purchase price. I thanked The Manager and plan to write a letter to her boss commending her on her handling of the situation.
Here’s the thing. The Sales Associate was less than helpful, even skirted the territory of calling me a liar and she really did not have any proof that I wasn’t lying, I suppose. Still, why is assuming I am lying the first option? Though I think I kept my cool (even though I was seething) I know I was short and less than pleasant and, I’m sure of it, condescending. AND I was (technically) one day late returning the jeans, so she was justified, via her training, in refusing me help, even though she knew that The Manager could help me.
Now, I have a great job. It’s stressful. Very. But I have also worked at The Gap. For me, working at The Gap was a nightmare, with very poor remuneration and no benefits and little to no respect but I was a teenager at the time and The Sales Associate was not a teenager. I think that I pulled rank on her; she was not friendly or helpful but she has a super-crappy job, which I well know, and I no longer have a super-crappy job. Even though I was “triumphant” in my return quest, I was very unsettled by having to be a bitch about it, even though I knew I would have to be to get the staff at The Corporation Known As The Gap to do what I knew they were able to do. I resent this. I don’t resent the staff, who are only doing what they are corporate-trained to do, but I do resent the Corporation, who has put their employees in this first-defense position against reasonable requests.
I was super unsettled and ornery for the rest of the day and evening and I think it was because I don’t like having to be a bitch. But since when is being firm and reasonable and refusing to allow a Corporation to dictate their own version of reasonable to me, “being a bitch”? Since when is being firm and reasonable about anything “being a bitch”? This is a longer discussion that has more to do with things more important than shopping, but this post is already too long.
Finally, since I can’t have a post without a picture, let’s all admire my new boots again:
Yes, I am wearing them with my pyjamas.
Are you submitting photos? You should! You have until Friday.

24 thoughts on “On Shopping: Medievalist vs The Gap

  1. When I was 19 I went to return a pair of pants — no receipt but tag still attached — to Abercrombie and Fitch. The sales associate, who was probably around 25, essentially called me a liar, a possible thief, and sniffed the crotch of the pants after insisting they had been worn. I was easily intimidated at 19, I walked out of the store without a refund. But I haven't set foot in A&F since then. Good on you for being firm and reasonable and sticking to your guns!

  2. I'm a firm believer in a combination of "you get more flies with honey" and "the squeaky wheel gets the oil." I've been known on several occasions to be the customer who won't let something go, but I'm very conscious about how I present myself. There have been plenty of times when I wanted to go full out bitch, and it wouldn't have been unwarranted, but I'm so aware of how women can be perceived once they get forceful. A man is being aggressive, a woman is being a bitch. And I've seen enough instances where being perceived as a bitch just causes everyone else to shut down (and been on the receiving end and shutting down) that I try to stay level headed and play the game so I can get what I want. And what I want now is a pair of fabulous boots like those ones!

  3. Hey DMed and others:Sorry that acting firm and standing up for yourself made you feel icky. It's a hard for me to do, because I know that the clerk is underpaid and has little power, but sometimes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, or something like that. I think that what you did was admirable, because it's easy to get intimidated when shopping. But you're a paying customer, and what you wanted was reasonable. I am sure that you did not start out rude, demanding, and crazy (I never worked retail but I did do food service for a while, and I know what that's like). But really, the problem is with the Corporation, and with the whole idea that being firm and not backing down is somehow unreasonable. Poop to that.Also, to grad students and thrifty types, the CheapJAP shared that you can get Alternative Apparel duds at better prices at these webpages:http://www.cheapestees.com/alternative.htmlhttp://www.karmaloop.com/brands/alternative-apparel.aspand amazon.com.@LHdM: Crotch sniffing? Does anything really care about their workplace that much? Gah!Rad, out!

  4. I wouldn't feel bad for the sales associate at all. I too have spent more hours than I like to recall working in retail sales and used to love it when people would ask to speak to the manager. In fact, if a customer was upset, in a bad mood, had a complicated return issue, etc. I would suggest that they speak with a manager. "I can't help you with that, but let me call a manager for you," said with a smile became my go to line for these situations. As a mere underling I figured it was my right to pass on particularly annoying customers to someone who was getting paid enough to have to deal with them. I always appreciated people who realized that there was no point in harassing the person who has no authorization to go against store policy and just asked to speak to someone higher up the chain. A helpful hint for those who haven't worked in retail: don't bother yelling at the sales associate. It's not her fault she isn't authorized to help you, and it will only make the manager who could help you less inclined to do so. The only thing most managers hate more than seeing a customer leave the store angry is seeing a customer yell at a helpless sales associate.

  5. Hey D-Med, I had to channel your awesomeness and stand up to the airlines who cancelled my flight for tomorrow morning (just this afternoon). They tried to just book me on another one (no choices), scheduled for 8 hours later. I felt so bad being really firm and then angry with the customer service rep (who was from India), because I know it was not her fault, but I was able to get a flight for just 3 hours later and vouchers for me and Blokey. I am just annoyed that if I weren't such a stand up for myself type, they would have just tried to rebook me on a much later flight (they told me via voice mail, not even email) and act like that's no big deal, when I need to be somewhere in the early afternoon at my destination. They should have compensated me anyway AND given me a choice of flights, not made me keep insisting to the customer service rep that a Newark flight, flight with a stopover, or a late afternoon flight would not be OK. Sorry to rant so much. Rad out!

  6. I wouldn't feel bad for the sales associate at all. I too have spent more hours than I like to recall working in retail sales and used to love it when people would ask to speak to the manager. In fact, if a customer was upset, in a bad mood, had a complicated return issue, etc. I would suggest that they speak with a manager. "I can't help you with that, but let me call a manager for you," said with a smile became my go to line for these situations. As a mere underling I figured it was my right to pass on particularly annoying customers to someone who was getting paid enough to have to deal with them. I always appreciated people who realized that there was no point in harassing the person who has no authorization to go against store policy and just asked to speak to someone higher up the chain. A helpful hint for those who haven't worked in retail: don't bother yelling at the sales associate. It's not her fault she isn't authorized to help you, and it will only make the manager who could help you less inclined to do so. The only thing most managers hate more than seeing a customer leave the store angry is seeing a customer yell at a helpless sales associate.

  7. I'm a firm believer in a combination of "you get more flies with honey" and "the squeaky wheel gets the oil." I've been known on several occasions to be the customer who won't let something go, but I'm very conscious about how I present myself. There have been plenty of times when I wanted to go full out bitch, and it wouldn't have been unwarranted, but I'm so aware of how women can be perceived once they get forceful. A man is being aggressive, a woman is being a bitch. And I've seen enough instances where being perceived as a bitch just causes everyone else to shut down (and been on the receiving end and shutting down) that I try to stay level headed and play the game so I can get what I want. And what I want now is a pair of fabulous boots like those ones!

  8. Yay Rad! I had a similar experience with an airline. Except it was for my return flight and they had called my home at 2am and left a message on my machine which of course I didn't get because I wasn't at home. I didn't find out until I was at the airport, seething. I marched up to customer service and demanded to know why this had been handled in this way and what they were going to do to make it right. I got on an earlier flight and I was upgraded to first class almost immediately because the sheepish customer service agent knew that her airline (United, btw, worst airline ever) had handled things badly and probably was used to people like me coming up to her all day demanding better treatment. Oh yeah, and this was on Dec. 30.

  9. Hey D-Med, I had to channel your awesomeness and stand up to the airlines who cancelled my flight for tomorrow morning (just this afternoon). They tried to just book me on another one (no choices), scheduled for 8 hours later. I felt so bad being really firm and then angry with the customer service rep (who was from India), because I know it was not her fault, but I was able to get a flight for just 3 hours later and vouchers for me and Blokey. I am just annoyed that if I weren't such a stand up for myself type, they would have just tried to rebook me on a much later flight (they told me via voice mail, not even email) and act like that's no big deal, when I need to be somewhere in the early afternoon at my destination. They should have compensated me anyway AND given me a choice of flights, not made me keep insisting to the customer service rep that a Newark flight, flight with a stopover, or a late afternoon flight would not be OK. Sorry to rant so much. Rad out!

  10. Urk! I can't believe the hoops they made you feel bad about having to jump through.I'm with A-Dubs, though, in picturing the SA later having a nice marg on the patio. Hope you got to have one too!Also like Charlotte's "manager first" plan.

  11. Boooo on Gap! Good for you, DM, for sticking to it, though I'm sorry you had a lousy day.I hate how often women standing up for themselves get described as bitchy. You weren't being a bitch. You were giving Gap a chance to retain your patronage.

  12. Because we've all now learned that you usually CAN get better treatment if you don't accept the first thing you're told by the sales associate, we've learned to push for it, thereby making us "difficult." Whose fault is that? "May I speak with your manager, please?" should be the first question if the sales associate tells you something you don't like. That way, you're not beating up on someone who can't change "company policy" anyway.When my mom worked retail, her store had a policy of allowing to take a garment home "on approval." In other words, take it home, try it on, decide if they like it…THEN pay for it. Crazy, I know. Not too surprising, then, that the evening dresses would be returned with little spatters of crab dip on the bodice. The store owner was aghast at the depths to which her customers would stoop. Sorry you had a crappy day, DM. You still have great boots.

  13. I had a similarly frustrating experience with a corporation and clerk yesterday, over a dead cell phone and its make believe warrenty. (Long story.) It is just so unfortunate that the only people in the corporation that the customer has access to are people with icky retail jobs and not much power. Because they do not deserve our wrath, even our polite. restrained wrath, but they are the only place to push back. I hate not backing down, and so I know that I get uncomfortable and do get kind of short and testy pretty quickly, because I hate so.Good for you for standing up and winning. I stood up and lost.

  14. Hey DMed and others:Sorry that acting firm and standing up for yourself made you feel icky. It's a hard for me to do, because I know that the clerk is underpaid and has little power, but sometimes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, or something like that. I think that what you did was admirable, because it's easy to get intimidated when shopping. But you're a paying customer, and what you wanted was reasonable. I am sure that you did not start out rude, demanding, and crazy (I never worked retail but I did do food service for a while, and I know what that's like). But really, the problem is with the Corporation, and with the whole idea that being firm and not backing down is somehow unreasonable. Poop to that.Also, to grad students and thrifty types, the CheapJAP shared that you can get Alternative Apparel duds at better prices at these webpages:http://www.cheapestees.com/alternative.htmlhttp://www.karmaloop.com/brands/alternative-apparel.aspand amazon.com.@LHdM: Crotch sniffing? Does anything really care about their workplace that much? Gah!Rad, out!

  15. Well the other thing about it is that often when women are strong or stand firm on something, it's assumed that we're being "emotional" as well as bitchy. My male boss very often acts bitchy and emotional, but no one calls him out on it. He's a serious smoker, so people just assume he acts that way because he needs a smoke. Why not just say he's being emotional?I also wonder how this sales associate would've handled things if it had been a male customer? Because in addition to being un-ladylike, maybe she was feeling competitive with another woman?

  16. Ha! We posted comments at almost the exact same time. We are like this (I'm doing the fingers-to-eyes thing; you know, that thing Uma Thurman and John Travolta do when they're dancing in Pulp Fiction – except toward each other).

  17. The jeans are back, that corporation sucketh, and the unhelpful sales associate will get over it. Probably she went out last night and had a lovely margarita on a patio somewhere and planned how she's going to quit at the end of August anyway, so she can go to a local university and major in English with a specialization in Medieval Studies. Also, I'm sorry you had a crappy day when it's been such an intense summer already; but I have to admit I'm still at "without the receipt." Who are you, and what have you done with the real D-Med?And finally, though there are the jokes about our being the 52 state in the U.S., In Professorial Fashion is based in Canada. Sartorially, this means we have no Nordy's, J Crew, or Target; but we've always got the cross-border shopping.

  18. LHdM, she sniffed the crotch? Gross. And I think your action against AF is awesome. I'm not going there either. Solidarity! Easy though because I don't think we have AF in Canada.G&G, you're right about the North American context of chronic returns. I remember when I lived in England this weird business about "statutory rights" and returns. And the absence of "customer is always right" approach, which must be kind of nice for them, honestly. Customers are not always right.EK, add this to your list of what the Gap does wrong, which is what they did when I worked there: destroy merchandise they cannot sell instead of donating it to those who need it. I railed to my managers about this practice. I even challenged the Fancy Manager who came from California to visit our store on this policy. I was summarily ignored. I should really stop shopping there.BTW all, options for Gap-like t-shirts etc. that are ethically produced (in case you don't already know) are Alternative Apparel and American Apparel (I know there are other issues with employee treatment at American Apparel and I really hate their images–what is wrong with wearing a bra?). Even though these options are pricier I am finally in a position where I can shift my custom. Grad students, I know, not so much.Sheila, I know that customers try to pull some crazy shit, but I like to think it was obvious that I was not doing so and I deserve the benefit of the doubt (we all do). When I worked at Laura Ashley a woman returned a very expensive comforter that she had obviously used and washed a million times for at least five years. She was allowed to return it with no questions asked, which enraged me, but they let me donate it. And that woman dropped a ton of cash at the store regularly. The Manager made a decision, but she was not a teenager and understood things better than I did. Especially the part about people needing comforters that the company can just write off.Anne, yes, I think this is my point. Why is it that when women take a stand on something it is considered bitchy? I see this at work a lot. Men in my department are often "bitchy" over issues (I'm going to stop using that word) but they are never, ever described as such. And I think my discomfort over the whole exchange at the Gap was a sense that it was un-ladylike somehow. Which is especially ridiculous because I am non lady.Wow, I am CHATTY today.

  19. I worked at Kohl's all through college. Although our policy towards customers was "Yes We Can" (Kohl's was years ahead of the Obama campaign), we definitely worked under the assumption that the customer might be trying to take us for a ride and abuse our extremely lax return policy. And we did have people trying to return stuff that wasn't ours (like Sheila mentioned), stealing things and trying to return them, or get full refunds without receipts for things that had been purchased YEARS earlier.What sucks about your experience is that the sales associate wasn't willing to work with you or help you at all. She knew she could offer you the current sale price without a receipt, but didn't mention that until you asked to talk to a manager. I'm glad they were able to work something out in the end though. Hopefully the manager realized that being inflexible would likely mean you'll stop buying $60 pairs of jeans from them.And sadly, it seems like women being firm and reasonable are often seen as being bitchy, yet I don't think the same would be said for men doing the same thing.

  20. I worked retail as well – and I hate having to draw on that when I know a sales clerk is wrong. I also know that people will do anything with stolen merch (including trying to put one store's tags on another store's clothing and then returning it to your store, which is neither of the above stores) to get money back, including yelling at you, sniping at your manager, and all the while you KNOW they stole that sweater. I'm glad you have that perspective. And those jeans were awful. Eee…Gap is so oversized. You are like an 8 or a 6 there, easy.

  21. When I was a teenager, I participated in anti-sweatshop protests in front of The Gap. Now I shop there. How's that for distances traveled? Here's a short list of what The Gap is doing wrong: treatment of the people who make the clothes, treatment of the employees who sell the clothes, customer-friendly policies. Here's a list of what they're doing right: finally out of Mom Jeans territory due to Patrick Robinson's influence, nice price points for merchandise. Here's a list of that which they sometimes get right and sometimes get wrong: quality of clothing.It's some tricky arithmetic. Also, I left having headquarters in San Francisco off the list, because having lived there, I know I shared the streets with both angels and devils.

  22. No one likes to have to pull rank, but you sometimes you have to. I don't blame you for being pissed. This kind of situation is one reason I try to do the majority of my shopping (when possible) at Nordstrom, because the store has the best return policy on earth: no return policy. They never give you static, and you can return stuff MONTHS later…they can look you up in the system if you don't have a receipt.Anyway, I too, am a regular returner, so I would have totally done the same thing. Just be glad you're in the U.S.—what we can demand and can get away with here seldom happens in other countries. You should totally enter that contest!♥ V http://www.gritandglamour.com

  23. When I was 19 I went to return a pair of pants — no receipt but tag still attached — to Abercrombie and Fitch. The sales associate, who was probably around 25, essentially called me a liar, a possible thief, and sniffed the crotch of the pants after insisting they had been worn. I was easily intimidated at 19, I walked out of the store without a refund. But I haven't set foot in A&F since then. Good on you for being firm and reasonable and sticking to your guns!

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