Christmas time and the (lack of) service

It’s great to say that tomorrow is Christmas. You know that time when you can see just how much the retailers have really cashed in on all the money that everyone has spent. Some stores are even open around here tomorrow like the 24 hours Shoppers Drug Mart that has been closed a total of 2 days since opening 3 years ago…and those 2 days were thanks to flooding!

Yesterday I decided to play dumb in the evening and head out to the mall. Here’s the interesting part—it really wasn’t that bad. I got rock star parking about 10 stalls away from the door (had I had my daughter with me, I could’ve parked right in front thanks to parent parking). There weren’t a lot of people in the hall. And seasonal music was playing throughout. Now comes the fun part and trying to remember what I was there for. (I really hope none of my family members follow this blog or the surprise may be ruined tomorrow morning). I walked in to Williams-Sonoma first and saw a huge line at the register—I was frightened. I looked around a bit and found what I was looking for but not all of it. I asked a clerk who grabbed me what I needed quickly. She was very helpful and friendly even though she was clearly being run off her feet. Of course I thanked her and continued to check things out—I could easily spend too much money there! I did find a second item but it was way too expensive, or so I thought, so decided to go stand in the checkout line that was five miles long. As I approached the tills, I was shocked to see that now there was no line but almost all the clerks were serving people. There was one available though, Katie. She welcomed me with a smile, joked around a bit and at the end of it I paid…and it was less then $15 too!

So, now with a mission to go find other items I headed back out into the mall to Zeller’s of all places. I walked around aimlessly not being able to find anything that resembled closely what I was looking for…or even where it would be. I headed back to the mall and was going to head to Discovery Hut when it occurred to me that Zeller’s may in fact have the item I was looking for. I walked into the toy section (I always loved every toy section of stores when I was a much younger kid) and found what I was looking for—sort of. I found the genre of gift but not the specific item. There was a very friendly clerk there helping out customers giving his opinion on what gifts would be good for a 10 year old to one woman, pointing out very little Lego to another couple, saying that the diapers for a pee & poop doll (totally gross and if anyone ever gets my daughter that, I’ll make it and her poo on them) were reusable, and then finally it was my turn. I asked about the specific item I was looking for and he sadly replied that they had none left. All of the “classics” go the fastest which honestly goes to show you they really don”t make stuff like they used to. He suggested I might want to hit Toys ‘r Us since they have a great selection of toys and related items…that got me thinking!

So out of Zeller’s now feeling slightly dejected and off to Discovery Hut. A crazy little store that specializes in all sorts of games, puzzles and educational toys. This makes a lot of sense to me that they would have it but I didn’t want to wander around aimlessly looking for items so I asked a clerk on the floor and they told me they didn’t carry what I was looking for. Crap. Now where?! Well I’ll check Sears, I’m sure they have a toy section and should also have the other item I’m looking for.

So a quick hike to Sears and a meandering walk through the perfume and cosmetics department to the escalator and straight up stairs. I wander around having no clue where I can find the first item and there’s no sign of toys and definitely no sign of any clerks to help out. Now’s where I really wish I had my mall GPS system in place (but that’s another crazy idea). I finally find the toy section buried away in the corner beside the men’s toy section (otherwise known as the tools) and have a look to see if I can find it…but again no luck. This product is definitely a challenge. I make my way to a checkout where there was just one person in front of me wrapping up the sale and ask the guy about my other gift. He looks at me with a blank stare, blinks a few times, then points and says “IF we have anything like that, it would be over there. Again, IF we have anything like that at all.” Well, customer service is sure alive at Sears!! I stroll past the section I’ve already spent 15 minutes in earlier trying to find the item and still no luck, so out I walk. Thanks Sears for taking my money!

So if not Sears, then why not The Bay. So I head down to The Bay, where the watermelons grow, I dare not go… Never mind. Looking for toys takes me back. I get to The Bay after walking the entire length of the mall and figure this should be easy to find. I head to the area and begin my search but alas am coming up empty handed. I find a cashier that is busy cashing out and get prepared to ask her, expecting the worst. Being courteous I wait until she’s not counting to ask and surprisingly she points me in the right direction and tells me the department she expects it to be in. Close to service, but definitely better handled then Sears was. So, I walk over and find what I’m looking for! Hurray! Well, not really. They’re just under half the price of Williams-Sonoma, but I would say the quality is maybe a 10th of it, so I don’t buy it. I did have a look for the toy section at The Bay but they didn’t seem to have one! No wonder I never went there as a kid. Of course, it also helped that grandma worked at Eatons at the time, so we’d go there for shopping and a visit. I think it was my parents way of being efficient.

Out of The Bay, off to Pottery Barn as I’m thinking they might have it since they’re an offshoot of Williams-Sonoma. I walk around looking for a bit then finally ask someone and they say that Williams-Sonoma should have some. I explained I already looked there but came out empty handed. They did recommend another place to me but since it was about 9:15 figured they would be closed as they weren’t in the mall. I thanked them and headed back into the crowd of people and whipped out my iPhone. Did some quick Google searches and made some calls. Turns out they had multiple locations but none were open. I also made some calls to Toys ‘r Us and found out the one in my ‘hood was open until 10:00. That should give me enough time if I hurry.

So into the CR-V I hop, crank the tunes with a little Sash! and some Scooter for the ride. Skipping over all the delays on the highway commute (including about 10 foot visibility at one point) I arrive at Toys ‘r Us with about 20 minutes to spare. I walk to the section and have a look around. It’s nicely alphabetized but I can’t find this stupid product. I then look up, way up, and realize that they’ve cleverly disguised a warehouse to look like a retail location. The shelves go up forever, and are stacked high with items! Still, walking around straining my neck upwards doesn’t help. I still can’t find it but I’m sure I made some people laugh. I was however, beginning to wonder if licensing had ran out on the product so it was no longer in production. A friend was texting me and offered to check and according to the Toys ‘r Us website, they still make it. Thank goodness, otherwise it’d be a trip on eBay to find it. I finally track down a clerk who does some digging in their system. Of course the other two stores might have it. They have 3 or 4 each and that often is in the area of acceptable stolen numbers. Well, time to head home for the night I suppose.

Customer service time now. Let’s see how each location did with their rankings.
Williams-Sonoma: A
Zellers: B+
Discovery Hut: B
Sears: D-
The Bay: C
Pottery Barn: A
Toys ‘r Us: B+
The Knifery: A++

I didn’t talk about The Knifery, but they deserve a nod. As I was walking past it I heard the clerk tell a thugish looking kid that he didn’t feel comfortable selling him the knife…and it was a nice one too. It definitely would’ve made a nice shank to make someone feel special on Christmas.

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