5 Tips For Avoiding Confrontation When You Need To Return An Item

She walked in angrily and responded with a short tempered “no” when I asked her if she needed help finding anything. Moving from rack to rack like a butterfly landing on a flower, she stayed only a moment and then moved on to the next rack. Something was definitely bothering her, so I decided to try to break the ice with some chit chat and asked her how her holiday celebrations had gone. She opened up right away and told me about having both kids and their families home for Christmas. We talked about my having just come back from visiting my mother in law and how we had made the difficult decision to travel despite Covid because her health has been poor this year. My opening up about my life helped, and pretty soon we were chatting about 2020 and how difficult it had been. Eventually the conversation trailed off, and after a comfortable silence, she said,

“I’m just really trying to cool off right now.”

I responded, “Oh, are you having a bad day?”

“Yes.” She said and then continued. “My son bought me a top that is too big, and I just found out the store won’t even give me an exchange because I don’t have the receipt.”

“Wow…,” I said, honestly surprised. “Not even a store credit?” I asked.

“Not without the receipt,” she emphasized.

“Hmmm, that is surprising, “I said, trying to be sympathetic. “Most people don’t give receipts with their gifts unless it is a gift receipt.”

“Exactly,” she responded. “I will never shop at that store again, and I am going to tell everyone I know.”

This whole conversation got me thinking about what we in the industry not so affectionately call “Returns Week From Hell.” The week after Christmas is a stressful one for retailers, as customers bring back presents that were wrong or they didn’t like. Sometimes they even take out their frustrations over wrong gifts on us. There have been times when I have ended the day in the hole, which feels pretty discouraging. To be honest, I understand where this business owner was coming from. Most of us have multiple sales and promotions before the holidays. Without the receipt, it is impossible to know if the customer bought the present on sale or at full price. Without this information, it makes it really hard to know how much to give as a return, exchange or store credit.

Still, in my opinion, it is better to loose the $10 from a sale price than to loose a customer. I’m pretty sure that small business will never see this customer again, and she spent almost $200 in my store yesterday. What is worse is that her only form of retaliation is to tell everyone she knows about this experience. This may mean a rant on social media or just conversations with five to ten friends. This is short term thinking on the part of the small business owner. Long term thinking always preserves the relationship with the customer. To me, it just isn’t worth it.

With all of this in mind, I thought it may be helpful for me to write a blog with some suggestions that might help you avoid getting angry at a business over a return gone wrong.

  1. Call ahead and find out what the return policy is. A simple phone call can give you valuable information to help avoid a confrontation. If the business requires a receipt, you can consider if you want to tell your family member that you need to return the item, and see if he or she saved the receipt. Most businesses will also accept a credit card statement as well. In my store, if you know the date and amount of the sale, we can look up the receipt.
  2. Be nice. You know the saying that you get more with honey than with vinegar? It is especially true during return week. Understand that retailers are already stressed, especially this year. Ask to speak to the owner and explain your situation. Show that you also understand their position as well. Ask if there is any compromise for the situation. Only the most hardened business owners will say to “no” to this type of approach. Try to avoid threatening behavior. I know there has been times I have dug my heels in with a hard no simply because the customer was abusive and it pissed me off. Just saying….
  3. Be aware of credit card laws. Credit card companies require us to refund to the same credit card that was used to make the purchase. If we don’t follow this rule, they can deny the return. If you are bringing back a present that was purchased with a credit card, make sure you also have the credit card number that was used to make the purchase. If you don’t have it, be prepared to receive an exchange or store credit instead of a return.
  4. Don’t shoot the messenger. Often times customers get angry with sales people when a return doesn’t go as expected. Recognize that employees usually don’t have the authority to over-ride a store policy. If you are dis-satisfied, try to avoid taking it out on someone who can’t change the rules. Ask to speak to a manager or owner instead.
  5. Ask for a store credit. If you cannot find an item you wish to exchange on the day of your return, ask for a store credit or gift card so you can come back on another day. I know that I want my customers to be happy with what they have purchased and not feel pressured to get something just for the sake of doing an exchange. I am always happy to accommodate them with either a gift card or store credit.

Returns don’t have to be a negative experience for you or the small business. As with everything in life, a spirit of kindness and cooperation is a huge help in resolving disputes. We all need each other. You don’t want to have to shop online for everything you need, and small businesses cannot survive without customers. Actually, a dispute is an excellent opportunity to forge a great bond. Some of my most loyal customers were made when I went out of my way to make sure they were happy with a situation. Happy returns!

Tips and Ticks For Choosing The Best Jean For Your Body

Of all the bottoms on the market, jeans are probably the most complicated to buy. Very few other pants offer so many choices in fit. Buying a single pair of jeans requires you to make a myriad of choices. Do you want a slim fit to loose fit like a boyfriend jean? Do you want a low, medium, high rise or the ultra high “mom jean?” What inseam length do you need? Do you want a skinny, straight or bootcut? Do you want an ankle jean, petite or regular? Do you want a light, medium or dark wash? And on and on….

Honestly, it reminds me of ordering coffee at Starbucks….”Can I please have a grande, vanilla, almond milk latte or would it be a grande, almond milk latte with a shot of vanilla? It gives me anxiety. I’ve seen customers get equally flummoxed at trying to tell me what they want in a jean, and I don’t blame them.

In this blog post, I will try to demystify jean buying and help walk you through making the best jean choice for your body.

  1. Let’s talk fit…Right now, jeans can be purchased in a variety of fits from slim fits that hug the body like a legging to looser fits that look like you are wearing your fella’s jeans. There are also wide legged, high waisted varieties that look like they stepped right out of the seventies. Choosing a fit is about your desired level of trendiness and your body shape. The trendiest jeans styles this season are slim legged ankle jeans, loose fitting and beat up boyfriend jeans, and wide legged culottes. If you are shorter, I would avoid the wider legged styles, as they are trickier to wear and can have a tendency to make shorter people look dumpy. If you have thicker legs, you may want to choose straight leg or wide leg styles with a little more room in the thigh and calf to avoid looking poured into your jeans. Boyfriend jeans work on anyone, but do take some know how in pairing them with tops and shoes. If you want a middle of the road fit, I recommend choosing a straight leg style with a slimmer fitting leg. This is a great look that keeps your jean trendy without requiring a lot of thought on how to wear it.
  2. So many rises….trendier jeans right now are high waisted, even higher than you would probably think of as a high rise jean. Generally, if you just want a great fitting jean, a regular rise is your best bet. These jeans will come just over your belly button and should fit right around the smallest part of your waist. Regular rise jeans are the most flattering because the high rise helps to hold in extra pounds around your middle. Lower rises that sit an inch below your belly button or lower don’t do much for helping your figure. Ultra high rises take some know how to pull them off, like a cropped top, as an example. Whatever you choose, just be sure to sit down in any jean you try on before you purchase it to make sure it doesn’t roll or continually slide down. A sign you have chosen the right rise for your body is that you won’t have a large gap in the waist.
  3. How do I figure out what inseam I need…one of the trickiest parts of jean buying is the multitude of inseam lengths out there. A typical regular length jean has a 33 inch inseam. A petite jean will be more like 29 inches. A typical ankle jean will have a 27 inch inseam. To figure out your inseam or to measure a jean, just use a tape measure from the crotch of the jean to the hemline or from your groin to your ankle. Your inseam will depend largely on whether you are short or long waisted, but generally, women under 5’2 will need a petite jean and women over 5’5 can do a regular rise jean. For us poor devils, me included, who are in that 5’3-5’5 height range, we are just stuck with cuffing a jean that is too long or getting one hemmed. It’s a huge bummer, but the good news is that the ankle jean works quite well for us. If you are particularly long legged or near 6 feet, you are unfortunately going to have to find tall jeans, which can be a TALL order, he he.
  4. Let’s chat about leg opening…you can readily find skinny, straight and bootcut styles in pretty much any jean brand you choose. A skinny jean is usually about 5 inches across at the hemline. A straight leg style will be more like 7 inches across. And, a bootcut style will be somewhere around 8 inches, depending upon the brand. Generally, women who have thicker legs will prefer a bootcut style because it will offer a roomier leg and thigh. The other option is a boyfriend cut jean that is meant to fit loose. If you have thin legs, you will probably like how you look in a skinny jean because it will show off your great legs. If you are somewhere in the middle, or, as I mentioned previously, just want a good all around jean, you will probably gravitate to a straight leg jean. A lot of it also depends on foot wear. If you like to tuck your jeans into tall boots or cuff your jeans, as an example, a skinny jean is what you want. If you want to wear your jeans over sturdier shoes, a bootcut will be a better choice.
  5. It’s all about the wash…from vintage washes that are light to dark denim washes that almost look black, you can buy jeans in just about any shade of blue you want. Vintage washes tend to lend themselves to summer and lighter colored tops. They do look lovely paired up with cream sweaters in the winter, however. Dark denim washes are usually dressier and can be worn from casual to dressed up casual. Medium blue washes are considered “go to” washes in the industry because they go with everything. Fading along the front of the leg can make a thick thigh appear thinner. Whiskering and distressing are all a means of adding eye-catching details to the jean or making them look already worn. There are many ways to create these effects including chemical washes, sandblasting, scraping using ruler-sized files, grinding with actual stones, and lasers. Right now, these elements along with colored washes in everything from wine to mustard, make a jean trendier. The cleaner, un-embellished jean, on the other hand, can be worn for years to come. What you choose is all dependent upon what you want out of your jean.
  6. Look at me….the bottom of your jeans is pretty important right now. From fringed hemlines to embroidery and sequins, the hemlines of jeans are taking center stage. You will find clipped hems which are shorter in the front and left unhemmed, multiple layers of fringe, bows, ribbons, and just about anything else you can imagine gracing the bottoms of jeans. These details add to the jean’s uniqueness and are a fresh twist on that basic of most basic items that we all love to love…the jean.

Happy jean shopping! Don’t get flummoxed. Now you can talk jeans like a BOSS! And, if you want to hear me talk about this in person, just join me on my VIP Facebook group called Fashion Crossroads Fashionistas tonight at 6 p.m. Watch here: https://www.facebook.com/events/884895962279917

10 Tips For Making Your Online Holiday Shopping Safe and Successful

The busyness of the holidays and now Covid-19 might be causing you to do more online shopping than usual this year. With the explosion of websites and online stores in the last two years, the market is over-saturated. The options of websites to shop from can be overwhelming, especially if you are trying to shop small even from your computer. If you are like me, I hesitate to give Amazon any more market share than it already has, so this year, I have been intentional about shopping directly from the brand rather than going through Amazon. In this blog post, I will share some of the things I do when shopping online to ensure a positive experience.

Look for the padlock and word “secure” in the website address. Avoid websites that do not have this.
  • Don’t get fooled by a bogus website: This time of year scammers abound, and consumers really do need to be aware of some of the common ways to spot a bogus website. Did you know that the “s” in “https” means “secure.” Just looking at the website address in your browser window can tell you a lot. Google, for example, will put a padlock in front of the website address to let you know it is secure (see the picture above.) You can click on the padlock to see more information about the website’s security. Also, the website name can give you a clue as well. Scammers often try to mimic a brand name with just a few changes like substituting one letter such as “AmazOn.com.” Additionally, at the bottom of a website, you should find some logos that indicate it is secure. These include DigiCert, Verisign, or Symantec, as examples. If you click on these logos, you should be re-directed to a site talking about the website’s security. If it takes you somewhere else, beware. Lastly, scammers often come from countries where English is a second language. if you notice a lot of grammar and spelling errors, you might want to use the other tips I have shared here to validate the legitimacy of the website
  • Read the website return policies: Some websites have ridiculous return policies that are too short and charge re-stocking fees. The intention is to make it so difficult to return that you just give up and keep an item you don’t really want. If you are buying clothing, as an example, a website should offer a 30 day return window. The policy should be easy to find and understand.
  • Know the last day to have your item shipped and still have it arrive before Christmas. Right now, the typical shipping time is taking about a week. That means that time is running out to get your packages in the mail if you don’t want to pay 2 day priority shipping rates. As I did my own Christmas shopping this year, I noticed just about every site warned of shipping delays. This year especially, it is important not to wait too long. Also, keep in mind, some businesses close on certain days, so if you order it Saturday night, it might not be shipped until Monday morning, even if you choose 2 day priority shipping. The business hours and days should be clearly listed on the website so you can verify days it is open.
Call us at 307-237-9221
  • Don’t hesitate to call the business: I remember one year, I was buying a gift for my husband from a well known brand. I was shopping online and just didn’t feel confident about the fit from the description. I called the business to get more information. As I was talking to the representative, it was obvious he really had no idea how the item fit. The benefit of shopping small for the holidays is that when you call the business, you are much more likely to get the owner or an employee who knows the brands they are selling as well as how they fit. You can get crucial information by taking this extra step. I know in my stores, we go out of our way to help customers over the phone including measuring the item, trying it on ourselves, and suggesting other items that will pair well and complete the purchase. I have had more than one sale that included exchanging pictures back and forth on my cell phone to help a customer feel secure about the purchase. It is something a small business can offer you that a large brand cannot.
  • Does the website offer a payment plan?: Let’s face it, payment plans give us more buying power. Nowadays, it is common for websites to offer them. My website, as an example, uses Sezzle which breaks the total purchase price up into 4 easy, interest free, installments. You still get your purchase shipped the day you order it, but you can pay the balance in installments, which is easier on your budget.
  • Use PayPal or a virtual credit card number: As someone who has been unfortunate enough to have my credit cards compromised several times during past holiday seasons, this year I am trying some new methods to keep my accounts secure. I am using either PayPal or virtual credit card numbers that my credit card company supplies me automatically when I am making an online order. This happens via an extension that I added to my browser. The benefit of these virtual credit card numbers is that they are not my actual account number and can only be used once. It has given me a much more secure feeling about shopping online this year.
This offer is good online only at www.fashioncrossroadsinc.com
  • Use those promo codes: Pay attention to the header on the website which is the space above the picture as well as the slideshow at the top. Any deals the retailer is offering should be listed there. Most offers come in the form of a promo code that you enter on the checkout screen. You can also install extensions on your browser that will search for promo codes automatically. Capital One has just come out with one of those tools. They are very helpful and have saved me money on various purchases that I didn’t even know were on sale.
  • Beware of overly high freight and fees: Unfortunately, some businesses play games with consumers. Some retailers make up for a low listed price and undercutting competitors by adding the loss into their shipping and handling rates. I have been burned before by choosing the lowest listed price for an item only to discover that the merchant added exorbitant freight and “handling” charges at the end of the sale, wasting my time and making me frustrated. If you live in the same town as the store you made your purchase from, you can usually choose a free in store pick up option that saves you from having to pay freight. Now during the pandemic, most stores are also providing contactless pickup options as well. My boutique, as an example, has a handy alley where we receive our freight deliveries. We have turned this into an alley way pick up option where customers just pull up and wait in their cars for us to bring their purchases out to them.
  • Organize your emails: Once you’ve made your online purchase, the borage of emails begins. You will usually receive an order confirmation email and then various shipping notification emails. When you are buying more than one package at a time from various websites, the emails can get a bit overwhelming. What I do for myself is create a folder in my email inbox entitled “Christmas.” I then move all of those emails into that folder. If a package doesn’t arrive or has an issue, I can easily go and find all the order and tracking info I need. If everything ships okay, then when Christmas is over, I just delete the whole file. It is a snap and makes managing the emails so much easier.

Following these tips will help make your holiday shopping not only safe but also successful. After all, online shopping is supposed to make this season easier, not more difficult. If you’d like to get more information on this topic, you can watch me in a live video discussing it tonight around 6 p.m. MST. I do weekly Wednesday Night Wardrobing videos that offer tips and tricks in our VIP Facebook Group called Fashion Crossroads Fashionistas. To watch, join the group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/fashioncrossroadsinc.

10 Tips For Making The Perfect Clothing Gift At Christmas

Tis the season for giving and for feeling at a total loss or aimlessly wandering in hopes of the perfect gift just “jumping out at you.” As a boutique owner of over twenty years, I’ve done my fair share of helping customers buy for their loved ones. I’ve also handled a few returns where the gift receiver was offended by the gift.

Buying clothing is a lovely gift and something everyone can use for years to come. While it can be intimidating choosing for someone else, there are a few simple steps you can take to help you make a great buy. I am a big advocate of clothing as a gift because it takes time to make a great choice and shows your loved ones that you really wanted to choose something special for them. There is nothing about clothing that feels impersonal, and when you take a few simple steps, you can increase your odds dramatically of finding the perfect item.

The following are my top tips for buying clothing as a Christmas gifts. The most important thing you can do is know your stuff. Before you go shopping, spend some time in your loved one’s closet or peruse several photos of them. If you can’t look in her closet because she doesn’t live nearby, is there a significant other or friend that might be able to do it for you? Pay attention to a few things:

1. What colors are her favorites?

2. What is her size? Look at several different types of tops like stretchy pullovers and more tailored button up tops. Do the same with bottoms. Make sure you know what size she wears if the item is sized in numbers like 8, 10, or 12, as an example. Make sure you also know what size she wears if the item is sized in small, medium or large.

3. Does she seem to gravitate to solids or does she like prints? Does she like small prints like florals or larger prints like plaid?

4. What body issues does she have that might create fit issues? Is she busty? Does she have broad shoulders or a thick waist? Would she want to cover her middle or show it off? Is she short, average or tall?

5. What kind of clothing does she need? Is she a teacher? Does she work in an office? Is she a banker or Real Estate Agent? Is she a stay at home mom? Should you be choosing professional items that she can wear to work or more casual styles?

6. How trendy is she? Does she care about keeping up with the latest trends or does she choose clothing based upon comfort and feel?

7. How old is she and does she dress her age? Perhaps she likes to be trendy and look a little younger. Perhaps she avoids trends.

8. Is her style artistic, conservative, tailored, or outdoorsy? Try to focus in on the general style that she wears both at work and at play.

9. Are there certain brands that she loves?

10. Is there a certain store that she loves?

Once you have written all of this information down, take your list shopping. Share it with the sales associate at your favorite boutique as well as your observations about what you would like to buy. If your loved one has a favorite store, go there. Likely, if she is a regular customer, they will either know her or be able to look up her shopping history. If they have a layaway program, check to see if your loved one has a layaway. Buying items off a layaway is a fool proof way to give clothing because you know if she put it on layaway, she already loves it. If she doesn’t have a layaway, then my advice is to stick to the basics. Tops are an easier fit than bottoms. Choose pull over stretchy tops like seaters, tees, sweatshirts that are more likely to fit.

Then, accessorize the top with some special touches. Add a scarf and earring. Get her a hat and gloves. Choose something that shows you not only thought of her but wanted to make it special. I can assure you, if she thinks you really worked hard to choose the perfect gift, she will cherish it.