The Inner Bottom Line ®
A Column on Personal Choices & Ethical Dilemmas by Olive Gallagher
I’ve been saying for years that the only word in the English language that should be obliterated is “expectations.” I continue to feel that way, as it’s a word that sets us up for disappointment and implies that the responsibility for us to be happy or satisfied lies elsewhere. However, in this rare, set-aside moment, I’m going to use it - lavishly - while sharing with you an experience a few weeks ago that literally blew my socks off.
Over the past two years, since they hit the market, I’ve bought and happily worn a number of NYDJ jeans (Not Your Daughters Jeans). They fit well, come in a variety of great cottons and velours as well as denim, wear well, or so I thought, and tend to be reasonably priced.
In January, I took two pair of them on a quick trip to LA. On the second day, I wore the velour pair and several hours later, noticed a small hole, right over the waist area, in the front of my new, costly tee shirt. Puzzled, I figured the shirt was defective, so I called the store and they kindly promised to put another one aside for me to exchange when I returned. Relieved, I went on with my day figuring well, that was that.
Except it wasn’t. A week or so after my return, after exchanging the shirt with the holes, I noticed the same thing had happened again to a beloved cashmere sweater, right in the same area. I also noticed I was wearing another pair of NYDJ’s. Suddenly, this wasn’t funny. This was weird and costly as well as upsetting and even more so, confusing. I began to sort through my tops, examining every one carefully, and I was astounded to discover seven other tops with holes, all in the same area.
Confounded, I tried to come up with a reasonable explanation of why or how this could happen. It wasn’t moths. It wasn’t a bracelet or ring that might catch on fabrics. It didn’t come from a zipper in a winter jacket that might have caught. I would have remembered that. The only common denominator I could come up with was the NYDJ pants. When I wasn’t heading out to a meeting, I generally wore one of the warmer, velour pants, especially on rainy days, along with the turtlenecks and sweaters.
So, having eliminated a few obvious culprits, I began to conduct a scientific test. I kept track of every thing I wore, and began to wear the tops with the holes already in them turned backwards to see if I could isolate the offending garment while at the same time, minimize doing additional damage to the few remaining things left in my wardrobe that were still intact. By the time I had tracked all of the various pants in this way, I ended up with seven pairs of pants that had been wore with fourteen quality sweaters or tees full of holes in the exact same area.
Not only had I lost most of my warm, winter wardrobe, but I was also faced with being unable to trust wearing any of the casual clothes in my closet.
There was only one thing left to do. Resolve this problem, one way or another. I found an email for NYDJ corporate online and wrote them, asking them to please call me so we could address this issue. When I didn’t received an answer, I then called Nordstrom, where all of the pants had been bought, and asked for the store manager. My intention was to ask him to contact the head buyer who might then contact NYDJ directly, figuring a huge distributor would get their ear immediately. After all, I was just a lone consumer with little power.
And that’s when the magic started to happen. I’ve been a happy Nordstrom shopper for over thirty years. They invented the “how can we surprise and delight you” brand of customer service. They are renowned for their generous and thoughtful return and replacement policies and no one does it better. But even after all these years and after so many satisfying moments with this company in the past, nothing had prepared for what came next.
The manager took my call immediately, and after I briefly explained my problem and asked for his thoughts on letting his head buyer know about the problem, he said, “Yes, of course, we can do that, but first, let’s take care of your problems.”
He continued, “Here’s what I’d like to do for you at your convenience. First, if you can take the time to come into the store and bring all of the damaged pieces, I’d like to meet with you and have our head alteration person in that meeting so we can take a look at all of the damage and try to figure out what’s going on and why this happened. Second, we’d like to try and fix whatever we can so it doesn’t happen again. And third, since you've incurred a large loss, we’d like you to pick out either replacements, if they are still available, of the damaged tops and if not, find new garments to replace the damaged ones so we can replenish your wardrobe and try to make up this loss to you. How does that sound?”
Say, what? How does that sound? Are you kidding? Really? Yes, really. That’s exactly what happened. I went into the store with my clothing the following Monday. Within five minutes of examination, they had identified an issue with the button closures. Then, while the pants were whisked away to be repaired, I spent ninety minutes with a delightful department manager combing through the entire store, trying on cashmere sweaters and tops to fill in the gap in my closet. While I won’t specify the dollar value of all the replacements, suffice it to say that, in the end, it more than compensated for my loss.
And then some. Because how do you put a value on respect and support and acknowledgement and care? What price can be placed on thoughtfulness and validation?
What the experience far exceeded was any hope or expectation that I would be heard or given such responsive care and attention, resolving what can only be described as a very distressing and puzzling mystery.
Nordstrom, by simply acting first and sorting out afterwards, proved once again that their continuing intention to make the customer happy and exceed all expectations of surprise and delight in their service as well as their goods, no matter what, is beyond the best. It is the ultimate. Wow! If only every person in the world operated like that in general.
But wait! There’s more. Several weeks later, I was in another store, and in passing, NYDJ was mentioned. I commented I was uncertain I’d ever buy another pair again, and when asked why, I vaguely said I’d had a little problem with their wear. The sales person then looked at me with wide eyes and said, “Really? I’ve had a problem, too.” When I asked her to be more explicit, she explained, “I’ve been finding holes in my tee shirts every time I wear a pair of pants.” I just looked at her, disbelieving, while a sense of relief flooded through me, and I realized how good it felt to discover I wasn’t alone in this bizarre situation. For crazy it was, and in the first few weeks, when I couldn’t figure out what was destroying my clothes, I thought I was losing it.
In the end, the entire experience has been a repeat lesson in the extreme and positive value that support and validation brings to our relationships.
Not feeling alone in a distressing moment and being heard makes all the difference in the world. When someone goes the extra mile to try and make things whole again and make your world all right and safe, well, doesn’t that knock your socks off, too?
Olive Gallagher, a life coach, ethicist, and national columnist recently moved to Lake Oswego, OR and is currently offering classes on The Inner Bottom Line twice a month at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center along with a group focused on Stress Management.
You can submit your questions and ethical dilemmas or book consulting appointments and private and group coaching sessions with Olive at 503-908-7842 or www.theinnerbottomline.com.
Hard cover, Kindle and audio versions of Olive’s book, The Inner Bottom Line® The Nude Ethicist: A Simple Path to The Good Life™, are now available on amazon.com.