Department Stores Are Dying & I Didn’t Care Until I Experienced Their True Glory.

rene hale dept store

A millennial walks into a department store.

There’s no priest, there’s no rabbi, and this is not a joke. But there is a real department store. You know, with bricks, big glass windows, and escalators. Where your mom and grandmother loved to go on the weekends.

And I mean go into, not through on the way to H&M, Sephora, or Francesca’s.

In this story, there was actual business to be done within the department store itself, and it’s where I encountered a sales experience unlike any other.

It all begins in the women’s formal department where Ms. Suzie looks me over, squints, looks again, taps the side of her face, then reaches back through her 30+ years of retail experience.

In one fell swoop, she points out the one Derby dress this millennial wouldn’t have picked up in a million years.

When I begin to voice opposition, Ms. Suzie looks at me with a wide smile and says, “Just try it and see what you think.”

So I walk back to a fitting room with Ms. Suzie’s selection, along with four other dresses of my choosing.

As it turns out, all those years of retail experience taught Ms. Suzie a thing or two.

And I’m sure she was highly pleased with herself as she rang up the dress she suggested.

Next, I made a loop around the second floor in search of a coordinating fascinator.

Along the way, I was greeted by sales associates from their personal customer service desks, who each offered their assistance if needed. No high-pressure sales tactics. Just friendly conversation.

The associate over in Calvin Klein even went as far as to comment on the lovely weather.

I began to view the concept of a department store in a different light.

This isn’t Target where items are gathered in a cart and purchased at one register.


Each department had its own checkout area and its own associate.

Which is why I was hesitant about asking the lady at the jewelry counter where to find the fascinators.

Are cross-department questions acceptable?

Is there an underlying competition between sections of the store?

I’m still not sure, but she was equally as friendly as the others had been and pointed me in the right direction.

I had finally narrowed my selection down to two fascinators, and Kathy who was watching from the next department over, smiled when our eyes met.

She motioned me over like she had a juicy secret to share and spent the next 10 minutes of her time helping me decide between the two.

She took the dress and the headpieces and held them up one at a time from a distance and at different angles.

She fit them on my head in front of a mirror to demonstrate how they should be worn.

She reminded me of the importance of the comfort factor since I would be wearing my selection for the better part of a day.

It was as if Kathy had been waiting all day to help a customer make a big decision.

Swipe… sold.

On the way to my car, I spotted a pair of yellow sandals that I thought would be a perfect addition to my special outfit.

Was it the lighting? The display? I suddenly wanted to buy everything.

I picked up a shoe and flipped it over to see the price, then began to scan under the display in search of a box labeled with my size.

But no boxes were to be found.

All I could find were other beautiful shoes on display.

“Well that’s odd,” I thought.

A gentleman wearing a dress shirt and name badge must have noticed the look of confusion on my face.

He gradually worked his way near me and made mention of the comfort and style of the shoe I was considering.

“Nice choice,” he said.

“Do you have it in a nine?”

And with that, he whisked away through a secret, hidden door.

The stock room must have been as organized as the Library of Congress because what felt like only seconds later, he reappeared, box in hand.

He asked me to have a seat. On a padded bench, nonetheless.

I felt like a queen.

Then he personally slipped the shoe onto my left foot, fastened it and asked me to stand.

“Just a moment, ma’am,” he said as he disappeared and reappeared with an 8.5.

After securing the buckle and asking me to face forward, then to the side, he stood back to get a good look.

While scratching his beard, he commented on the way the heel covered the stitching, the symmetry of the toes, then declared them a perfect fit.

“Ring me up,” I said.

René Hale

And with that final transaction, yes, the third transaction within the same store, I felt as though I had been transported to a different era.

A time when customer satisfaction was the highest priority and hiding receipts from your husband was easy as pie.

Nevertheless, I left with a new appreciation of the whole experience.

And maybe the next time I enter the mall through a side entrance, aka a department store, I will take the time to shop around.

This story originally appeared on Daylight to Dark

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