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Menswear Shop Refusing to Tailor "Outside" Clothing | Experiences or Advice?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
All, just wanted to get a 2nd opinion on this and wondering how you may have dealt with this:

I was in a well established menswear shop in Houston (ND) recently to have some clothes assessed by their tailor (enough material in sleeves to lengthen adequately? Etc.) A sales associate took me aside to tell me that since I only tend to use their tailoring for "outside" clothing in the past (e.g. clothing not purchased from their own store, which nearly all RTW from a variety of brands), this would be the last time they could do this for me.

Reasons given included:
1) "Inside" Clothing backlog from their customers
2) I had "done a lot of tailoring" with them. (Sport coat and two trousers over 2 years)

I argued back that they:
1) Have a price guide for "outside clothing" and I have never minded that it was more $$ and lower priority
2) Has never been an issue until today.

From a business perspective,this befuddles me. They are essentially turning away business/revenue from a customer who doesn't mine paying more and waiting longer, and have alienated me from returning (when I have purchased a variety shoe accessories and ties, just not clothing from them).

I've always had a good experiences with the tailoring and customer service at this place, but wondering how you would have handled it / similar instances?

Thanks.
post #2 of 16

That seems ridiculous. It's not like they're doing you a favour or anything, they are still making a profit. If there are other places around, you should try them if you haven't already. If there really is nowhere else then maybe go back, but I would have serious doubts about going there again. 

post #3 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdstour View Post

All, just wanted to get a 2nd opinion on this and wondering how you may have dealt with this:

I was in a well established menswear shop in Houston (ND) recently to have some clothes assessed by their tailor (enough material in sleeves to lengthen adequately? Etc.) A sales associate took me aside to tell me that since I only tend to use their tailoring for "outside" clothing in the past (e.g. clothing not purchased from their own store, which nearly all RTW from a variety of brands), this would be the last time they could do this for me.

Reasons given included:
1) "Inside" Clothing backlog from their customers
2) I had "done a lot of tailoring" with them. (Sport coat and two trousers over 2 years)

I argued back that they:
1) Have a price guide for "outside clothing" and I have never minded that it was more $$ and lower priority
2) Has never been an issue until today.

From a business perspective,this befuddles me. They are essentially turning away business/revenue from a customer who doesn't mine paying more and waiting longer, and have alienated me from returning (when I have purchased a variety shoe accessories and ties, just not clothing from them).

I've always had a good experiences with the tailoring and customer service at this place, but wondering how you would have handled it / similar instances?

Thanks.

The tailoring is probably just a value added service that they provide for their customers.  Apparently, it doesn't keep their lights on.  If you bought from them regularly, and bigger spends, they probably would not have an issue with you sneaking in "outside" clothes, but they probably don't appreciate your using their services, meant primarily for customers who buy from them, while making the bulk of your purchases outside the store.  That they have always profided you with good customer service probably makes them more frustrated, and your counter arguments probably did not endear them to your, but probably alienated them as well.

 

A surprising number of people always seem to thing that people think about things purely from a "business" standpoint.  It's simply not true, particularly if it's a small, high touch, business.  Things are, in fact, very personal, on both sides.   Remember also, that B&M menswear shops are under seige everywhere.  That you bring in a lot of high spend clothing that are internet sales probably doesn't sit well with them.

 

If you want to continue your relationship with them, you probably want to patronize them for a while, and NOT bring in any "outside" clothes until you are a pretty established, high spend, customer.  Otherwise, my advice would be to find an alterations tailor who specializes in alterations, and is not an auxiliary service.

post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tabooku View Post
 

That seems ridiculous. It's not like they're doing you a favour or anything, they are still making a profit. If there are other places around, you should try them if you haven't already. If there really is nowhere else then maybe go back, but I would have serious doubts about going there again. 

They are doing you a favor though.

post #5 of 16

@LA Guy I read your post and see your point. But if it isn't a worthwhile service that 'doesn't keep the lights on', why bother offering the service in the first place?

post #6 of 16

I would probably reach out to the store manager and ask whether this is a new across-the-board policy for the store. Unfortunately, they have the right to decline tailoring 'outside' clothing, regardless of whether this makes business sense to you. I suspect that more and more people are buying clothes online (not saying that you are, just that this is happening more frequently) and bringing them in to high-end clothing shops for tailoring.

 

Tailoring is a necessary service for a high-end clothing store but it is unlikely to contribute the majority of their revenue. Increasing volume of requests for tailoring 'outside' clothing ties up their in-house tailor and slows down their service to customers who purchase from the store. 

post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tabooku View Post
 

@LA Guy I read your post and see your point. But if it isn't a worthwhile service that 'doesn't keep the lights on', why bother offering the service in the first place?

 

It's a necessary service for any good B&M store.  You see if from Macy's, which offers just basic hemming, to high end stores which offer complementary alterations on suiting and jackets bought in-house.  Outside alterations, unless a big part of your business is alterations, and I know of such stores, are just a drag on your operations, unless they are paying crazy rates.  And even then, it diminishes the value proposition of your store.  If someone can buy something cheaper, elsewhere, and then just get you to tailor it, why would anyone buy at your store?  You are offering the competition your advantage.  The practice, if you think about it that way, makes no business sense at all.  Sometimes, the smart business move is to turn away the short term money for long term viability, especially if that short term money is just a few bucks (or a hundred dollars vs. $2K for a suit).

 

I guess that the take home message here is that you gotta give respect to get respect.  

post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by LA Guy View Post
 

 

It's a necessary service for any good B&M store.  You see if from Macy's, which offers just basic hemming, to high end stores which offer complementary alterations on suiting and jackets bought in-house.  Outside alterations, unless a big part of your business is alterations, and I know of such stores, are just a drag on your operations, unless they are paying crazy rates.  And even then, it diminishes the value proposition of your store.  If someone can buy something cheaper, elsewhere, and then just get you to tailor it, why would anyone buy at your store?  You are offering the competition your advantage.  The practice, if you think about it that way, makes no business sense at all.  Sometimes, the smart business move is to turn away the short term money for long term viability, especially if that short term money is just a few bucks (or a hundred dollars vs. $2K for a suit).

 

I guess that the take home message here is that you gotta give respect to get respect.  

 

All of your points are well-taken, but if you live outside a major metro, you can find yourself with very few options.  "Alterations tailor" in a place that isn't New York or San Francisco can translate to "buttons and hems for Joseph A. Bank customers."  Finding someone who will do good work at any price and isn't also in the retail business is a nightmare, which leaves customers with a stark choice: $1295 for a decent suit, tailoring included, or $400-$600 something of far superior quality that a hack tailor then butchers.  I'm going MTM in the future largely for this reason.  

post #9 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by heldentenor View Post

 

All of your points are well-taken, but if you live outside a major metro, you can find yourself with very few options.  "Alterations tailor" in a place that isn't New York or San Francisco can translate to "buttons and hems for Joseph A. Bank customers."  Finding someone who will do good work at any price and isn't also in the retail business is a nightmare, which leaves customers with a stark choice: $1295 for a decent suit, tailoring included, or $400-$600 something of far superior quality that a hack tailor then butchers.  I'm going MTM in the future largely for this reason.  

I live in... Moscow Idaho, so I know that feels.  We did, on the other hand, get a fantastic seamstress/alterationist in town.  In those towns, the retail shops understand their own limitations, and are also often much more diversified.  My wife and I bring in our shoes to be topied at the local cobblers, for example.  And the guy does a lot of shoe repairs an even rebuilds of "outside" shoes, because he understands that a lot of the stuff that people want, he could not possibly stock.

 

The OP, however, is in a major metropolitan area.  It's Houston, which has plenty of specialty shops and where there is a lot of money.  The outlook and attitude of retailers is understandably quite different.

 

As an aside, re Moscow ID.  It's a wierd but rather cool town, with a lot of random businesses.  It's a nice community that draws in a lot of people from bigger cities with big city expertise who suddenly find themselves in a place where they can easily strike out on their own/have no competition that makes the barrier to entry difficult/have no real other choice for gainful employment other than starting their own business.  We just got a really quite decent home bakery, literally a block and a half away.  A good pastry chef decided to move here to live with her sister, and seeing that there was no good cake bakery, bought a website domain, advertised at the local market, and bam, a professional bakery.

post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by LA Guy View Post
 

I live in... Moscow Idaho, so I know that feels.  We did, on the other hand, get a fantastic seamstress/alterationist in town.  In those towns, the retail shops understand their own limitations, and are also often much more diversified.  My wife and I bring in our shoes to be topied at the local cobblers, for example.  And the guy does a lot of shoe repairs an even rebuilds of "outside" shoes, because he understands that a lot of the stuff that people want, he could not possibly stock.

 

The OP, however, is in a major metropolitan area.  It's Houston, which has plenty of specialty shops and where there is a lot of money.  The outlook and attitude of retailers is understandably quite different.

 

As an aside, re Moscow ID.  It's a wierd but rather cool town, with a lot of random businesses.  It's a nice community that draws in a lot of people from bigger cities with big city expertise who suddenly find themselves in a place where they can easily strike out on their own/have no competition that makes the barrier to entry difficult/have no real other choice for gainful employment other than starting their own business.  We just got a really quite decent home bakery, literally a block and a half away.  A good pastry chef decided to move here to live with her sister, and seeing that there was no good cake bakery, bought a website domain, advertised at the local market, and bam, a professional bakery.

 

If a job ever comes up at the University of Idaho, I'm sold.  

post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by heldentenor View Post
 

 

If a job ever comes up at the University of Idaho, I'm sold.  

Or Washington State, where I was before I resigned to do tech and stuff fulltime.  It's just 9 miles away, into the center of campus.  It's a decent bike ride, or a 15 minute drive.  Pullman is a pretty boring town.  It's a town to surround a university, while, perhaps because UI is significantly smaller, Moscow is much more of a community separate from its association with the university.  

post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
All,

All fair points taken, and LA Guy, Thanks for chiming in on this.

I definitely understand most aspects of such a policy extending beyond the "business lens", but let me compare this with an analogous business, a boutique jewelry business (which part of my extended family operates) since it serves as a good parallel (although $$ per product is much, much higher).

This long established store is in a major metropolitan city in Asia, selling $$$$-level one-of-a-kind jewelry and fine timepieces (Patek-level and beyond).
Even in such a city as that, we've encountered numerous customers who bring for repairs/service:
  • our jewelry (of-a-kind, made by us)
  • "outside jewelry" (made by other stores),
  • fine timepieces (same brands as what we sold, but not purchased from us)

Now it makes sense to ask that clients bring our pieces to our shops (since we made them one-of-a-kind and know best how to fix them), or to do minor repairs on less complicated "outside" jewelry, or to service watches (since we have relationships with the original vendors).

At the same time we service existing clients to show we value their business (as they have purchased from us in the past) and to service new customers (in the luxury business, customer service goes a long way in being a differentiator).

However, to tell a customer we wouldn't help them "next time" seems like a sure-fire way to lose their future patronage/business (consider that a customer not only patronizes the business, but can share their experience word-of-mouth = double-edged sword).

I understand they are thinking beyond just a business lens, but when their primary products are non-custom RTW, it just seems odd to me they are trying to impose this kind of policy. In other words, I would find it far more understandable if they were a primary bespoke/MTO tailor with this policy.

Not sure if that makes sense, but that's where I feel a bit of a disconnect. Just my thoughts.
post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdstour View Post

All,

All fair points taken, and LA Guy, Thanks for chiming in on this.

I definitely understand most aspects of such a policy extending beyond the "business lens", but let me compare this with an analogous business, a boutique jewelry business (which part of my extended family operates) since it serves as a good parallel (although $$ per product is much, much higher).

This long established store is in a major metropolitan city in Asia, selling $$$$-level one-of-a-kind jewelry and fine timepieces (Patek-level and beyond).
Even in such a city as that, we've encountered numerous customers who bring for repairs/service:
  • our jewelry (of-a-kind, made by us)
  • "outside jewelry" (made by other stores),
  • fine timepieces (same brands as what we sold, but not purchased from us)

Now it makes sense to ask that clients bring our pieces to our shops (since we made them one-of-a-kind and know best how to fix them), or to do minor repairs on less complicated "outside" jewelry, or to service watches (since we have relationships with the original vendors).

At the same time we service existing clients to show we value their business (as they have purchased from us in the past) and to service new customers (in the luxury business, customer service goes a long way in being a differentiator).

However, to tell a customer we wouldn't help them "next time" seems like a sure-fire way to lose their future patronage/business (consider that a customer not only patronizes the business, but can share their experience word-of-mouth = double-edged sword).

I understand they are thinking beyond just a business lens, but when their primary products are non-custom RTW, it just seems odd to me they are trying to impose this kind of policy. In other words, I would find it far more understandable if they were a primary bespoke/MTO tailor with this policy.

Not sure if that makes sense, but that's where I feel a bit of a disconnect. Just my thoughts.

So, I don't anything about the way jewelers operate, but what works in one category does not always translate into another category.  For example, car dealerships rely on large part on a strong customer base for post-purchase maintenance.  So certainly, to NOT service any car brought into them does not make any sense.  

 

I suspect that what works for any specific industry depends on the number of alterations/repairs/maintenance visits needed for a specific product, compared to the price of the product itself.  For something like a car, you are going to need to bring that sucker in every year for a tuneup, and then to get your snow tires put on.  And then you are going to need oil changes.  And you are going to need new tires, etc...  It's a lot of $$$ spent on the upkeep of that single car purchased.  I expect that the same goes for fine jewelry and especially watches, which require anything from battery changes to full refurbishings regularly.  

 

I've bought... what, 2-3 articles of clothing for myself this month alone.  And I've gotten some of them altered, and I'll probably not need to pay for alterations again until they wear out naturally.  The garment business depends, on large part, on new sales, and high turnover.  You get something in a month late, and you are kissing away a ton of your margin, since you've effectively shortened your selling time by 20%, and the selling time at 100% retail by about 30%.  The margins on alterations are pretty low, and the absolute spends are also low.  I have had extensive work done on a suit.  And about 4 hours of work cost about $250.  Both the fractional and absolute profit is pretty low.  I compare this with the work I recently had done on my wedding band.  It needed to be made a size larger (I'm not as small as I was 10 years ago), and buffed out.  I am pretty sure that that did not take more than... maybe 20 minutes of the jewelers time.  The additional platinum cost $100.  The work itself cost $100.  I'm not an accountant, but I sure can count.  Right after we went in, someone else went to get their batteries switched out.  Cost $10 or something.  Took a minute to do.  My car example?  We got the tires changed out.  Took 15 minutes.  Cost $75 or something.   We'll be back in a few months to get the snow tires taken off, and that will be another $75 and 15 minutes, as long as nothing else needs fixing in the meantime.  And we have to wait in line to get the car worked on, so they are doing this in volume.  Essentially, everyone needs this service.  

 

Anyway, tldr summary: what works in one industry does not necessarily translate into another industry.

post #14 of 16
Re. the damage of "word of mouth" depends on the type and level of service expected from that specific industry. If someone is refused service, or even served more slowly than other patrons, at a restaurant, for anything short of throwing stuff across the room, people are immediately suspicious. Clearly, as the mixed comments on this thread show, what is considered reasonable for a retailer is somewhat different.
post #15 of 16
I hear it all the time from retailers that it's becoming increasingly impossible to find decent tailors to do alterations in-house so they are getting backed up with work. If a store is not able to service their own customers in a decent amount of time it stands to reason that they would not want to take in work on "outside" garments. Fok makes a good point about the examples not being analogous (I am a tailor and my brother is a goldsmith so I am somewhat familiar with both business models).
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