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The Customer Experience: another Covid contingency?

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

Bonnie here -- I love thrift shopping. Always have. Sorting through unique treasures, finding hidden gems.

The other day I hit up Value Village to find a couple of t-shirts.

I hadn't been since before COVID, and wondered how the store had changed.

Turns out it had changed a lot.

As we often do these days, I lined up outside waiting to get inside with the reduced store capacity. Not so bad, it was sunny. I got inside, grabbed a cart and started going through the t-shirt aisle, piling my cart high.

When I was done I headed for the change rooms only to find... there were none.

"Excuse me - have the change been rooms moved?" I asked one of the store employees who was organizing a shelf.

"No," she said. "They're gone."

"Gone?!" I said in horror.

"Gone. Forever." She said.

Way to rub it in.

What's a thrifter to do with a cart full of dreams and nowhere to try them on?

I went through my picks, removing the far fetched choices or obvious potential wardrobe fails.

I was left with a handful of shirts. I stood awkwardly in front of a mirror at the end of one of the aisles, trying to imagine what they would look like on.

Settling on 5 shirts, I headed for the cash.

The checkout person was less than helpful.

I told her I lived far away and asked if there was any way of extending the return period since I can't try them on.

"No, sorry." She said bluntly. "We don't do that."

Ok, well great.

Living an hour from the store, there was no way in hell I'd make the trip back to return a $5 shirt if I didn't like it.

I bought the shirts anyway and did some more shopping in town.

In the IKEA parking lot I checked my dignity and found a private corner to try on my new shirts. Using the reflection in my car window I could see that two of them were awful.

Since I was still in the city I headed back to Value Village to return them.

Heading back into the store (after waiting another 10 minutes to get in) I marched up to the cash.

"I'd like to return these," I said to the same girl who had sold them to me.

"We don't do that." She said.

"What??" I said, flabbergasted. They had always done returns in the past.

"You'll have to go find something else to exchange.

"Ugh. Seriously??

It's experiences like this that discourage me from changing the habit I've learned during lockdown: buying everything online.

I begrudgingly headed for the aisles to find some replacement items, settling on a hoodie and a tank top.

At the cash, I ended up owing them more after the exchange.

Well played, Value Village. You win.

Or did they?

After such a rotten experience, I don't think I'll go back. This could be the end of my thrifting days.

They had taken my change-rooms, stolen away my ability to take creative wardrobe risks - and in the process, sucked all the joy out of thrifting.

Another COVID casualty.

While many businesses have had to adapt during the pandemic, I'm sad in this instance to see customer experience fall to the bottom of the priority list.

It's experiences like this that discourage me from changing the habit I've learned during lockdown: buying everything online.

And it's stores that pay the price.

So, if you're a store owner, I beg you: think of your customer experience.

Think about starting it online.

Think about what they need when they shop in-person.

Yes, stay safe. Yes follow the rules - but don't do it in a way that makes them regret coming through your door.

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