Best and worst retailers

by Grace aka costofcollege

4 reasons Walmart is the most-hated retailer in America

Probably no surprise to most of us, Nordstrom scored the highest and Walmart the lowest.

When I bought a prom dress at Nordstrom last spring their service was impeccable, as usual.  I have enjoyed the service and atmosphere at Walmart stores in other parts of the country, like Texas and Arizona, but not so much here in New York.

Which retailers are your favorites for service, and which do you loathe?  Are you gravitating to more online shopping, or do you prefer brick-and-mortar stores?

 ***  ALSO, we’re running short on posts so feel free to send some in.  ***

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220 thoughts on “Best and worst retailers

  1. My big issue with Walmart (aside from hiding the fact that I go there from my leftist friends) is that their inventory sucks. And aren’t they the ones who are supposed to have fabulous inventory control? They never have what I came in for.

  2. I also hate Home Depot, because their cash register lines are always insanely long and really slow. Then when you finally get to the register, half the stuff isn’t in the computerized inventory system, so someone has to go run to find out the price, and I wind up really stabby.

  3. Interesting, because I strongly disagree with so much of that. IME, Walmart doesn’t have the most helpful customer service simply because they have proportionately fewer employees, but the employees I have seen are usually impeccably friendly and courteous. The store is bright, large, spacious, well-laid out, and things are generally easy to find, and these points, I’ll note, are in stark contrast to Wegman’s where it’s impossible to find ANYTHING and the aisles are dark and cluttered. Even the employees can’t find stuff to help you, and not for lack of trying, but simply because Corporate changes the layout constantly. So other than for certain prepared foods, I kind of hate Wegman’s and have a much easier time at Walmart.

    I suspect that the respondents to this survey weren’t being entirely objective, though. It’s hard to imagine that Target’s customer service is significantly better.

    In the end, people vote with their wallets, anyway.

  4. My two favorite are Nordstroms and Apple for the customer service and the ease of the buying process.

    I boycott Best Buy as they are evil, lying cheating bastards with appalling customer service and I can’t wait for Amazon to finally drive them into bankruptcy.

    I hate Target less but they also have an issue of never having what I want at the appropriate time. I want a beach chair in late June at a Target near the beach? Out of stock. I want Christmas tree lights 2 weeks before Christmas? Out of stock.

  5. Milo, your Wal-marts are completely different than ours. The ones I go to (and I don’t go very often since they opened a Target right by our house) are dingy and dirty, the staff has an attitude of “I don’t care” and it’s generally an unpleasant experience. I find that the service at Target is significantly better. The employees seem to actually care about helping customers, the stores are brighter. And the merchandise is better.

    My favorite store is still Costco. They have great stuff at reasonable prices, and the staff is very helpful.

  6. I’ll also add that I was very very impressed with Amazon’s TV delivery process. I thought they would just slid it into the hall and be on their way. Nope, they brought it in, took it out of the box, screwed in the little stand, plugged it in to make sure it was working, then packed all the foam back into the box and left with the box.

  7. I have learned A LOT about good/bad service since I started to buy a lot of products for my home.
    Many of my experiences are with local or regional chains, and I won’t share those experiences.

    There are two large retailers that continue to surprise and delight with their service.
    I bought several window treatments after Hurricane Sandy from the Shade Store. They have a local retail outlet that I can visit even though they could do the entire process via internet, or phone. Their samples are expressed and shipped to your home for free. My problem with the store was the result of a local installer that they use in my area. It is a subcontractor so there is a separate fee. It was a mess due to the installation time. I followed up with the Shade Store via email, and they offered to refund the price of the window treatment instead of the much smaller installation fee. This is a retailer that has demonstrated to me that they really care about they customers.

    I had a great experience with Pottery Barn Teen. They have very few B& M stores. I don’t love the idea or ordering furniture without seeing some of the larger pieces because I want to see the colors, or the construction of the drawers. I visited two different B & M stores – one in NYC, and the other in Thousand oaks. The managers in both locations offered to help with high delivery costs by finding discount, or telling me about sales that would result in much lower prices. They followed up with emails. Even though their delivery fees are high for furniture, the deliveries were always ON TIME!!! Their delivery people call with updates and then they arrive on time.

    I had a completely different experience with Stickley. My sales person was out of the store for five days. I had to wait an extra week for her to order a couch that she that I had with Stickley. My couch was delivered 90 minutes late, and they kept lying about the delivery times. My feelings are so negative about Stickley right now, and I will probably never shop there again.

    I

  8. Interesting that they include the Exchange in the rankings. It’s a different sort of store, entirely. Sort of set up like a smaller discounter, but it would carry the widest range of brands, from generics to all the aspirational standards like Polo, Lacoste, Bose, Apple, Coach…

  9. Rhett has a great point about all the stores not carrying stuff “in-season”. You can’t find a bathing suit in August or gloves in February becasue they sell the summer stuff in April and the winter stuff in October.

  10. The only store I visit regularly is Costco and haven’t even been in Walmart in the last five years. I go to Target quarterly for the few things we don’t get at Costco or if I need a last minute birthday gift. My husband goes to Home Depot quite regularly and our impression is the employees have become way more helpful as far as actually knowing where things are located. But the few times I’ve gone in, the only check out lines available are the self check outs and those always seem to have long lines. I rarely go clothes shopping in person, but do shop at Nordstroms online and the free shipping and returns are so easy.

  11. “Milo, your Wal-marts are completely different than ours.”

    As I mentioned in the post, the local Walmart is more disorganized and dingy than ones I’ve visited in the Southwest, (not Denver). A much different shopping experience.

    I’ve never heard of the Shade Store. Somehow that name gives me a negative vibe. Shady Store?

  12. DD – At the Land’s End section of Sears, the selection of bathing suits in July was dwindling, but the saleslady noted that I could try one on for size, even though it wasn’t the style I wanted, and we would complete the order online. So that was nice. I’ve become a big fan of their clothes.

    But overall, contrary to what the article discussed, I really don’t expect or even want a “pleasant shopping experience.” I just want to get in and get out. You can waste too much money otherwise. Eating and shopping should never be a person’s main sources of enjoyment.

  13. We visit a Walmart a couple of times a year that is in the Catskills. It is large, and I find that most of the employees are helpful. The Walmarts that we visit in Westchester or Long Island are very dark, crowded, and the employees are not friendly. I shop in Targets all over the country, and the it is always easy to make returns, and they try to manage the lines if the lines are too long.

  14. The one thing I will give Wal-mart credit for is putting in self-checkouts. I would love it if Target put them in.

  15. Around here, Home Depot has good inventory, but their sales people are not helpful. But we have an excellent local True Value hardware store.

  16. There are some Target stores that I shop in with self check out, but it is just in 1 of the 5 Target stores that I visit on a regular basis.

  17. Milo, being able to get in and out quickly is what makes a pleasant shopping experience, and I can never do that at Wal-mart. I can never find what I need easily, and it takes forever to check out, even at the self checkouts, because you’re waiting for the average Walmart customer to figure out how to use the machines. At Target, I can find what I’m looking for quickly, and usually the lines aren’t very long and move quickly. Occasionally the checkouts get backed up, but that’s the exception.

  18. ‘I really don’t expect or even want a “pleasant shopping experience.”’

    Oh, I definitely do, if by “pleasant” we mean easy and productive. And I always enjoy interacting with pleasant sales people.

  19. DD – What can’t you find at Walmart? I can understand if they don’t stock it, or if they run out; I can understand slow checkouts. But what is difficult to locate?

  20. I hate Walmart but there isn’t one near us, so I never go there anyway.

    The B&M stores I visit are Whole Foods, Wegmans, Sephora, and Costco (although all of them are hell on the weekends with the 3 kids). I will often send our nanny to Wegmans during the week so I don’t have to go, to get milk, bread, lunch meat, yogurt, etc. Google Express has really cut down on our trips to Costco for things like seltzer, pullups, cereal, etc., and random Target runs for toothpaste etc. – I will just order those things via Google now and they magically appear later in the day. I do go to Target with the kids *once in a while* to get shorts, coke zero, band-aids, etc. Target is closer to us than Walmart but still 15-20 minutes away.

    DH goes to Home Depot much more often than I do, so he knows where everything is.

    I shop for clothes and shoes almost exclusively online – Boden, Nordstrom, J Crew, Old Navy, Zappos, etc. Only places with free shipping. :)

  21. My Wal-Mart experiences have generally been as Milo describes across the several stores in our general area and the one in Cortez, CO that I’ve been to.

    Milo, I’m surprised at your Wegmans experience (not the moving things all the time…ditto here); when I can’t find something, someone can help me. But then again, we’re woefully inefficient especially re weekend food needs so sometimes I’m there Friday eve, Sat & Sun for small pickups.

    Lauren – never had that experience with Stickley here. Always prompt, on-time. And we have a LOT of Stickley furniture.

  22. Fred – They help, and they’re very nice, but they often don’t know either, and they’re the ones who shrug and say “Yeah, they keep moving this stuff around on us.”

    Also, I just want to yell to someone in that store “Turn up the fuck1ng lights!” They’re trying too hard to not appear “big box.”

  23. Google Express isn’t here, either, but we have Instacart. I’ve used it occasionally.

  24. Milo – when we first moved here, the (lack of) lighting was what we noticed at Wegmans. Not a problem since they (re)built so many stores around here. And your store(s) can’t be much older than 10 years, so I’m surprised.

  25. Interesting. I love Wegmans and will drive the 30 mins to the one closest to our house. Never had a problem findings things. I haven’t been to a Walmart in years because we didn’t have one until recently and it has never become part of the stores I think to go to when I need something. No Costco because I don’t like to stockpile things, but I have heard they have good meat, so I am considering joining. For clothing, prefer a brick and mortar store so I can look at the material before buying since so many things are terrible now, but I usually do online just because it is so convenient. I go to the grocery store (Giant) near us at least 4-5/week, but I don’t really like it. It is just convenient.

  26. The Walmart in our area is no where near as nice as the ones in the South. Don’t understand it. Across the river in PA is a Walmart Supercenter where my husband buys bullets for his shotguns and it is nicer than our smaller one here and not quite as disorganized. One of the things that has gone downhill with Walmart is their inventory supply. They always had fully stocked shelves, now you can go weeks before they replenish an item. Target is okay but on a lot of things their prices are significantly higher that Walmart. Generally the people who work at both places are friendly and helpful.

    I prefer Lowes over Home Depot – just a brighter nicer store and while some of their prices are higher, I have discovered their quality is a lot better than Home Depot.

    I don’t understand what happened to Best Buy – when they first opened in our area they were great for price and service – now not at all.

    We shop Sams and Costco – Sams is a lot closer though they keep promising to build a Costco in our area.

    My favorite grocery store is an independent. It is clean, well stocked and has the best meats and full butcher service. You have to know your prices – they are very high on a lot of items. I go right by another grocery store on my way home from there and will stop for non meat items as they are generally cheaper.

    I hate clothes shopping and prefer to get a lot of items online. If I have to go to a store it is either Macys or Lord and Taylor. I find the Macys is chaotic a lot of times and prefer the more quiet Lord and Taylor.

    I drive a distance to an independent shoe store because they have a great inventory of SAS shoes.

  27. We have Stickley furniture, and we had positive experiences in the past.
    This is the first purchase we made there in about five years. I probably should follow up with someone in their corporate area to see if I can get some money back.

    BTW – I recommend this sofa/couch company; American Leather. Our new office has to function as a guest room. We don’t have many long term guests, but we wanted them to have a comfortable place to sleep even with a sofa bed. We didn’t have enough room for a full or queen size bed, but these are actually comfortable. There is a choice of three different mattress types. We didn’t splurge on the Tempur-pedic since we don’t have a lot of guests, but it was nice to have a choice of three mattresses instead of something that would result in Elaine using drugs on Seinfeld.

  28. Oh I do go to Whole Foods about twice a week (the second trip is mostly when we run out of milk). I prefer the smaller one near my work, than the larger one closer to my house. This is more because the one nearer work carries more of the things I like to buy. I’ll run into Publix too if I really need something specific. The one near us is rather small but the employees are so helpful and friendly.

  29. I hate shopping and try and buy as much online as possible. I don’t shop at Wal-Mart, because it’s further away than our local Target. I have several grocery stores that I rotate between. I try and go early on Saturday or Sunday morning to avoid the crowds.

  30. Places I love: Zappos (very convenient), HEB (local grocery store with delicious fruit), and Fiesta (local Mexican-influenced grocery store with lots of international foods).

  31. Best customer service for an online store is Onaha Steaks. A delivery came on a Friday, in the summer, when I was expecting it on a Monday. I never go out my front door, so I didn’t see it until Monday, and the steaks were ruined. It was not really their fault, but they replaced my entire order for free. Now I always get email telling me when it’s shipped and I know to watch for it, but they were great.

    I shop at Walmart because there is a grocery item that I can only get there. My complaint is not with the store or employees – the people are very friendly. But some of the other shoppers are just unpleasant. I like Target much better, but it’s a money pit for me.

  32. We have several Walmarts and Targets within close distance/normal driving pattern. The Target with the friendliest/most helpful employees is the smallest one and often doesn’t have what I’m looking for. The Walmart in the poorest area usually is stocked the best and I can find what I want.

    What is your alternative to Best Buy? We don’t buy a lot there – mainly it is Geek Squad use for my HS daughter’s computer. It has been much easier than having DP (who having retired is not very interested in the technology aspect and gets very frustrated) do what is needed to stay compliant with the school’s requirements.

    We aren’t in stores very often other than grocery stores. Agree, I hate clothes shopping and do a lot online. DDs like Forever 21, H&M, Old Navy, Rue21, etc. They usually want/need clothes twice a year. Usually, that is a one day, all day affair stopping at multiple stores and then done.

  33. Utterly off topic. But how do I tell the people next door to keep the music down? It’s a lunchtime Zumba class but the music is so loud that its vibrating my office furniture. I moved to an interior conference room and I can still hear it. I’m ready to cause the radio to undergo defenestration.

  34. As many of you have also, I’ve come to rely on Amazon so much. At the moment, I’m waiting on a delivery of some satin shoelaces. Yesterday I received some shoes for my D, and make-up for me. And I periodically order several pairs of shoes from Zappos to try on, knowing that return shipping is free. It’s often more convenient than picking out styles in a store and waiting on a sales person to fetch them for you, and the choices are usually better.

  35. I do a lot of Amazon shopping. This has stopped my trips to Target, Walmart and the like. Amazon has expanded their clothes for kids and I had good luck shopping for nice looking reasonably priced clothes for DD. We do use Sam’s Club for bulk shopping. Shoes are from Zappos. We use the local grocery chain for perishables. For my own clothes, I like to browse the independent boutiques, where I can quickly go in, check to see if they have anything I like and make a quick exit if I don’t see anything. The independent boutiques have good customer service.
    Of two Walmart locations I can go to, I found one Walmart location to be a better shopping experience than the other one, both in terms of what they stock and how neat the store is.

  36. CoC- my BFF said the same thing. I can’t stand the instructor and I think this week is payback. Last week we ‘took’ her spot in the conference room. I don’t know how it went down but she scolded me for the action. I’m not responsible for scheduling. She’s from s different company and I think feels she’s entitled.

    I think I too wound up today to do anything. I might say something I’d regret. We’ll see what next week brings. I may not be in such a shabby mood.

  37. I definitely prefer a pleasant experience when I shop in store – that means easy layout, helpful & knowledgeable but not overbearing staff, clean/organized, and products in stock. My favorite stores in that criteria are Whole Foods and Costco.

    I buy a lot online, so there I am really looking for ease of use on the website, free fast shipping and free fast returns. Amazon has a terrible website – it’s impossible to find things unless you know exactly what you are looking for. I don’t know how they will ever make it in women’s fashion because it seems most clothing sales are made via browsing via searching for a specific item.

    FWIW, when I’ve been to Wegman’s, I find it very similar to our local chain Mariano’s. They have a great selection with a great selection of ethnic products as well as stuff that Whole Foods doesn’t allow like bread that lasts more than a day and Jif peanut butter. But it is maddening to find things in that store!! Rice is in 4 different places – the bulk section (which pales in comparison to Whole Foods), the Mexican ethnic section, the Asian ethnic section, and then in the grains aisle. Hell, it is probably mixed into other ethnic sections as well and on an endcap somewhere if a certain brand is on sale. It makes me want to bang my head against the wall. I am with Milo.

  38. Well, it seems the elephant in the room is the socioeconomic differences. Who wants to aspire to shop at a store that is aggressively linked with the worst stereotypes of poor people (“People of Wal-Mart,” anyone?)? It’s the flip side of why people tend to vote against tax increases that will affect only people who make more money than them: because they assume/hope that they will one day be in that class. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Wal-Mart customer satisfaction chart was pretty strongly correlated with the country’s economic condition. When you’re under economic stress, being able to afford a Christmas present for your kids makes you unreasonably happy; but when the pressure is relieved, other, aspirational things come into play, like how “nice” the store — and the people you’re shopping next to — may be.

    Personally, my favorite store is the one that allows me to get through my weekly shopping most efficiently and with the least amount of hassle. Wegman’s is currently it, although the constant moving-things-around and over-emphasizing house brands, to the point of not carrying some stuff I used to buy, is really starting to grate (I have complained several times, to no effect, of course). I am afraid they are taking their reputation for awesomeness for granted and squandering their lead in the interest of maximizing customer time-in-store and intrusive displays to trigger more impulse buys, without realizing that the ability to navigate easily and quickly and the breadth of brand options are the two biggest draws for me.

    Costco, WF, and TJs have never done it for me because neither carries a wide enough assortment of what I want/need; Costco has the added hell of huge throngs of people, giant sizes, and unpredictability of available necessities, WF has extremely high prices and zero general commercial brands, while TJ’s has the annoyance of higher prices and basically everything being house brands (I am happy to pay an upcharge for some organic/local/etc, but don’t F with my Charmin). Giant is right out, because it is too dingy and narrow and crowded, and they never staff their checkout lines, so even the self-check has lines 10 people long. Safeway used to be it, until they began to match Giant-level staffing; luckily, that is when Wegman’s opened.

    For non-groceries, it’s Target for necessities and Kohl’s/Target for kids’ clothes. Wal-Mart by us is hell, for all of the reasons already mentioned (I think ours manages to hit every single complaint others have noted) — I will drive 15 mins to Target vs. 5 mins to Wal-Mart just to avoid it. Kohl’s is a mess (well-lit, but disorganized and always crowded), but the prices are good and DD likes their stuff, and we don’t need kid clothes that often, so it’s easy enough to carve out an hour or two and suck it up. They also fit — Target tends to run big, and Wal-Mart huge.

  39. Austimmom- if it helps, both Walmart and target let you see if the item you want is in stock at your store through their websites. If you need something specific, it can cut down on the running around looking for it.

  40. ” But it is maddening to find things in that store!! Rice is in 4 different places – the bulk section (which pales in comparison to Whole Foods), the Mexican ethnic section, the Asian ethnic section, and then in the grains aisle.”

    They also segregate by Totebagginess. I’ve used this example before, but where do you go if you’re looking for a bag of apple chips? There’s going to be a snacks section with Lays and Doritos, then there will be an entirely different section, six aisles away, with things like Pirate’s Booty. There is yet another section of really froo-froo snacks in the really Back-to-the-Earth aisle. It could also be in a section of dried fruits and nuts, but that will be further subdivided into Ocean Spray Craisins for the white trash shoppers, and a different aisle will have dried organic figs. You might actually find different brands and styles of apple chips in more than one of these aisles.

    If they want you to shop by class, they should just label the aisles by household income, or education level or something, because that’s essentially what they’re trying to do. And that also makes me resent them.

  41. I do like the shop online pick up in store that Target has. I have used this for same day items when the Amazon option is out. I use this option at mall type stores as well, to avoid shipping costs. DH thought he would save time by using the store pick option for Sam’s Club but it didn’t work and he was mad.

  42. @Milo – at our local grocery chain – I know exactly where I can find apple chips. It will be with the canned fruits and vegetables. You can find other fruit based snacks there, the regular brands plus the pricier organic type ones. I would have a very hard time shopping, if my grocery store went into segmenting items like you described. They do make changes to group items better but the changes are done in a way that is customer friendly.

  43. ” I was very very impressed with Amazon’s TV delivery process.”

    Wow, Rhett. That surprises me. Since I won’t shop in a store that doesn’t sell cigarettes and beer ever, I use Amazon for just about everything. With the TVs I get from Amazon they leave them on the doorstep, subject to Florida monsoons, random thieves and city code citations.

  44. I do most of my shopping at Amazon, not because their customer service is so great, but because the site works so well that you almost never need customer service. Which is the opposite from iTunes, where we ALWAYS need intervention from customer service (and yes, they suck too)

  45. On topic – I haven’t like Walmart for years. I don’t see that changing. We routinely shop in Target, Stop and Shop, and Dave’s (local chain) for different things. We also have a BJs membership. I have no one-stop-shopping. And I’m OK with that. Target is good for my household items, clothes, things for DS, quick gifts. Stop and Shop for most food/household items, Dave’s for produce and meats, BJs for everything else (diapers, wipes, TP, etc.).

    I like things to be well lit, a nice staff (or rather staff people I can find – don’t send me to the CS desk and have no one there), organized, and don’t move things around too frequently. Well lit, organized, and not moved around too much means that I can hit the store with DS in tow and no one has a meltdown (more frequently me than him). I’ll take a sh!tty staff if I get those 3 metrics.

    I’m much less lenient with a staff when I’m clothes shopping. I need people who will tell me if I look hideous, where I can get a proper size (if not in the store), and show me things I may have missed. I don’t get that a lot at big chain stores. I have grabbed salespeople and asked them to help and a lot of them seem genuinely interested. So maybe that’s a plan when I do shop.

  46. Milo, I can’t think of anything specific, and it’s been months since I’ve been there. It just seems like every time I’m trying to find something, it’s not where it seems it should be. I’m talking non-grocery stuff.

  47. I’m biased against Lowe’s because of a bad experience I had about 15 years ago. They flat out refused to sell us a water heater because they were under-staffed. We found the one we wanted, and found someone and told him we wanted to buy it. He identified himself as the manager of the plumbing dept and said that he was the only one on the floor so he didn’t have time to write up the order, and told us to call back later and we could do it over the phone. We called back later and got someone else on the phone, and he told us something to the effect of “Saturday’s are really busy for us, so could you call back on Monday?” We went to Home Depot and we were in and out in about 15 minutes with delivery and installation set for that Monday.

  48. Costco and Walmart are places where I rarely even see an employee except at the checkout. At the AppleStore, you can make an appointment, but what they tell you is likely to be wrong (at least that has been our experience). TJ’s, I believe, drugs their employees so that they will all have the same bizarre cheerfulness. At FreshMarket, there are always 15 people in line with one checkout open. And god forbid you ever have to deal with an employee at Stop and Shop.

    I went into A&P a week ago, and was amazed at how demoralized the employees looked and acted, There was nothing on the shelves. A jar was dropped and broke, and no one cleaned it up the entire time I was in the store. I guess if you are about to lose your job, that is how you act.

  49. LFB, you nailed it on the socio-economic thing. How many people can afford Nordstrom’s, Costco, or WF? I went to Costco this past weekend with my father, who is a member. In the gas line, we were one of two cars that wasn’t $50K+.

  50. @Houston — Hell, I have a Nordstrom’s credit card, and even *I* don’t shop there any more! Last time was when I bought some jeans shorts on the “last chance” rack and didn’t even realize until I got home that they were something like $80 — turns out it was the “last chance to pay full price” rack. I can afford $80 shorts, and the people are truly lovely and helpful, but, damn. That’s just objectively ridiculous.

  51. I think Nordstroms 1901 in house brand is priced very well considering the quality.

    How much should high end jean shorts cost? I’d think $150 to $250 would be the typical full MSRP.

  52. Walmart is low socioeconomic status mostly where there is sufficient population to have choices. One of my criteria when finding a job after college was “town must be large enough to have a Walmart”, which was about 10,000 people at the time.

    I don’t like Target because they usually don’t have what I want in stock and their milk is close-dated. For example, they cleared out their school supplies and put in Halloween stuff two weeks before school started, because that is their national schedule. I think Walmart gives more authority to local managers for both displays and ordering. So the Walmart school supply manager can order the brand of scissors that are “preferred” on our local school district’s list and keep them out through the first week of school. We’ve discussed in the past that Walmart carries more craft supplies, hunting/fishing stuff and gardening stuff.

    I also know our local Walmart continues to employ a guy from church who used to manage their produce department as a greeter, even though he has Parkinson’s disease and has had to move to assisted living. He wanted to keep working part-time. I appreciate the fact that they accommodate his disability, which has more to do with local management than being either Target or Walmart nationally.

  53. I also think it’s the culture of retail. Way Back When (probably 30 years ago), even big box stores had employees who were dressed to the nines and expected to be helpful, courteous, etc. My mom watched her job description erode over 30 years in retail (at a single store, which was lauded by the corporate offices as the example of integrity). She started out in suits, basically handling one customer at a time from entrance to exit. When she left, she was down to PT hours, forced to stand behind a register because the store was under-staffed and the lines were always long. She could even wear jeans to work. Even the customers noticed the difference and went elsewhere. Now the company is in a free fall. Her store is listed in the table in the article.

    The culture of retail is probably why most of us shop online. Who needs to be mistreated just to buy a pair of shorts? And, as LfB pointed out, who wants to pay $80 for shorts to be treated nicely?

    Speaking of that… I have to buy a fall work wardrobe this year… I skipped it last year to buy maternity clothes.

  54. Talking about WF today, combined with yesterday’s topic…the WF café near us, has lots of mothers with small kids socializing at lunchtime. It is a good place to have lunch after preschool pickup and then head home. No cooking lunch plus less mess at home.

  55. Louise – I have a friend who takes her twins to breakfast every Saturday at WF. I may be a bad mom. Breakfast on Saturdays is in the dining room.

  56. Wal-Mart has an app called Savings Catcher. You scan your receipt and they look for the best prices within a certain radius. If another store has a better price, then Wal-Mart credits you the difference and you can then transfer the money to a gift card. I usually wait I have accrued about twenty dollars before I get the gift card. Since I live in a rural area, I thought that it would take me a long time, if ever, to get any money, but I was wrong. I suspect that people who live in a more urban/suburban area could save lots of money.
    SWVA Mom-did your parents shop at Ukrop’s when you were a kid? What a great store!

  57. DH loves the bar at our local WF. We went there once (after dinner at a restaurant across the street). DH still talks about it.

  58. I don’t shop a lot at Nordstrom – I use them for splurge purposes like my leather jacket, and fancy underwear and bras that I have to try on. Also DH’s nice work shirts. I bought a few things in the anniversary sale this year but ended up returning most things. For my splurge suits (Theory) I either go to the outlet or hit Bloomingdale’s when they are having the cardholder sale – that has happened 1-2x for each.

  59. Milo,

    the typical J.C. Penney customers were the type of people who weighed 350 pounds, wore giant plastic glasses bought during the Reagan era, had shirts made of American flag fabric, drove down country roads to sit on a porch drinking beer, thought Nancy Pelosi was the anti-Christ, still referred to blacks as the “n” words, lived off their Medicare and Social Security whilst complaining about big government, and were obsessed with institutions of authority, such as the army, the church, or the factory. They were more technologically illiterate, had far lower educational attainment, and were turned off by virtually every upgrade that was installed.

    Well, at least he’s honest.

  60. I am still trying to think of a store with good service. I think I came up with one: the guy who sells cheese at the farmers market. He always gives my kids samples, and wants to talk to them seriously, as if they were adults, about cheese. Yet, he is efficient enough that the customers don’t have to wait too long.

  61. Rhett – One of the reasons I like him, besides his infectious and unbridled optimism, is that he is typically very respectful of Middle American values. Therefore, when he wrote that, I figured he wasn’t lying or just snickering by nature.

  62. Denver, people who shop at Costco are pretty affluent, I think that’s why it belongs in that category.

  63. you’re putting Costco in the same class as WF and Nordstrom? Seriously?

    The median income of a Costco customer is $85k, the median for Nordstoms is $100k and Whole Foods is $76k.

  64. Our Costco’s are very diverse economically. You can find the well off in the overpriced meat department, and the less well off buying the boxes of 40 cans of Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee.

    But you will never see an employee until it is time to pay and exit.

  65. I have only been in Nordstrom’s once or twice, and had a heart attack at the prices both times. I did buy my suit for my tenure presentation at Lord & Taylor. That was mainly because I discovered the night before the presentation that moths had attacked my interview suit, so I needed something fast, and L&T is right down the road.

  66. “Houston, you’re putting Costco in the same class as WF and Nordstrom? Seriously?”

    Yes, I am. It’s UMC-focused. The meats and veggies are expensive. Sure, they are fresh and usually organic, but still pricey. The frozen and bulk stuff are not outrageously priced, but they are not cheap. Especially if you buy stuff on sale at regular grocery stores.

    Even if it *were* a bargain, because you’re buying in bulk, you’re spending more on each item (albeit more of that item). If you have cash flow issues (i.e. worry about running out of cash before you get your next paycheck), are you really going to buy 3 months worth of Cheerios at once?

    Also, the cars in the WF parking lot are *a lot* cheaper than the cars in our local Costco parking lot. ; )

  67. Yet, look at the original article – JCP is listed 8th on the list with the category average. So, for as far as JCP has fallen, they apparently have something right according to the people who took the surveys.

    And sadly, that description of JCP customers matches Walmart, Kohl’s, and a lot of other big box stores. It’s the description of middle America.

    Personally, I think it can be saved. I just purchased a bed set there and the quality is quite good for the price. If that quality can match throughout all its departments, the brand has a shot. What they need though, at least in my store, is more employees or better trained employees. I shouldn’t have to wait 20 minutes for an employee to recognize my presence when I’m standing right in front of him. Yet he acknowledge the man standing behind me… so maybe it’s me. I must be invisible.

  68. Milo – YES! Mariano’s does the same thing with the apple chips. They go so far as to light the fancy parts of the store with fancy lighting and wood floors and then the low-class section has much harsher lighting & vinyl floors!

    FWIW, I am perfectly happy that I am buying a bit of an “experience” shopping at stores aimed at my socioeconomic class. It makes my errands more pleasant. Not avoiding “those people” but buying service, cleanliness and better lighting. If I ever lose my job, I will shop at ethnic markets, thrift stores, and whatever else fits my new circumstances.

  69. “So, for as far as JCP has fallen, they apparently have something right according to the people who took the surveys.”

    I think the people taking the surveys just don’t really know what they’re talking about, and JCP is mostly a non-controversial brand, so it ends up in the middle.

    I was a groomsman in a wedding and the prescribed uniform was a black JC Penney suit. I had no complaints about the quality.

  70. MBT – Sorry, I wasn’t clear…I mean that they don’t carry it at that store, so I can’t make it a one-stop shopping experience.

  71. “That Joshua Kennon blogger you linked to has a lot of interesting posts.”

    Yes, I’ve linked a bunch of his stuff, whenever the discussion reminds me of something he wrote. He’s like an MMM who’s happy to keep working as a private investor and business owner, and he has no moral qualms with responsibly enjoying a few of life’s finer things. At the same time, he shares my love of mainstream, middle-class brands. I think that his obsession with Coca-Cola has enhanced my actual appreciation of the drink (I’m looking at an open, empty can on my desk right now).

    He’s all about blue chips and dividends.

  72. I’m very surprised by those stats. Our Costcos definitely seem to have much more of a mixed income level for their customers.

  73. “Our Costcos definitely seem to have much more of a mixed income level for their customers.”

    I think my Costco and Whole Foods both do too, but they are in urban areas and butt up against areas in the city that are most definitely not high-income. I think it’s an anomaly.

  74. I am loyal Walmart shopper, and rate the experience as bad in the store. The online side really works well, especially the receipt scanner that matches lower prices on home delivery. Most stores, Walmart, Home Depot, Target, have an app that will show if an item is stock, so I use that often.

  75. I like shopping at Target and JCP when I do go shopping.

    There is no such thing as a good shopping experience with a toddler (well, hardly ever) so I mostly shop online.

  76. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Wal-Mart customer satisfaction chart was pretty strongly correlated with the country’s economic condition. When you’re under economic stress, being able to afford a Christmas present for your kids makes you unreasonably happy; but when the pressure is relieved, other, aspirational things come into play, like how “nice” the store — and the people you’re shopping next to — may be.”

    That’s pretty insightful, I think. I wonder if that same principle can be extrapolated to explain all those people who tell pollsters that the country is “on the wrong track.” For people who had spent their late teens and early 20’s overseas defeating fascism and tyranny, watching their friends get blown up, and now all that’s behind you, plus you see how much better your children live in 1952 than you lived in 1932, you’re kind of optimistic.

    OTOH, when abundance, comfort, and relative peace is all you’ve ever known…

  77. “Our Costcos definitely seem to have much more of a mixed income level for their customers.”

    WF seems similar in terms of mixed income levels. . You have a lot of hippies and health nuts who have modest incomes but are very interested in what they eat.

  78. Milo – Joshua Kennon is so smart, he makes my head hurt sometimes, but I enjoy his blog so thank you for posting it. Are you going to apply for your assets to be managed by him?:)

  79. We spend the most money at Costco and Amazon. Costco is *not* an exclusive shopping experience here. It’s always an ordeal, in fact, because it is so, so mobbed. The aisle intersections get gridlocked often on weekends and then you’ll have to wait until everyone figures out who can back up where to let which cart past so cart traffic can start moving again. But previous discussions have brought out that the relative savings from shopping at Costco versus the grocery store are much more significant in Hawaii than elsewhere in the country, so that could be part of it. And it is true that Costco tends to run middle class and up, whereas the Sam’s Club I go to has some noticeably poorer families shopping there.

  80. Atlanta – No, I don’t think so. I love his writing and philosophies, but he’s very tight-lipped about his own investments and performance. It’s easy to write about these great picks in hindsight, but I’m not sure he’s ever demonstrated any special ability to predict the future. He does a lot of looking back and saying “Imagine if you’d bought…”

    Also, his philosophies are all about simple, direct ownership, dividend reinvestment, companies that you’re already familiar with, and never, ever, ever sell. So why pay him to buy Coke and P&G and Hershey and Disney? I could just do that myself.

  81. I haven’t read the comments yet, but I just had a horrible customer experience with Nordstroms. This reminds me that I need to write to them, because my call to their Customer Service was 30 minutes long and still did not end with my issue being resolved.

  82. No surprise to most of you – I shop mostly online – Amazon and FreshDirect. Hate the Target near us – never has what we came for, with a recent exception for boys socks, underwear and athletic pants. Macy’s is OK for most clothing, H&M is good for skinny jeans but the tellers are either fine or totally awful. Recently splurged for work clothes at Saks, excellent service.

    Best Buy – surprisingly terrible selection. We went to GameStop and were in and out in 15 minutes.

    Has anyone tried StitchFix?

  83. ATM – I’ve done Stitch Fix. They have sent me jeans that fit well, but in general I don’t find the clothing they send particularly well made, so I only used it twice.

  84. I am trying to think of stores (physical) I shop in regularly (it’s only a few to start with: Home Depot & Lowe’s, Target, Wegmans, the other local grocery chain, CVS, TJs) where I like the shopping ‘experience’. Like as others have described: that means I can get in, find what I want, pay, and get out quickly/efficiently. All those seem to generally be ok; maybe that’s why I shop there most frequently. But honestly I detest most kinds of ‘store’ shopping, the exception being groceries, so I just try to avoid it at all times.

  85. ATM – Stitch Fix is not great. I tried it once. They market more to casual clothes. I had asked them for “black work pants” and they sent skinny jeans – totally not OK – and the “blouse” they sent was weekend-only wear also and not great quality. BUT if you are looking for fun weekend clothes and hate to shop, it seems like it would be a fun thing to try a few times.

  86. I use StitchFix for what L describes – fun casual clothes. I despise shopping but like having things to wear. It’s been perfect for cute tops and trendy accessories, but I wouldn’t rely on it for work attire.

  87. Of the monthly-box-o’-stuff services, I’ve been doing Ipsy for a few months. It’s fun. Totally unnecessary spending, but at $10/month, an acceptable indulgence.

  88. “How much should high end jean shorts cost? I’d think $150 to $250 would be the typical full MSRP.”

    Holy hell, Batman, I’m not Paris Hilton. Besides, on my rapidly-approaching-a-half-century body, it would be like buying a $20K Aga when you plan to order takeout every night.

    “OTOH, when abundance, comfort, and relative peace is all you’ve ever known…”

    I think you’re on to something. If my Granny weren’t so nice, I suspect every complaint would be met with, “hey, at least we’ve avoided WWIII for 70 years now!” I know we frequently argue/joke about your optimism vs. my pessimism, which probably come from our respective upbringings and experiences. But on the plus side, living with that constant “sword of damocles” feeling always leaves me amazed and thrilled when we make it through another year without things going totally in the crapper. :-)

  89. Holy hell, Batman, I’m not Paris Hilton.

    Don’t you have a household income deep into the 6 figures, almost 7?

  90. And on a totally unrelated matter, I am crushed to realize I might have a dairy issue. I totally crashed and burned on Whole 30 the other day — kids wanted pizza, and I just. could. not. take. one. more. day. But I still decided to add stuff back in one thing at a time. So that night I limited myself to bread, and went back to “clean” yesterday. No issue. So today I had what I was really craving: leftover mac and cheese casserole. 2 hrs later, stomach cramps, some bruised-innards feeling, and even weirder, I was having the shortness of breath thing I get periodically that the docs have found no reason for (this is what induced the “panic attack” suggestion a few years ago when the tests didn’t show anything, which in turn induced a fit of unreasonable rage against the medical profession in general). And I realized that I hadn’t had that the whole time I had been on the diet.

    So, damn. More testing to do — will go back to clean again, then test again with other dairy stuff — but, damn damn damn. I LIVE on dairy.

  91. “on my rapidly-approaching-a-half-century body”

    Um, speaking from the other side of half-century, that’s exactly why I need and feel entitled to the expensive jeans! Seriously, any old thing looks cute on a young body, but I need lots of help to look even halfway decent.

    Actually, the Nordstrom prom dress I bought was just under $100, and came with free alterations. This compares favorably with other stores, certainly with the elaborate gowns many high schoolers around here wear. I would shop at Nordstroms more often it were more convenient.

  92. I probably have more time on my hands than any of you, and live in a densely populated area, and I rarely go to a brick and mortar store unless it sells fresh food, or is located in the same plaza as a food store, or is adjacent to a service stop such as post office, bank, hairdresser, doctor. I can’t imagine why a busy person would spend time in the car to go shopping. I go to the Mall two/three times a year, when I might buy shoes, a gift or use a coupon. I order almost everything online from Amazon, skincare companies, coffee roasters, Petco, Chico’s, Ebay/Etsy.

  93. Rhett – that ratio ($250 shorts for ~$800K income) isn’t far off… for a $100K income (if I did my late afternoon math right), shorts would be about $30… that’s kinda standard at the Old Navy/Target set.

    Well that just throws my judgement of Paris Hilton (and her friends the Kardashians) on its head… I will bet that they replace those shorts yearly, and I get ~2 years out of mine… sometimes more. There I feel better.

  94. How do people order clothes online when you don’t know what size you are and how the clothes fit? I feel like I “just” went shopping two years ago but I tried on about 20 pairs of pants to find one style that fit, and bought it in two colors. I also hate tissue paper thin shirts and will be returning some of the ones I recently ordered. Any advice on ordering knit, short-sleeve shirts/sweaters that are reasonably durable? I used to shop Lands’ End but they are no longer reliable.

  95. “Actually, the Nordstrom prom dress I bought was just under $100, and came with free alterations.”

    You know, that’s a good point. We did buy DD’s bat mitzvah dress there — it was $135, but with the free alterations (it was two sizes too big but the only one left, and she *loved* it and looked awesome in it), it was probably a decent deal. We will likely go back for more fancy stuff.

    The other thing that happened in the interim is I discovered WHBM and bought a whole new wardrobe there. So I just haven’t had to do as much clothes shopping lately, and when I do, I start there. It’s not cheap, but it’s still cheaper than Nordstrom’s, and the ladies are very nice (of course, for a while that was probably because they recognized me personally as I was replacing all the clothes that didn’t fit any more and knew a nice commission was on the way. . . ).

  96. “How do people order clothes online when you don’t know what size you are and how the clothes fit?”

    Not the target audience here — my answer is that I limit it to kid stuff, where you can err on the large side and feel safe. I *never* return anything (it’s a quirk, I know; it makes me extremely anxious), so it’s just too big a risk and a hassle unless I’m replace an exact thing.

  97. Mooshi – that A & P has always been the pits. I’ve seen bugs on the shelf in that location.

    I know you think Nordstrom is expensive, but they have great sales AND very good customer service. I was trying to think of any store/restaurant/service near you that has good customer service. I think you’e right that it is unusual in the county. I’ve been disappointed over, and over by the local outlet of national companies that supposedly offer good customer service such as Acura and BMW.

    I’ve experienced good service in some small mom and pop shops, but the Shade Store is the only recent example I can think of that went out of their way to fix a problem. I do think that most of the people in the local L & T are helpful. They will usually check for the lowest prices with promotions or coupons that they know about even when I don’t know about the extra % off.

  98. I buy clothes online all the time, but I stick with brands that I know. I have been happy with pretty much everything from JJill – their clothes seem to fit my body well. I also like NorthStyle. I find Lands End to be too frumpy for my taste. Hanes.com is great for underwear, but also basics – their tank tops and tunics are cheap, come in lots of colors, and wear well.

  99. And all my shoes come from Zappos. I know the prices are high, but the convenience, oh the convenience.

  100. WCE – I have a tailor’s measuring tape. I had DH help me get my measurements. I find the store’s online size chart and match up my measurements as close as I can. I also look at the cut of the clothes – I know my problem areas so I tend to skip online shopping for those. For places where I’m unsure – I just skip it (unless they have free return/exchange shipping). I haven’t shopped there in a while, but LLBean used to have really nice quality shirts – I think all my work polos came from there; and I still wear a few of their shirts years later. And they have free shipping.

    My online shopping is really only for shirts and some pants. On the whole, I need to try pants on to see if they fit well. I’ve had online retailers tell me the inseams are 33″. That should fit me perfectly. I get them home and find out that it’s either 35″ or 32″. The longer length can be hemmed, but the shorter just looks horrible on me.

  101. Places like Nordstrom and Boden have a suggested size based on past orders and what size you are in other brands which is somewhat reliable. J.Crew has been fitting me oddly lately (too big and I haven’t lost weight).

    LfB – my condolences about the dairy thing. I could give up gluten more easily than dairy so I understand how you feel.

  102. How do people order clothes online when you don’t know what size you are and how the clothes fit?

    I read something years ago (maybe in Paul Fussell’s Class?) pointing out that catalogs aimed lower on the income scale only include clothes that are either one-size-fits-all or easy to fit, like t-shirts/sweatshirts. That may have changed a bit now that more stores have online and B&M components allowing you to do returns to the store, but there still seems to be a lot of truth in it. Buying clothes online has a greater element of risk — you may have to deal with returns, or just give away the stuff you don’t end up liking — so it’s going to have greater appeal for people with more money than time.

  103. I bought two wrinkle-free Van Heusen button up shirts that will fit when I’m done nursing. As Mooshi observed, I am painfully dull, but I fit in with my colleagues.

  104. I hate Walm art, it is full of people who have nothing better to than hang out at Walmart. Target is just a much more pleasant experience. The store is clean, brightly lit, and the staff is friendly. Well worth the slightly higher prices.

    So, um, Nordstrom is my go to for clothes for my daughters and myself. The staff is exceeding helpful, the clothes are good quality. Their shoe department is encouraging one daughter to find a very lucrative career.

    One daughter has a little difficulty with their sizing. She has an hourglass figure and is 5’4″, she has difficulty finding clothes anywhere. Does anyone have suggestions on where to shop?

    Milo has a very interesting point. I’ll assume that no one wants to go thru or have their kids go through the deprivations endured by the greatest generation, but how do you encourage/develop the understanding that peace and prosperity is really pretty wonderful.

  105. LfB, I’ve seen some people take Lactaid pills before they want to eat dairy. I wonder if that would work for your diet. I know it doesn’t work if you have an allergy, but it does seem to reduce the symptoms so they can eat pizza!

  106. “it is full of people who have nothing better to than hang out at Walmart.”

    This is why I hate Michael’s with an abiding passion of which even Rocky would be proud.

  107. @Lauren — thanks. My mom became lactose-intolerant as she got older, so it’s not a surprise, and I know she has found ways to manage it. But I’m currently in the whiny/pouty stage, not quite ready for the “time to figure out what to do about it” stage.

  108. During my recent car shopping I received lackluster service.

    At one dealership, although I had made an appointment to test drive a car, nothing was ready and they had to hunt down a slacker sales guy to get the car ready. The sales guy offered no information, didn’t explain any features, and unenthusiastically answered my questions. I had to ask for his card and for brochures. He was the extreme opposite of a pushy car salesman.

    At another place I had the same problem — although I had made an appointment I had to wait for them to get the car ready to test drive. The salesman was nice, but he had other customers he hurried to after us. Then I received a follow-up email from the manager asking if I had any questions, and when I replied to it I got an undelivered mail message.

    BTW, does anyone have an opinion on the value of a remote car starter, especially for those cold winter days?

  109. CoC – we have more days of cold and get more cold than you do, yet amazingly few people around here have remote starters (they’re good on the hot days when the car has been sitting in the work parking lot all day, too!). The few people I know who have them seem to love them.

  110. I never used to wear jeans. Ever. Then I realized several years ago that I could like them, so I went shopping for a couple pairs at a few different stores. The ones that the Nordstrom saleswoman pulled out for me fit and looked great, but they were $200!! DW said “just get them if you really like them,” but I couldn’t spend that much. We do not have an income approaching 7-figures. The ones I later found at the J.Crew outlet were just as good to me and on sale for about $35 or $40.

    Regarding J.Crew, though, the durability on their non-denim clothes is sometimes lacking. The cuffs of pants (chinos) fray in an amount of time that I consider premature. I have one of their button downs, and one of the button holes developed a second opening, which means for that one particular button, I have to unfasten it toward the opposite direction, or else it gets caught up.

  111. “BTW, does anyone have an opinion on the value of a remote car starter, especially for those cold winter days?”

    DH has one. I am insanely jealous in mid-winter — it’s one of those things, like heated seats, that I thought was stupid and unnecessary, until I saw just how lovely and nice it was to live with. Also excellent in summer, btw.

    Of course, if you have a garage, its value would go down significantly.

  112. We have a one car garage because we bought this home when we moved from the city. We had NO idea how great it would be to have a 2 car garage in the winter. DH parks outside because he leaves by 6, and he insisted on the remote starter for our car after freezing for 10 years. I know he thinks it is worth every penny because he uses it in the hot weather too.

    I know you will appreciate this as a Metro North rider, but he can start the car from the train when he sees our car across the platform. I can never start it, but he perfected the right technique and timing.

    The hot weather A/C was a bonus that we didn’t even think about when we splurged on the starter. Our car sits for 12 or 13 hours, and it really bakes in the train lot because there is minimal shade. The ability to start the A/C in June/July/August front he train is great.

  113. I did Stitch Fix once. Nothing fit particuarly well and it was expensive for the quality, so I sent everything back. I like the concept but not the execution.

  114. Murphy, I am 5′ 4″ with an hour glass figure. It stinks and if you find anything good for your daughter, let me know.

    I’ve been wearing Eddy Bauer curvy jeans.

  115. Car salesmen tend to change dealerships so frequently, I’ve never found one who actually knew anything remotely useful about the features of the car. I prefer that they don’t even accompany me, but if they do, just please keep their mouths shut.

    I wouldn’t buy a remote car starter because my understanding is that extended cold idling induces the most wear. It’s better to start the engine and immediately begin moderate driving to warm up the oil as quickly as possible. In the days of my old life, we wouldn’t dream of putting a turbine or generator online without getting the oil warmed up to the right operating temperature. Cars aren’t designed that way, but the principle still applies. (To what degree it still applies with modern cars, or whether some other factor is likely to become the more limiting variable for car longevity, I really don’t know.)

  116. I spend a lot in Walmart, both online and in the store. Garanimals fit my boys, and if I know I only spent $3.88 on the pants then I don’t care if they paint or sit in a mud puddle. Other than reminding myself to lock the car when I go to the store, it doesn’t bother me.

    DD is dressed in Tea Collection at school so she fits in with her peers. I buy everything online in the annual sale. It wears much better than other clothes I have bought.

    And I have a zulily problem, because I order but there is no predictability on the sizing across brands. They do not do returns, but I have been able to cancel orders when I realize it is the wrong size or something.

  117. Murphy– Same 5’4″ and hourglass. I had good luck with jeans at Lucky (though they are around $100). I had to try on I-don’t-know-how-many-pairs before that. I still can’t wear most button down shirts because they either gap or they are enormously large not to have the buttons gap. It becomes tricky to find things that fit properly and are still cute.

  118. J Crew will give you a refund or store credit If you have quality issues. This is for a regular J Crew store since the clothes in the outlet are manufactured just for the outlets. Their policy isn’t as generous as Lands End or LL Bean, but it is decent.

  119. Murphy – I am taller than that, but have an hour glass shape. Banana works well, as does Ann Taylor. They have petites there, so maybe those would work? H&M basics fit, too. Boden does not work well for me. Makes me look super frumpy and I imagine it gets worse as the person gets shorter.

  120. Button-down shirts do not work for me at all! I always wore shells under my suit jackets, never, ever a button-down. Fake wrap dresses are good for me (but not real ones). Skirts and light weight sweaters were my standard attire for work. Dresses with belts are good, too. And strangely, peplums are very flattering on me.

  121. “This is for a regular J Crew store since the clothes in the outlet are manufactured just for the outlets.”

    What?? That’s outrageous! :)

    So much for them. Back to Sear’s for me.

  122. Murphy, I would suggest that for things like jeans, she find a brand that works for her and stick with that. She’ll want to try a bunch, especially from brands that have different fits available, and may want to google for brand suggestions.

    For clothes generally, she might do well to look at places that have a retro style since clothes harking back to the 30s-50s are going to flatter her a lot more than clothes harking back to the late 60s and the 70s. So ModCloth would be an obvious place to start.

  123. Milo – I was in McLean today – kept looking for you even though I don’t know what you look like!

    I’m always amazed that the Apple store is always full of young men. Like on a Tuesday at 10 am, full of people. Doesn’t anyone work anymore? I also hate that you have to have an appointment even to buy a phone!

  124. I’ve had good luck with Anne Taylor, but I can’t imagine that suiting most teens. I used to have good luck at Express when I was a teen/college student, but I haven’t been in one in years.

    Our closest Walmart is approximately 30 miles away. (There is one closer one but it’s over a bridge, and I’m not fighting traffic plus paying a toll to go to Walmart.) It’s dingy and sad. We’ve been in Walmarts in other parts of the country that are well lit and staffed, but the ones near us are just not worth the effort. I used to find a lot of things at JC Penney, but the last time I was looking for little girl dresses for the holidays, everything they had was either really poorly made, or looked like tiny versions of trashy teen clothes. I haven’t been back in a while.

  125. Moxie– You can just walk in and buy something. You don’t need an appointment for them to take your credit card ;)

    People were talking about self-checkout earlier. I hate self checkout. Hate it. Usually someone is ahead of me in line who can’t figure out how to do it, and the resulting mess takes so long to clean up that having an actual checker would be faster.

  126. Tulip,

    You do need an appointment to buy an iPhone in: New Hampshire, Delaware, Oregon, and Alaska.

  127. “It’s better to start the engine and immediately begin moderate driving to warm up the oil as quickly as possible. In the days of my old life, we wouldn’t dream of putting a turbine or generator online without getting the oil warmed up to the right operating temperature.”

    Ok, explain, please, not following. Turbine: you presumably have to start it idling to warm it up, right, and sort of ramp up slowly before you get to full load and make it actually go to work? So wouldn’t turning a car on but leaving it idle serve the same purpose? I see “load” as the turbine version of “put the car in gear.” So I’d think you’d want to let the engine idle for a few mins before you force the engine to make the car go.

    At least, that’s my recollection of the advice I got when I lived Up North. Which makes it is exactly as reliable as all the other advice I’ve gotten from generic well-meaning strangers (as interpreted by a 20-yr-old with zero mechanical training or experience to boot).

  128. Tulip – I had luck with buying stuff like chargers and cases but the last time I wanted to get a phone it was a whole thing!

    Hating shopping with my teen daughter. She is as tall as a small woman but built like a girl. So dresses for girls are obscene on her and a woman’s extra small and most of the juniors stuff is still to mature for her stylistically (cut outs and bare backs) Not a girl, not yet a woman. I’ve been humming Britney all day.

  129. Rhett– Ah. I suppose I could have googled that one, but I’m surprised. Something new for today. I’ve gone straight in to buy items before, but I wasn’t pre-ordering items in high demand, either.

  130. Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I have never been slender, but somehow I ended with ttwo daughters who are. The younger one has a boyish figure and can find clothes that fit her. The older one just can’t, she has had more and more difficulty over time. If the top fits, the waist doesn’t. . This will condemn me to mommy hell, but it was an epiphany when she couldn’t find a swimsuit that looked good on her. I realized that if she couldn’t find one that looked good, I certainly was going to, so I might as well go for comfort.

  131. I wouldn’t buy a remote car starter because my understanding is that extended cold idling induces the most wear.

    Two words – block heater.

  132. Milo – that might explain why I didn’t see you! ; )

    I love self check – but have spent some signification portion of my life hating the person who doesn’t know how to do it or the person who has a full cart using it and has to keep getting the scale reset. I think it is an assumed Express line! What I really hate is some of the employees at our grocery will come to help you with the self check. I chose self check because I didn’t want to interact with a human being. I have my ear buds in and just want to get out of there!

  133. LfB – You don’t do anything with a turbine until the oil is preheated. And then, yes, bring it up slowly, but at that point, the consideration is letting the blades have their thermal expansion nice and slowly and evenly as you increase loading.

    The issue with a car on a 5 deg F morning is that you’re starting the engine with the oil at 5 deg F when it ought to be around 180 deg F. If you start driving (gently) right away, the oil will be warmed up much faster than if it idles for 10 minutes in your driveway.

    Now, I believe and follow all of this, but, like I said, I don’t know if it’s really a significant concern with your garden variety 2012 Camry.

    Rhett –

    Ginger Reeder, Neiman Marcus’s vice president of corporate communications, says the company works with designers like Equipment, Theory, Stuart Weitzman, Tahari, Furla, Kate Spade New York, and Vince to design and produce merchandise for their outlets. While she wouldn’t confirm whether or not this inventory is of lesser quality, she did note the items are meant for an “aspirational shopper.”

    Ouch.

  134. Murphy, when I was a 5’4″ teen with an hourglass figure bathing suits were the easiest thing, as long as they were bikinis. Does her top size not match her bottom size? Because you can get the pieces separately.

  135. LfB –

    Some more reading:

    http://patch.com/massachusetts/lynnfield/heres-why-you-shouldnt-idle-your-car-cold-mornings-0

    Idling also causes problems with your car, once again hitting your wallet where it hurts. According to both the Hinkle Charitable Foundation and the EDF, idling for an extended period of time causes problems with the engine. The HCF says an extended idle “forces it to operate in a very inefficient and gasoline-rich mode that, over time, can degrade the engine’s performance and reduce mileage.”

    So my idea for a new car feature would just be a small ceramic space heater inside the ventilation system for remote interior pre-warming. The car would be plugged into a household outlet the night before.

  136. For online clothing orders, I order multiple sizes and take back what doesn’t fit. Same strategy for the kids. I only order from places that have free return shipping or a local store that I can return items to myself. I’m not afraid to place huge orders and keep only a fraction of what I ordered, or nothing. It can be frustrating to find a good fit, but I hate actually going shopping. This way I only have to go into a store to return something, then leave.

  137. electric block heaters exist with a thermostat. This is old technology. Not needed for gasoline engines unless temp goes below -10F Not likely in DelMarVa.

  138. Milo – they have those heaters in Alaska. There are plugs in the parking lot so your car doesn’t freeze.

  139. Murphy, I thought you were in California? Does your community have different bathing suit standards than the coast? Anyhow, if she can’t have a bikini, at least get her something with cups and maybe underwire. A standard maillot or speedo-style racing suit is not going to flatter her.

  140. Murphy: Try a tankini from Land’s End, or a tankini top and a swim bottom. My favorite combo is board shorts from Zappos and a bikini or tankini top.

  141. I’m also debating whether to get an in-dashboard GPS. My initial feeling was that it’ss like a built-in microwave. When it goes bad, it’s expensive and a pain to repair or replace. We have a portable GPS that works fine, but the installed option has a few extra features.

    The power rear gate is another similar option. I wouldn’t mind having it, but it’s another thing that could go wrong and need expensive repairs.

    And then there’s the leather vs. cloth seats choice . . .

  142. I am about 5 feet tall, and very curvy. Talbots works for me, as does Ann Taylor. Try Ann Taylor jeans. They might work.

  143. IMO, some of the most difficult years for parents of daughters are from about 14-18. After that, it’s “you’re mostly growed up and on your own, kid”. Not really, but a big difference in how I viewed things.

  144. curvy here as well – second lands end for bathing suits. Also find a good alterations person, buy to fit bust and take in the waist. Eventually when she hits middle age it gets better, but that isn’t really fun either. Also, I find v-necks are so much more flattering and Land’s end have some that are “fitted” that you just have to buy a larger size to fit the bust but the waist isn’t so bad..

  145. CoC – do you have a smart phone? If so, skip the in-dash GPS and download Waze. It is free and fantastic! With my car at least, they want us to pay to update the in-dish system.

  146. CoC – based on our van, the rear gate on Hondas can be closed manually. That’s what I usually do, anyway, unless I’m carrying a bunch of things.

    I agree about in-dash GPS. Also, when you keep a car for 15 years, that software and interface is going to be antique.

  147. Milo – A block heater, because it heats up the engine block, means that there is warm air off the engine block to heat the interior right after you turn on the car. It is the reason that many people use a block heater even if temps don’t regularly go as low as -10.

  148. I don’t use Waze, but Google maps on my phone work just fine, and they have real time traffic info. I don’t want to look at the map while I am driving, just hear the soothing voice before the turn.

  149. I am 5’7″, skinny, with wide hips and no chest to speak of. Oh, and I have a long torso. It is completely impossible to find flattering swim suits. Bikinis accentuate the mismatch in my figure, plus bikini tops on flat chested women look sad. Speedo styles are not too bad, but most don’t go up my long torso. Lands End carries Longs, but many of their styles are too constructed for my taste, or have icky patterns. I also find Speedo styles are not that comfy when you are at the pool for more than an hour. So I usually end up with a tankini top and board short bottoms. Now if only they would sell more tankini tops with plain shelf bras. The full cups are ridiculous on me, kind of like a boob prothesis. Worse yet are the ones with the padding bits, which always move and fold in the wash so I am stuck trying to maneuver this foam tidbit back into the correct strategic position. Sometimes the foam bits even disappear completely, which I never can figure out because there is no hole in the tankini bra part for the foam to fall out.

  150. HM, Although I am in a more conservative part of California than the coast, the issue is that the swim instructors have to wear one piece swimsuits. She teaches swimming lessons for the parks and rec department.

  151. We may be going to Hawaii over Thanksgiving break. I am leaning towards Oahu and Maui. Aside from Pearl Harbor, are there any spots anyone can recommend? We are basically water creatures, when we went before our days consisted of an activity in the morning, the ocean in the afternoon, followed by the pool and hot tub.

  152. @Murphy: do you dive? The Big Island has some of the best diving I’ve ever done (lava tubes).

    Other than that, I will leave the advice to those with much more experience than I. :-)

  153. If you like the styles from J Crew, just sign up for their emails. There is usually a 25- 30% sale in the regular stores/online, AND this is usually on top of some other reduction.

  154. GPS is not free on many new car models. If you want it included with a car at Acura, you have to purchase the “technology package”, and that is an extra $4500-5000. I know the technology package includes more than just GPS, but you can’t just get the GPS. It was similar at BMW. It was probably an extra $2000-$3000, but it wasn’t a standard feature.

  155. Just got back to the office for a late lunch while reading the posts, so I can now barrage you all with my comments.

    Murphy, swimwear for females that’s quite popular here is ‘boy shorts’ (not really boy shorts; they’re pretty short, like John Stockton, and boys usually wear shorts down to around their knees) and rashguard tops over bikinis. I see a lot of pre-teen girls and post-teen women (e.g., DW and her peers) wearing this.

    A lot of teen girls wear this, but without the boy shorts.

    If you come here, you won’t look out of place wearing that, with the possible exception of places frequented only by tourists. I also suggest long sleeve rashguards.

    If you go to Maui, don’t go bodysurfing at Big Beach. The waves can look enticing, but will slam wannabe bodysurfers into the sand.

  156. “does anyone have an opinion on the value of a remote car starter”

    We garage our cars, so the remote start capability isn’t worth it to me on winter mornings. What would be great is being able to remotely open windows and doors after the car has been baking in the sun, to allow the hot air to escape.

    I’m curious about where block heaters are commonly used. I experienced that once, when I had a rental car on a ski trip when I stayed at the Banff Springs Hotel. It was nice having the car heater being able to provide warm air as soon as I started the car.

    “The issue with a car on a 5 deg F morning is that you’re starting the engine with the oil at 5 deg F when it ought to be around 180 deg F.”

    Isn’t that the reason for multi-viscosity oil? Back when I was in HS, multi-vis oil was noticeably more expensive than single, and a lot of people I knew here used single vis, reasoning that it did not get cold enough here to need multi-vis.

  157. “heated seats”

    I don’t need heated seats. What I need are air-conditioned seats, or at least seats that allow air circulation under my thighs.

  158. “Eating and shopping should never be a person’s main sources of enjoyment.”

    I disagree, at least about the eating part.

    But LfB might be well served to take this to heart.

  159. “I boycott Best Buy as they are evil, lying cheating bastards with appalling customer service and I can’t wait for Amazon to finally drive them into bankruptcy.”

    I’ve had pretty good experiences with Best Buy, especially at Black Friday. I order what I want online, then go to the store to pick it up and avoid shipping charges.

  160. “How much should high end jean shorts cost?”

    Isn’t “high end jean shorts” a contradiction in terms?

  161. “But how do I tell the people next door to keep the music down?”

    Perhaps you could ask your landlord to investigate and take appropriate action.

  162. “How many people can afford Nordstrom’s, Costco, or WF?”
    ” Costco is *not* an exclusive shopping experience here. It’s always an ordeal, in fact, because it is so, so mobbed.”

    Locally at least, Costco accepts EBT cards (aka food stamps).

    HM, I’m guessing the Costco you usually go to is the one that’s been cited as the busiest, highest grossing Costco in the world. But even that one has some times when it’s not as crowded as usual, e.g., Friday nights, or my favorite, their holiday hours.

  163. Murphy – try Lucky brand jeans. Talbots petites fits well, so do Nordstrom dresses which I order online now and then. I have to shop in petite section of department stores otherwise the fit is off.

  164. WCE, if I’m not sure on sizes, I buy the item in multiple sizes and return the ones that don’t fit.

  165. I posted the TJX and Marshalls article because I thought of LfB’s jeans shorts and if I were to pick up something like that I would first go to either of these stores. I would also go to these stores for work out wear, kids socks and althletic brand names in kid sizes. This season they had some very nice backpacks too. If you are looking for bedding, rugs, luggage, and budget gifts – they have those.

  166. I never knew that much of the merchandise at outlets is made or bought specifically for those outlets. I occasionally shop at Nordstrom Rack, but otherwise don’t go to outlets much.

    Shopping online for clothes is tricky for me, especially pants, so I don’t do it that much. It makes more sense if I can return the merchandise to local B&M stores, or if I tried something on at a store but I want to buy it online in another color. I am very picky about fit, and sometimes I’ll order several sizes of the same item.

    Thanks for all the car comments!

  167. I am a big fan of Eileen Fisher. Once you know your size, you can order online from Nordstrom and return to the store if necessary. That’s all the “shopping” I can stand.

    On cars, I love my heated seats and steering wheel. Makes a huge difference. Also like the in-place Nav system much more than using my phone or other GPS. DH has seats that cool and uses them all the time. I don’t ever use them. He also uses the remote starter (standard on both our cars) and what is best about it is that the seats are hot by the time you get in.

  168. MIlo – I don’t know about after-market remote starters, but the one DH has (manufactured into the car) shuts the car down after 10 minutes. So, I’d assume that 10 minutes is not considered “extended idling”. DH also doesn’t use it frequently, just when he needs to heat the car up to get the ice off the windshield. I don’t think he’s ever used it in the summer.

    Sky – Tea Collection has an online sale you say? When does that happen? DS received Tea Collection clothes from his great aunt. They are fantastic, but I can’t afford or justify the prices.

  169. I sometimes use Google maps for navigating, but haven’t tried Waze. However, I like the larger screen view that my GPS provides. I haven’t priced all the options I’m looking at, but if the in-dash GPS is close to $1000 I doubt I’ll get it. Maybe, we’ll see. I’ll probably get the heated seats, which come with a package that includes a windshield wiper de-icer and heated side mirrors. That sounds nice, but then I wonder if that means a replacement windshield blade will cost $100 or so!

  170. That sounds nice, but then I wonder if that means a replacement windshield blade will cost $100 or so!

    The heater is in the area where the blades rest when not in use. I’m not aware of any system that heats the actual blade.

  171. Rhode – Tea does semi-annual sales in June and late Nov/early Dec. I love Tea stuff for girls. The boy stuff is much more hit or miss, but it is all such nice quality.

  172. “So, I’d assume that 10 minutes is not considered “extended idling”. ”

    I don’t think that anyone has run long-term studies on this, so it’s really anyone’s guess about how significant the negative aspects are.

    The idea behind the 10-minute shutoff, besides simply preventing the car from slowly running out of fuel, could also have been to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning from a car that was remotely started in an attached garage, perhaps inadvertently by a child.

  173. Thanks, Lauren! I definitely want to hear about your experience.

    Our garage is sized for only one and a half cars, and related to all this is a tale of lesson learned from our home remodel/expansion. At the time, after we had been nickled and dimed to death with modifications to the original plan, we considered expanding our garage to accommodate two cars.. I don’t remember how much extra it would have been, but we decided against it because the total costs had just kept escalating and we knew we had to put the brakes on costs. (The cost for the extra one-half garage were considerable, considering that a retaining wall would have to be excavated and matching stones would have to be purchased to cover the new part of the wall.) Of course, over the years I have regretted we didn’t spend the extra money for more garage space.

    So maybe I should be careful about cheaping out on car features that I’ll regret not having.

  174. I will write to you, or we can talk off line. the nice thing about a Subaru is that you won’t need service for a while. I’ve driven the Forester as a loaner, and it is great in the bad weather. Lots of space too.

  175. I’ll probably get Eyesight, but the CR review points out that the front-end collision part is affected by rain and other weather, and the lane departure warning alert is too sensitive and needed to be turned off on winding roads. I test drove a car with the side-view blind spot cameras and I kinda wish Subaru had that feature.

    But the question that has come up is will our driving skills be affected from relying too much on these features? I guess that’s a problem that will be solved when the complete driver-less car comes out for general use.

  176. Lauren, thanks for the heads-up. I am also a Subaru owner. I think we usually go to Pleasantville

  177. Murphy – I am perhaps less curvy than your daughter, but this year I bought 2 Old Navy bikinis with rashguard top to wear over, and they are GREAT. If she is bigger on top than on bottom, or vice versa, you can get S/XS to mix and match, or whatever. The rashguards are basically t-shirts with elbow-length sleeves and are stretchy enough to be nicely fitted over curves. Athleta has the long-sleeve rashguards, but those are less fitted (depending on the style, YMMV).

    For jeans, my curvy friends like the “Honey” style from Joe’s Jeans, or also Lucky Brand.

  178. So maybe I should be careful about cheaping out on car features that I’ll regret not having.

    How long are you planning on keeping the car? If you are planning on 10+ years, the extra cost for the upgrades is usually worth it for the amount of use you’ll get out of them.

  179. Denver–We do exactly that–keep our cars for 10+ years, so we’re happy to buy the extras. My favorite splurge is a V6 engine on my Honda Accord.

  180. I love my remote start, heated seats, and best of all heated steering wheel. When the air temp inside the garage is -10, a five minute warm up is a blessing. I also like the blind spot warning light, because in this state, everyone loves to passively hang out in driver’s blind spots. I also like the built in nav better than my phone. My thought is that if I’m driving a minivan I want all the bells and whistles.

  181. When DH went shopping for our minivan last year he said the sales guy told him most of the cars with the built in navigation just sit there now that everyone has smart phones. DH has dashboard navigation but it is so old and cumbersome that he never uses it, he just uses his phone. Our kids like seeing the map up on the screen so that’s its only use at this point.

    I like Tea Collection but the girls’ leggings just don’t hold up to my girls’ wear and tear. They have holes in the knees within weeks, so sometimes I buy the dresses but stick to leggings at Old Navy or Hanna Andersson.

  182. “When the air temp inside the garage is -10, a five minute warm up is a blessing.”

    That is just not a liveable climate.

  183. Thanks for all the comments on where to buy clothes for my daughter. I never thought about looking in the petite section. She is smaller on the bottom than the top, and lots of extra small swimsuit bottoms are too big. Poor baby, I know.

  184. I love my in-dash nav system. I am extremely directionally-challenged, so I love being able to glance at the dash and get a sense of where I am. When I drive a rental I’m always glancing at the dash and being frustrated. My dash nav system works even when my phone doesn’t have connectivity.

  185. ” I test drove a car with the side-view blind spot cameras and I kinda wish Subaru had that feature.”

    I put stick-on convex mirrors on my car, which greatly reduce blind spots. They also make backing into parking spaces much easier.

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