At thirty years old, I’ve been well aware of George Zimmer and his Men’s Wearhouse brand probably since renting my first tux for high school prom. Since that awkward and memorable evening, I’d say I’ve rented or purchased items from Men’s Wearhouse between 5-10 times.
Well, recently I got fitted for another tuxedo at Men’s Wearhouse for a wedding, and it was memorable and awkward in a much less endearing way. I stopped in to get fitted, and 65 minutes later I left frustrated and annoyed. It wasn’t until I parked at home that I recognized the silver lining of the situation. I had had a negative customer experience, but the reasons it was negative could easily be translated into valuable lessons – which, subsequently, I thought would make a very nice blog post. (Sidenote: Sometimes I rewrite sentences to avoid saying “had had” or “that that”, but I’m working to embrace it and put more trust in the reader)
So here we are.
I arrived at Men’s Wearhouse and wandered over to what I deemed must be the rental section. I had never been to this particular store, and while there wasn’t anyone there to greet me, the stores are all roughly the same so I was able to quickly find the rental counter and make my way over there.
After a few minutes of standing around looking lost and puzzled among a handful of other equally confused guys, one of the busy clerks told me that I should add my name to the sign-in list.
Sign-in list? Okay, I’ve never been to a Men’s Wearhouse with a sign-in list, but sure. Why not? So I signed in, and after another few minutes, one of the guys waiting near me said “You’re gonna wanna fill out one of those forms” as he pointed at a note-pad with some sort of rental agreement form on it. Something about the tone he delivered this directive with gave me the impression that I was in for a treat.
My experience continued as such– vague and delayed instructions offered to me lazily by other gentlemen who also had better places to be.
After 15-20 minutes of standing around, I gathered that most of the other gentlemen hadn’t yet been helped either. And because I knew who had been waiting longer than I had, I surmised that I could safely run next door to Target to grab a few things and be back before they called my name.
I notified one of the (well-dressed) attendants that I’d be back shortly, and asked if my assumption about my position in “line” was correct. Her exasperated response was that they were working as quickly as they could, they wouldn’t come get me at Target, and if I wasn’t here they’d have to move on.
After returning from Target, I resumed standing about with the other gents watching slowly as one after another was called for various measurements and fittings, and eventually my name was called. I stood awkwardly in between floor displays as they proceeded to take one measurement every few minutes in between rushed trips to the back to grab a different size shoe or shirt for other renters.
During my analysis while waiting I thought I had figured out that one employee was handling measurements, another was responsible for assisting the guys picking up tuxedos, and the last was collecting deposits; but when it was my turn to be measured my careful observations quickly fell apart. There was no longer a discernible rhyme or reason to their “system”.
They all were sort of doing each role. And the unfortunate result was none of the roles were being done effectively.
In fact, at one point they had taken measurements, written some numbers down and walked away to leave me standing long enough that I had to seek someone out just to ask “Am I all set here? Or, is there something else you need?”
There was more they needed. I resumed my ranks among the other impatient, dejected patrons.
Eventually, someone came back, summoned me again, and after trying on some shoes I gave them my credit card and they eagerly accepted my deposit. I got my receipt and as I (equally eagerly) turned to leave, I realized we hadn’t discussed where or when my Tuxedo would be ready. The wedding would be in Michigan, and I live in San Diego. The logistics of picking up my Tuxedo in a state other than the one in which I had been fitted seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle for the attendee at the rental desk.
So, I quickly googled the stores in the greater Lansing area and decided which one would be best for me, located the store number, and spoon-fed her the details to finalize and update my reservation. Then I quickly left, without an ounce of confidence that my tuxedo would arrive where I needed it, or in proportions that matched my own.
Listen, I’m not an unreasonable guy. And in the grand scheme of things I realize that 65 minutes isn’t that long. But that’s also kind of the point. This minor interaction is a fundamental part of their business. Men’s Wearhouse sells suits and men’s clothing, but they also do a fair amount of business renting tuxedos. So for a business who does this regularly, I’d expect them to have worked out an iron-clad system to get me in, fitted, and out.
At it’s very core, I’m paying $200 to rent clothing that other people have worn for a single evening. If I’m willing to accept that, it seems like making my experience as fluid as possible is the least they can do, right?
Yes, I gathered that they were busy. And I pieced together what I perceived to be the process. But as a customer, I want to be told exactly what is happening, and I want to be kept up to speed if that changes.
We could probably dive in to their whole rental process and identify a number of areas where it could be improved, but before we even go there I want to call out a much lower hanging piece of fruit for them. Communication.
(Nevermind the fact that I rented a Tuxedo 3 months prior and they insisted that I still needed to come in to be measured again…)
If Men’s Wearhouse had simply said “Hey, welcome, we’re really busy right now. But if you sign up here, and start filling out this paperwork, we’ll call you when we’re ready to get your measurements. We’ve got 4 people ahead of you, I’d guess it’ll be 30 minutes before we get started with you.” I think I’d have been just fine with it.
I don’t expect perfect service. It doesn’t have to be immediate. I totally understand what it’s like to be stressed, busy, or overwhelmed. But I’ll be much quicker to forgive mediocre or even poor service if you set the right expectation with me, acknowledge ownership and communicate clearly with me as things change.
I don’t want to bash Men’s Wearhouse too thoroughly, because they’re probably doing some things really well. I recognize that this was a single isolated experience. And because they’re a massive organization, there are things like this that can probably be overlooked without severe long term damage.
But that’s rarely the case for small businesses. It’d almost certainly have a much longer-lasting impact for my business. What about yours?
Things won’t always be perfect. And inevitably some of your customers will end up frustrated. But if you’re transparent with them you’ll find that they’re much more likely to accept your imperfections in stride. Or even go so far as to defend you to others (should you need it).
Sidenote: The Tuxedo arrived at the store it was intended to. And it didn’t fit originally, but the in-house tailor was able to make a few modifications and we ended up pretty sharp-looking bunch.