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  • Writer's picturePamela Tucker

For years I've been a customer of Leather Spa, the New York City company that repairs, restores and sells cleaning products for leather shoes and bags. They have expertly fixed some of my shoes and bags that encountered some misfortunes and were in need of magical hands. The cleaning and maintenance products I buy there are easy to use at home. I also like while there is a fee charged it offers a local delivery service. So in a nutshell Leather Spa meets the needs of people seeking professional leather cleaning and convenience!

Until about a year ago I had been enjoying wearing a black Prada nylon shoulder bag. One day I noticed a small white dot directly over the Prada logo. The size, was maybe no bigger than a few pinheads. But the dot looked large to me-- as big as the bag! I tried a few ways to remove the white spot but it never disappeared. The bag was then banished to a storage bag and placed in a closet.

The other day, realizing the Prada bag was just the right size I could use these days and I was tiring of the other bags I've been wearing I grabbed the bag and tried removing the spot. No luck.

Knowing I was planning to be near the Leather Spa's West 55th Street location in a few days I left it out to remember to take it and drop it off. However, on the day I was to be in the area I decided rather than leaving the bag for Leather Spa to remove the spot and then deliver, I'd ask to buy a cleaning product to use at home.

When I entered the store Saturday morning several employees warmly greeted me. People were picking up and dropping off and fortunately the store was not too busy. I showed the expert the problematic white spot and asked which product would be best to remove it. He showed me a product and explained it might not fully remove the spot. A reason would be because it is unknown what the spot is.

I appreciated his honesty and asked if Leather Spa could try removing the spot while I waited. I wasn't going to leave the bag because I didn't have a replacement with me. I let him know I could wait for only ten minutes because I soon had to go to an appointment down the street. He took the bag in the back and within ten minutes he brought me my black nylon Prada bag that was SPOTLESS!

Relief and excitement. The bag looked great! I went to the register to pay and asked "How much?" I was told no charge. I was not expecting that response. This was a great customer experience. The problem was solved quickly and the employees were thoughtful and courteous.

Thank you Leather Spa.

Are the any service or retail companies that have surprised you by their great service or employees' attitudes?

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  • Writer's picturePamela Tucker

If not using the self checkout at my local CVS store, more often than not the wait to pay is more than a few minutes for a cashier to check me out. At times the wait is offputtingly long, maybe ten minutes or so because to name a few reasons, sometimes there is not even a cashier at the post, customers are returning dozens of cans and need help with that, shoppers are having transaction problems and might be experiencing issues with returning items.

CVS has a complicated coupon and promotions system. It takes time to review the offers to be sure I'm following the rules. Also CVS's errors / glitches have occurred while trying to use the coupons and promotions while checking out. Therefore, in long run, while frustrating to wait in line, interacting with a cashier might make for a smoother checkout.

In some CVS emails I receive coupons. I click where I'm directed to and the offers are sent to my extracare card. I see the check mark and made aware the coupons have been sent. I also scan my extracare card at the CVS store each time I shop. The little red scanning machine prints out coupons. Interestingly a number of the offers are items I'd never use and wonder why these coupons are sent to me.

Occasionally CVS sends coupons through the regular post office mail and I take these on the shopping trip. These mailers usually include a percentage off coupon for the total purchase, such as 25% off the total purchase. Planning and then the shopping trip to CVS takes more time when compared to shopping at other stores selling the same merchandise.

As noted above, I have to make sure the CVS coupons I sent to my card via my email are available. I need to remember to bring the coupons sent in the regular post office mail and then I have to scan my extracare card at the little red machine. But there is even more that needs to be considered when shopping at CVS!

While in the store I see CVS has offers such as buy one and get the second for 50% off. Does the 25% off total purchase coupon work if I buy just one item? I've asked that question in the store and received different answers. (1) Yes, you can buy just one and get 25% off. (2) No, you can't use the coupon and the only promotion on the item is buy one and get the second 50% off. I assume the answer is no. Once I've lined up all the coupons and see the promotions in the store I collect the items and head to the line for the cashier.

Once at the cashier, CVS presents me with another topic. At times, as the items are being scanned I see a question on the pinpad machine if I'd like to donate to a particular charity. This screen has minimal information. I'm curious why CVS is asking for donations. I like donating directly to a charity. Perhaps they could be more forthcoming. CVS is one of a number of stores I've shopped at that ask for donations on the pinpad. In this case though, since shopping at CVS is irksome and then being asked for a donation, it makes for a poor customer experience.

What do you think about stores asking for donations at the checkout ?

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Updated: Feb 28

As a member of a number of retailers' customer loyalty programs I've realized there are benefits and drawbacks to each of these programs.

In some cases, buying an item is driven by a retailer's loyalty program. In other words, I'll buy the item at one store over another because the loyalty program gives me an additional benefit(s). Yet in other cases, I'll buy an item at the store even if the purchase does not qualify for any benefit associated with a loyalty program. So loyalty programs are important to me; but they are not the leading reason to buying an item at a particular store.

I participate in Bloomingdale's Loyalist, Saks SaksFirst Rewards and Nordstrom's Nordy Club. In the order of perceived benefits ranking them from best to least best: #1 Bloomingdale's #2 Saks and #3 Nordstrom.

These loyalty programs are complex and I'd love to have the time and patience to figure out how to best use these loyalty programs. Understanding how to achieve the full benefits of the programs might not be as difficult as strategizing how to win with an airlines /credit cards mileage rewards programs. But I believe there could be methods to achieve more benefits than I currently do.

Each of these loyalty programs has tiers / levels, with the tiers based on how much is spent annually. The higher the tier, the more and better the benefits. Saks' SaksFirst Rewards has four tiers (Please refer to the box below). The top tier, Diamond is reached once $25,000 is spent. And with that tier you get free valet parking. I'm unsure that free valet parking is something that would encourage many to spend $25,000 at Saks. On the other hand, another Diamond benefit is "VIP Experiences." That sounds interesting and I'd like to know what these "VIP Experience" could be. That is all the fine prints explains about them. Saks should list a few examples. That might trigger members to strive to reach the Diamond Tier.

Nordstrom's Nordy Club is the simplest program for me to understand. My experience is Nordstrom has the fewest promotion days, leading me to paying less attention to reading the fine print in emails and details on the website describing what extras are included or excluded in the Nordy Club rewards program. In 2022 I reached the Nordy Club Ambassador Level. My favorite benefit associated with this level is the 4 Personal Double Point Days. I like it a bit more than the benefit with my Bloomingdale's Loyalist - Top of the List Level 3 Pick Your Triple Point Days.

With the Nordy Club's double point days it can be done at the spur of the moment, deciding to use it while in the store. But with the Bloomingdale's Loyalist's Triple Point Days each of the days need to be scheduled in advance in the App. I don't like to have to schedule days when I'm going shopping. Another difference is Nordstrom Sales Associates have reminded me about these days, asking at the checkout if I want to use the double points days while only once has a Bloomingdale's Sales Associate reminded me about using these days.

The oddest element for me with the Bloomingdale's Loyalist's program is that at the beginning of the year it turns into anything but a loyalty program. As highlighted in green in the box below, on January 1st of every year, 85% of the points in the Loyalist account will be taken away.

I feel Bloomingdale's does not want me to have a happy new year! Above I noted I would love to fIgure out how to best use these loyalty programs. Toward the end of 2022 I recalled most of the points would be removed at the beginning of the year. Therefore I checked my points to see how close I was to earning a $25 reward. I decided if I were far away from the reward I would stop shopping at Bloomingdale's and buy the items elsewhere. Or, if I were close to earning the $25 reward I'd buy if needed and then receive the reward.

Taking away points seems like a punishment and a deal breaker to shopping at Bloomingdale's. However, based on my experience, it is easier to earn rewards when compared with the loyalty programs offered by Saks and Nordstrom and therefore still rank it #1. Other shoppers having different shopping habits might disagree with me.

On the flip side of taking away points at the beginning of the year, the SaksFirst program rewards members in the first quarter of the new year.

I recently received cheerful correspondence from Saks. (Please refer the box below). Even the envelope is upbeat! "Thank you for your loyalty" When the card is opened a shiny silver gift card is attached, with the card stating "Thank You for being a Loyal Saks Customer" That makes me feel good! The only surprise here is that the look and feel of this card and envelope do not match with other Saks branding materials. The color scheme and fonts do not remind me of Saks Fifth Avenue.

What customer loyalty programs do you belong to? Which ones do you favor and why? Do you have a strategy for trying to get the most benefits out of each?

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