*UPDATED WITH A RESPONSE FROM MICHAEL KORS, SEE BELOW*
Yesterday, I had a bad experience when visiting the new Melbourne store of designer Michael Kors. Here’s my open letter to him, entitled, A Tote Too Far…
August 9, 2014
You may not know me but we’ve been friends for a few years now. Well, more specifically, your brand and I have been friends. But I have had a terrible experience visiting your new Melbourne store and I’d appreciate an apology if we’re going to get through this.
A little history
I knew who you were a few years ago, eyeing off your luscious wares in the luxury magazines I devoured, adding you to the growing raft of American designer labels I coveted such as Ralph Lauren, Kate Spade, and Tory Burch. But it was your role as a Project Runway judge which cemented our friendship.
I smiled and nodded my head approvingly with you as beautiful frocks appeared on the runway, chuckled along with you as strange outfits were examined and justified, and despaired with you when you were faced with tragedies that simply could not be considered fashion despite the creator’s best intentions.
That Zac Posen is an adorable replacement but he just doesn’t have your kind of snark. How he can compete with some of your finest reviews?
“If you saw her wandering down the street, someone would probably put some money in a cup.”
“You achieved the impossible. She has camel toe in big shorts.”
Remember? Oh, those were the days…
I’ve sat on the sidelines proudly watching you build your business into a billion dollar brand, enjoying our shared loved of jet-set glamour, cheering you on.
“Oh that Michael, he’s doing so well,” I’d tut and coo to my fashion friends. “And he’s so nice to his mother.”
It’s been as if we could settle down with a nice martini, talk about the cute boys we like, and braid each other’s hair. Except you are follically-challenged and I’m no good at braiding. And you’ve got Lance and I’ve got Mr Luscious, so we’re probably a bit past that now.
Sharing the Michael Kors love around
Sadly, it’s because of your brand’s recent behaviour that I am upset. It’s as if I’ve duped my fans by supporting you.
Whilst I may not have the millions of followers you have, Michael, I do have a rather devoted number around 210,000 through my Luscious blog and collective social media channels. They’re a pretty fab bunch – smart, stylish and funny, and keen to interact. For some strange reason, they keep coming back for more. It’s really quite lovely.
Over the years, I have shared your products, and brand as a whole, through Luscious, with my fans.
From your lavish Spring and Fall collections and glamarama advertising campaigns, to the specific bags and accessories, and especially the plus size Michael Kors products, I’ve blogged, tweeted and posted, encouraging my fans to spend their hard-earned dollars, euros and pounds on your items.
I’ve got Michael Kors ads on my blog and products in my online shop for which I earn a few cents if one of my Luscious Lifers clicks through and buys something, as well as a dedicated Michael Kors board on Pinterest.
And let’s not forget the clothes in my own wardrobe which are worn, for example, for a spot of ladies-who-lunch action with a polite “it’s Michael Kors” nod when I’m asked who I’m wearing.
I’ve been your champion, Michael, and this is why I’m feeling the pain.
A study in contrasts: Kate Spade at Emporium
Yesterday, a Friday, I came out from behind my beloved laptop where my days are usually spent working on Luscious or one of the three books being developed. (The novel, incidentally, set in Capri, includes a reference to a Michael Kors tote, but today I’m re-thinking the inclusion as you may well appreciate.)
I drove into central Melbourne from our Mornington Peninsula home specifically to visit some luscious stores and cafes on my list, and to lunch with my luscious friend and colleague, Katherine.
After our lunch, Katherine accompanied me to the newly opened Kate Spade store at Melbourne Emporium.
It was as expected – fresh, bright and welcoming – and we were were greeted with smiles, gracious “hellos” and allowed to wander the store happily. We examined products, and I asked one of the lovely and attentive sales assistants if I could take a photo for Instagram.
“Of course!” she replied cheerily. “And do add the #katespademelbourne hashtag!”
Friendly and well trained. That’s my kind of customer service.
Katherine had to head off to other things, so we said our goodbyes and I strolled the few meters along to the new Michael Kors store.
A study in contrasts: Michael Kors at Emporium
Sadly, the energy of your store was completely different. Despite it being a peak time for retail-hungry fashion-loving Melbournites – Friday lunchtime – there was no one outside the store, and there was a dull ache of antipathy from the high gloss exterior.
Yet a pleasant looking girl was working on the door as security, guarding one of those silly roped door barrier things across the entrance like she’d been smiled upon by a deity, selected as the selector.
The rope was one of those things you generally see at a nightclub, where a door bitch sneers at you, looks at your shoes and deems whether you are worthy to enter the hallowed grounds of some overhyped establishment.
It was, quite frankly, taking things a bit too seriously, don’t you think?
My overall look was deemed worthy (oh phew!) – my ladylike dress, cardigan, shoes and tote bag passed muster, my branded items quietly recognised, and the all-so-nonsensical rope was lifted to allow me in. But – like that nightclub you wanted to get into back in your younger days – getting in was underwhelming.
There were a few patrons inside the store but staff outnumbered them. No one said hello, there was no polite banter, let alone any witty one liners in the spirit of your good self. It’s not that I’m desperate for company or need any more friends, but it’s still nice to be acknowledged by a staff member, and I was expecting more from your staff, Michael.
It was like being invited into your home but learning that you’d gone off in a huff to braid hair with someone else.
Was it something I said?
I meandered around the store but it was fairly small and quickly perused, and I was a little disappointed by the lack of product range. There was a clothing rack which caught my eye but hardly a proper representation of your brand. I remember some totes, lots of watches, and this clothing rack. Pleasant but not winning me over and calling for my credit card to make an appearance.
I sat down on a bench for a moment to ensure I’d seen it all – walking in and out under a minute is a bit rude, no? – and then stood up to leave. Still, no one approached me to render service, let alone smile.
A couple of other people were leaving before me but we were all stopped by the security girl on the door again, this time for – and said with gusto “a bag check!” as if it was completely normal to experience this in a high-end store.
Er, say what?
You can imagine my surprise, and that of the other people in front of me. A bag check? At Michael Kors?
Perhaps insert your own WTF moment here, for full effect, Michael.
As a lover of shopping, both luxe and bargain, I’ve enjoyed time at everything from $2 shops and market stalls to Chanel and Louis Vuitton. But I think the only time I’ve seen bags being checked as customers leave has been at Target, and their stores are about 200 times bigger than yours, and much harder to patrol.
Have you taken inspiration from Target, Michael? When you were just young Karl Anderson growing up on Long Island, did you visit the shopping centre with Joan and get excited by the Target security procedures? Did you say, “When I grow up, I’m going to have my customers insulted as they leave my boutiques too? Oh, it will be great for business!!”
It’s not that I’m anti-security. I know it’s a terrible and costly thing losing money to crooks, but surely there are better ways of doing it that accosting legitimate customers as they leave your store?
Just how you thought – surrounded by your staff and probably several security cameras too – that I could magically stuff one of your new totes into my existing tote is beyond me, so I assume it’s all the watches which are being stolen? And if so, then why aren’t you handling the smaller accessories with better care?
Perhaps you could have a chat to the staff at the Chanel beauty store at Emporium, just a few meters away from your own store, as they have hundreds of small items they’d be worried about, surely? But there was no rope or door bitch outside their store. And their staff smile and acknowledge you as they ought to. Perhaps they could give your staff some training about watching out for thieving patrons?
And besides, if you really had a problem with me or any of the other departing customers (whom I’m sure won’t be rushing back anytime soon either), why didn’t you take us discreetly aside to have “a quiet word” as the saying goes?
Instead, I had the indignity of having a stranger poke their nose into my tote, and was then dismissed from your store. Yes, it only took a second, but the damage was done.
Is this end of a beautiful friendship?
This treatment of your customers is simply unacceptable, diva-like if I can use the popular culture axiom, and I think it would be fair to say that you’ve taken things a tote too far.
If this had happened to you, Michael, I’m pretty sure you’d feel affronted too, yes? Would you subject your clients Michelle Obama, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Heidi Klum to these measures? Why am I any different?
I’d appreciate an explanation and an apology, on behalf of all the people to whom I’ve represented your brand as a Luscious brand. I’d prefer to keep sharing virtual martinis and being besties, but maybe it’s time to end things?
This is the response I got when I attempted to email Michael Kors via the official website.
Says it all, really, doesn’t it?
I eventually found a customer service email address and was able to send my email.
In the last 48 hours, over 50,000 people have heard about my experience. Thanks for all the support via emails, Twitter and Facebook!
Two weeks later, and still no response. But thanks to a re-post on Facebook and a re-tweet on Twitter, we’ve now reached a minimum of 100,000 people.
It would be have simpler to send me a “oops, sorry about that!” reply, don’t you think , Michael?
Three weeks after my post, I received an email from the Australian representative of the Michael Kors brand.
I was encouraged to catch up for a chat and to visit the store again but I replied that this wasn’t what I wanted – I was after a written response explaining their policies, and an apology. I did not need any free products or special service – I simply wanted to understand why a regular customer would be subjected to this experience.
To their credit, an apology was extended, but no written explanation about the roped entrance/”are you worthy enough to enter our store” nonsense, nor the invasive bag check on exit. A lack of greeting by sales staff is disappointing but sadly common, and little can be said about that other than potentially unhappy and/or badly trained staff.
After several requests for a written response which I could share with you all, this is what I received:
“I once again apologise for the experience you had in store. We value your feedback and it has helped us to improve and elevate our standards.” [plus, another offer to catch up in person]
So, a standard reply and no explanation of their policies. It could have been prompt, it could even have been funny, and it could have answered my concerns. But alas, no.
There’s no use flogging a dead horse, as the saying goes, so I’m keen to draw a line under this experience. Here’s hoping the Michael Kors brand stands by the comment about improving standards so that customers to the store at Melbourne Emporium – as well as everywhere else for that matter – have a nicer experience.
For me, my relationship with Michael Kors is over, as the experience has left a foul taste in my mouth. I’ll no longer be sharing MK products or covering their runway shows, and I’ve deleted our Pinterest board with its thousands of pins/re-pins.
It’s rare for me to share something negative on Luscious, so you can imagine how much it has riled me – both the store experience itself but then the 3 weeks before someone got back to me (despite numerous attempts on my part), and then further weeks asking for a written response.
I hope other brands take note and realise that for every blogger who shares a story like this, there are will be hundreds of non-bloggers who have walked in and out of your store feeling disappointed and even violated, and who will not be coming back. They’ll be telling their friends and choosing to buy the products of companies which treat them with more respect. Sadly, I think the only reason I received a response at all was because over 200,000 people heard about this story (I stopped counting).
I’m grateful for all the great emails, tweets/retweets, “likes” and comments I received from Luscious Lifers through the blog and social media. Funnily enough, I think there was only one odd/negative reaction from someone calling themselves both “Penny Baldwin” and “Nerida Hector”, which you can view at the end of this blog post – it still makes me scratch my head! My thanks to the people who replied to it.
So it’s farewell to the aforementioned “hair braiding and talking about cute boys over martinis” with Mr Michael Kors. It was fun, Michael, for the most part, but I’m afraid we can no longer be friends.
September 17, 2014