The Intersection of Human Error, Annoying Tech and Great Customer Service

Your power drill is not an option to remove a missed security tag on a new piece of clothing. But the solution in this story is probably not what you’d expect…

This is not my story. But when I heard it, I absolutely had to share it. I still can’t quite believe that it happened, but I was there to witness it.

It speaks to how irritating technology can sometimes be, how some people will knock your socks off by exceeding all expectations and how brick-and-mortar stores are fighting back…

Here’s what happened…

Uncovering a Major Shopping Glitch
My wife bought a Calvin Klein dress at Lord & Taylor in Stamford, CT for an upcoming trip. She asked me to take a look for a second opinion
(Entirely unnecessary. My wife looked fabulous in the dress.)
Just one problem…

I pointed awkwardly to the plastic security tag still bolted to the bottom of the dress in the back.
(Wow, that’s a bummer, right?)

Of course, the theft deterrent was supposed to come off before she left the store. Perhaps some technology breakdown failed to detect the device on her way out.

Suffice it to say, the store’s check-out system didn’t operate the way it was designed.
But accidents happen.

It’s not the end of the world, even though these security tags are always annoying. But it’s much worse when they come home with you.

The standard solution would be to bring the dress back to extract the security tag. Except there was a problem… She couldn’t get back to Lord & Taylor in time before the trip.

So what would you do?

Exploring the Forgotten Edge of Customer Service
Well, my wife simply picked up the phone and called the store to explain the situation.
I watched from across the room, entirely skeptical. I was certain there would be no magical solution. What kind of out-of-the-box thinking could customer service possibly offer?

Get this…

The store’s employee offered to drive to our house at the end of the day to remove the tag.


“That’s impossible,” I thought. Even though Lord & Taylor clearly messed up by leaving the security tag on the dress, what store would offer this level of response? Maybe a service call with a four-hour window could be set up in a week or two.

But a house call later that day?

Entering Another Dimension?
I simmered with a not insignificant level of cognitive dissonance, trying to identify some rationale to explain this alternate-universe solution.

And then the doorbell rang.
It was the flesh-and-blood employee from Lord & Taylor.
(I needed to see this for myself.)

And, it was all true. The tag was quickly removed, and the whole episode was over within moments.

My wife smiled and moved on the next part of the evening.

I still felt disoriented.
(Had I entered “The Twilight Zone?”)

Deconstructing the Human Factor
What did this all mean? I couldn’t wrap my mind around an employee from the oldest department store chain driving by our house on her way home from work to remove the security tag.

It’s like a story my maternal grandmother would have told me. (I never met my grandmother, but through old photos, I’ve got a sense she would have also initiated this kind of clever solution.)

But this is 2018!
Huge companies can’t offer this level of personal service!
…but Lord & Taylor just did.

It’s hard to know if this moment of outstanding customer service came from a customer-first DNA in the store’s culture. Perhaps it simply pointed to the problem-solving skill of an exceptional employee.

But in this age of brick-and-mortar stores under constant attack by more efficient digital shopping solutions, you can’t deny this momentary resurgence of the human factor.

Until Amazon drones are approved to fly to every doorstep and are outfitted with the capability to remove a security tag, I’d say this is a big win for brick-and-mortar shopping.

It’s also worth pointing out the value of the human spirit in a world rushing towards the promise of AI.

One Customer’s Opinion
Thank you, Lord & Taylor. I know that times are tough for you these days. And I’m sad you’re closing your flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York City that my mother always loved frequenting.

But you have exceeded this customer’s expectations.