An Open Apology to Macys – or – How I Retired My Black Belt in Shopping

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Dear Macy’s People:

Sales assistant with customer in clothing storeI understand that your company is closing one hundred of your brick-and-mortar stores. I feel some responsibility for that business decision and I wanted to explain why I seldom shop in your store, or any store, these days.

There was a time, about a decade ago, that I claimed the designation of Black Belt Shopper. I was an amazing consumer. The best. Really terrific. Believe me.

Somehow, my office locations were always a short drive from my a mall and, with a heavy foot on the accelerator, I could consolidate my travel time and my shopping into an hour. Maybe not exactly an hour, but close. Within minutes, I could be at a declining mall near my office in which Macys was an anchor store. I visited frequently. Even if I told myself I was just getting my daily mall walking exercise (as in, My daily exercise is walking from the car to the mall), the truth was – I was always on the hunt. I would spot clothes, shoes, or house goods I liked; and I would laser focus on the likelihood of said item being there for the end-of-week sale.

BudgetThe truth is I am a Devout Cheapskate and buying retail is simply against my religion. Never buy anything retail is one of the sacraments of my church. I couponed, I double couponed, I BOGOd, I bargain shopped in department store basements, discount stores, and, eventually, consignment shops. Consignment shopping was not in my original wheelhouse until the day I found a slinky, blinged out Alex Evening gown in my size marked down to $8, I was hooked.

Here is my darkest secret. Please keep it to yourself. On at least one occasion, I Seinfelded a jacket I liked. Do you remember the episode where George was trying to save a suit for an upcoming secret sale, so he moved it to a different rack where no one would find it? I did that just once. The jacket was a beautiful, soft cranberry wool. It was in Macys basement. I hid it, I think, in a rack of dresses. The next day, I got it about 80% off.  And, I feel no better about it now that I’ve unburdened myself.

My bargain shopping did not extend to my wardrobe, only. I had a teenage daughter involved in show choir at her high school. Performances involved wearing evening gowns. So, I developed a technique for finding the best buys on formal gowns. Since she looked best in bright colors, I always bought beautiful red gowns right after Valentine’s Day. One sequined blue number, clearly a leftover holiday gown, came from a President’s Day sale on double markdown with a coupon. I think I paid $12 for that dress and she loved it.

Those were my glory days, but shortly thereafter, I began to feel that Macys and other department stores no longer loved me.

Digital Bathroom Scale Displaying OMG Message

Granted, I gained a little midlife weight and could no longer pluck a consistent size off the rack. Liz Claiborne, when it was still a high end brand, did not believe in vanity sizing, that wonderful practice that some manufacturers have of making clothes slightly bigger than their stated size. In fact, I was sizing up and it made the dressing room a particularly hard place to visit. Under glaring lights and in fun house mirrors, I did not look the way I pictured myself in my head. It was a hard pill to swallow and shopping became less enjoyable.

In addition, there was the fact that I was aging out of manufacturers’ target audience. Clothes were too young or much too old.  The petite clothes that my 4’11 required tended to be made of polyester and looked, well, elderly.

     Note to dress manufacturers: short is a physical attribute, not an age designation accompanied by osteoporosis.

     Note to department stores: Is there a particular reason that all the petite sizes hang on the highest rack in the department store? Just curious.

To expand my field of clothing choices, I started to shop on-line. OnlineShoppingI could depend on the sizes of certain mid-price catalogs like Coldwater Creek and Chico’s. Of course, I shopped through portals like Mr. Rebates to get automatic discounts, searched for RetailMeNot coupon codes, and waited until magic catalogs came with the words 50% off your highest priced item emblazoned on them. Shoes came from Zappos or Shoebuys where I could try several pairs on and send them back for free. I joined their clubs and got member discounts. Shopping by catalog or on-line happened mostly in the middle of the night when only vampires and I were on the internet. It was not ideal because frequently items did not look in person as they did in their website pictures.

When I retired, I faced a new problem. It is called lack of discretionary funds. Which is not to say I don’t have discretion. I just do not have a lot of money and most of what I have goes for medicines to keep my age-related aches and pains under control. Old age, as they say, is not for sissies. It is also not for poor people.

Sadly, Macys, this is when I totally abandoned mall shopping.

I now take the catalogs from the mailbox and deposit them directly in the trash bin. It is a waste of natural resources but no matter how often I try to reduce the number of dead trees in my mailbox by cancelling catalogs, books keep coming to me, directly, or to current resident. When we moved, we began to get catalogs not just for us, but also from people with similar names to ours from other addresses in our last town. I often wonder what mail of ours they are getting.

We have been the current residents in this location for about a year and a half. I think I have been to the local mega mall a half dozen times. At least one of those visits involved sitting at the Genius Bar waiting for a genius to figure out how I had managed to lock myself out of my phone. My visits to Macys are mostly non-productive and I weigh every purchase against my current needs and financial well-being.

Sad smiley icon. Bad feedback sign.I have retired my shopping belt and acknowledge that Millennials are the only logical market choice for stores. However, I hear that the young don’t do brick-and-mortar very much. It has something to do with not wanting to deal with real people. Most Millennial shopping is virtual. I hear that you, Macys, are now going to focus your marketing efforts on your website which will require you to seriously beef up your customer service.

Have you ever spoken to one of your Macys Representatives on the phone???

They do not know the merchandise. They cannot give sizing advice. They tell you everything is true to size which translates to, I haven’t a clue how this thing fits. Your Representatives are nice enough people, but Macys online is not a great shopping experience.

I have taken to shopping in my closet, an old Ann Landers phrase for making do with the clothes you already have. It costs nothing and, while I am gradually reducing my stock of waist-crunching clothing, I live in a uniform of jeans and polo shirts. My retail therapy days are long gone and I am afraid I have taken you, Macys, and many other mall stores down with me.

So, adieu, Macys. Perhaps I will stop by to deliver my farewell in person because Labor Day is coming and I’m expecting sale coupons in my mailbox. You may be dead to me, but I am still the current resident.

After Fifty Living™ was founded by Jo-Anne Lema, a genuine Boomer and member of the 50+ generation. As she likes to say, “Our enormous generation is charting new territory – we’re healthier, better educated, and more financially fit than any other generation at this time. And, as we march through history, 110 million strong – unique, new issues are developing. It’s exciting to be a part of the development and growth of AfterFiftyLiving.com. This is a historic solution for a historic generation.”

Jo-Anne spent many years in the financial and operations side of higher education after having received a doctorate in education management and administration from Harvard, and an MBA from Southern New Hampshire University. Launching out on her own, though, has been the fulfillment of a life dream. Jo-Anne believes that “AfterFiftyLiving™ will delight its visitors, catalyze its partners, and will significantly benefit those who engage it.”

Residing in New England along with her husband of 35+ years, she never ceases to brag about her two children and 4 grandkids!

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