Of store searches and inventory, part I

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Of the common questions I get via email, "Have you ever done a store search for an item?" is up near the top. A store search entails calling the customer service line (1-800-309-2500 for those keeping score) and having a rep look for an item for you. Having done this several times, I've got some tips for how to successfully find the item you so desperately crave. This first post deals with the logistics of doing a store search.

Often times people ask me if Anthropologie will do a store search for sale items. Absolutely. Will they search for items that are sold out online? They will try but after a certain amount of time the item is removed from the system. Can the 1-800 number have an item sent to you from a store? No, you have to call the store directly.

When you're going to do a store search there are three numbers you'll want to have. First is the phone number of the store you're going to call. Second is the online item number, aka the style number. Third is the store SKU (we'll discuss this below).

The easiest way to get the online Item Number is from the product page. If an item is sold out do a Google Search for the product name. For example, if I Google "Armana Jasmine Cardigan" the result from Anthropologie.com is about halfway down the first page. Click through to the product page and we see that the style # is 810184. Now we're ready to call Anthropologie.

When you call Anthropologie explain that you are looking for help finding an item in a store. Give them the item number. The rep will tell you if the item is available and if so what stores have it. I have found this to be hit and miss -- I usually call twice about an item before giving up, as inventory seems to fluctuate throughout the day. The stores also report their inventory to customer service on Sundays, so Monday morning is your best shot at discovering a hard-to-find item. The rep should automatically give you the phone numbers of those stores but if they don't ask -- it'll save you time. Before hanging up make sure you also get the store SKU. This is different than the style number and may help the store locate the item more quickly.

Now you're ready to call the store. It's a good time to break out your patience as it will be required. Try not to call stores during their busiest hours: lunch and right after work. You'll get better service if you call off-peak. I've had pretty good success calling just as the store opens. Employees have had time to prep and are usually in a good mood. When you call you can try referencing an item by name...but note that store inventory systems don't use those names so if they're not in front of a cash register they may not be able to reference the website. Providing the store SKU is helpful as stores can check their inventory. If the employee asks for a description it's best to give the brand (i.e. I'm looking for a Moulinette Soeurs dress). I go overboard with the details.

For example when I recently called stores about the Flaxen Wedges this was my spiel: Hi! I'm calling because your customer service number told me you might have an item I'm looking for in stock. It's a pair of shoes -- yellow wedges by Schuler & Sons that have two straps and a fringe bow. They're called the Flaxen Wedges online. I am looking for a size 10." Success! They found the shoes for me. Granted shoes are a bit easier than, say, shuffling through the billions of dresses Anthro sells but you get the picture. The store will ask if you're a customer calling or a store. Answer accordingly. I always verify that they have the correct item by asking them to describe it back to me and I also verify the price. Never hurts to double-check.

Hopefully the store found your item. Here's how the process goes now: you provide your name, shipping address and a phone number where you can be contacted. They'll take your payment information. The item will ship via UPS and it normally takes about 7 business days before I get the item. You won't get a tracking number so it's a bit of a leap of faith. Stores have never let me down if they have the item though. When the package arrives you'll find your well-packaged item and a receipt. Sometimes stores include a nice thank-you note too.

I hope this post helps a bit. Happy hunting! Coming up later today, the second part -- the rant!

Note: This post was updated on 10/27 due to information provided from Anthropologie's corporate office. For more information please see this post.