Thursday, October 22, 2009

Of store searches and inventory, part I


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.

35 comments:

Katie said...

Thanks for all of this info! Sorry dumb question = what is the SKU on the anthro tags? There are so many numbers I'm not sure what is what.
Thank you!

roxy said...

Their tags are confusing for sure. The SKU is the top number on the tag, in a line that starts with "S". The S isn't part of the SKU though.

Diem said...

Customer Service will also do a "charge and send" for you. That's when they order the item for you and send it free of charge. But there is one requirement --- that there are at least three stores carrying more than 3 of that item. The downside is that it takes about 24-48 hours before they can confirm that the order has been accepted. By then, most of the popular items are gone.

Kate said...

Thanks for the tips! I love those shoes and have been wanting them. When you called did you call customer service or a certain store? Thanks!

shortiii said...

Actually, I called the 1800 number yesterday to place an order from a store because the website didn't have the size/color i wanted in stock and the representative placed the order for me! I didn't have to call the store.. also its free shipping!

roxy said...

Kate, I called the 1-800 number for the store's number, and then I called the store.

shortiii, that's great! I have been told that the customer service line will do that for items the catalog has in stock, but if the catalog is out of stock you have to call the store directly. If I'm wrong about this feel free to correct me.

Bronzi said...

Roxy: this is great. I called the 800 number Sunday for an item that I saw was out of stock online and was told that I had to call back on Monday morning since the system was being updated. Being the relentless person I am, I also sent an email with the information about the item. I got an email back later Sunday evening with the 3 stores that had the item in my size. I was able to call the Chicago store and get the item shipped to me. SA was really nice and I made sure to mention that in my note back to the CS rep that gave me the information.

Anonymous said...

The retail sku is the number at the top of the tag. It should be the longest number on it. I am so appreciative that you posted this! I don't mind checking on items for customers but it is hard to find items that only have a vague description. You will have the most luck when you call as soon as the store opens. We are usually working on charge sends the first hour of the day anyways.

AL said...

I actually just did this this morning because I woke up to find that my beloved Stone Garden Necklace had disappeared!! Luckily it's being carried at a store I can drive to, so I'm picking it up this afternoon.

But when I've ordered from a store that has to ship the item, I've had luck getting a tracking number. They don't get the tracking number until the end of the day or early the next. However, when I'm on the phone with the store I ask if I can call back the next day. It usually works for me.

jacquelyn said...

It seems asinine that their catalog, store, and online arms are not integrated. In this day and age they should be linked and seamless. At least we can do catalog/online returns at the store, though.

I remember the days when J.Crew online returns could not be done at the store because they were not integrated. I stopped ordering from J.Crew online once a store came to Tucson because it was annoying to not be able to do online returns in store. And with Victoria's Secret, they might as well be two different businesses altogether.

The mixed messages from store staff, online customer support, and experiences from others is also troubling. I've been told and heard different, conflicting policies. I was told at a store in Scottsdale that they cannot order something online for you at the store if the store does not have the item, yet others seem to be able to make it work at their store. The Tucson store (my store) has pretty good customer service but even there I have heard different things from different SAs.

elledee said...

ahh I need that pink/red sweater. I just got all this stuff at anthro, the tights are to die for: http://glammed.blogspot.com/2009/10/anthro-junkie.html

kater said...

hey everyone - this is totally OT but I was in NYC on a whirlwind trip and went to the soho anthro for the first time. and OMG the sale section was HUGE!!! I have never seen anything like it! you NYC gals are so lucky to have that store. Roxy, is the sale section always like that?

I did see a wavelet blouse in a size 12 if anyone is looking for it.

roxy said...

kater, it IS really big. The 4 racks on the right are only a couple of months old but yeah they've always had a generously sized sale. They always move things to sale earlier than the other NYC Anthros but their first discount is usually only 10%. Believe it or not the Rockefeller sale section is a bit bigger.

I hope you had fun in NYC!

jacquelyn, you basically hit exactly what my rant is about later today. :) It's the inconsistency that kills me. I am thankful though that you can return a catalog/online order in stores.

kater said...

roxy I went to the roc center anthro too (ha ha!) and wasn't as impressed with their sale section! Maybe it was just because things were a little more cramped?

I noticed that first 10% markdown! I also saw 2 bold boutonniere dresses (size large and xl) marked down 10% if anyone is looking for that!

Hannah said...

ive had a lot of success with anthropologie customer service :) we wanted the sine grey clustered petals dress for our bridesmaid dresses and we had to find 8 different dresses in various sizes. I called customer service right after it went on sale, but they told me that none of those sizes were available and gave me the number to a couple of stores that had it. I took a gamble and started calling east coast stores first because i knew they would be open ( i live in california), and SA in NJ was kind enough to track down ALL eight dresses for me. She was saying that their computer system is more updated. So if you ever have problems with calling the customer service number, ask the store to locate it for you in other stores. Their information is more accurate. I was so annoyed with customer service because they had told me it was absolutely sold out.

another tip: if after youve called a store and theyve taken your info and youve done a charge send to your house, check your credit card statement and see if the amount went through. Then i usually call back the store ( 2-3 days later) and give an estimate of when i called in to ask for it and they can find the tracking number for you in their files :)

roxy said...

kater -- possibly. I don't even bother going in the Rock Center sale room when it's crowded.

Hannah that is so awesome that the NJ employee went above and beyond for you. Great tips too, thank you much for sharing your experience!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting these tips, Roxy.

Wanted to comment on Diem's post.
I tried that "charge and send" and got an e-mail that the item was not available, so called CS again and got the store listings. I called the store by myself, the same day I got the e-mail and had the item shipped.

Now, a few weeks later I get the same skirt shipped from another store that I have never caller ever! So the email with cancellation note was totally wrong. Bizarre! I returned the 2nd item at my local store. Glad we can return catalog orders or other stores' orders in your local Anthro store.

Hazel said...

I ordered the Thousand days skirt on monday from a berkley store and they shipped it on tuesday.......now it's the waiting without a shipping info that's killing me! but yeah, i've done the call anthro and search the stores thing at least 3 times and the reps are always really nice :) though one time they took my card/info once only to email me that it wasn't available but before that a austin store called me to get my card/info bc they actually had the shorts i was looking for and then i got an anthro email saying they had to cancel my order bc they couldn't find it..and i had to call the austin store only to have them verify they did charge/ship me my item......it was very confusing but I still got my shorts! but yeah, i suggest everyone try :)
though i'm still waiting for my skirt.....i'm sure it'll be here by next monday at least

Anonymous said...

Hey, once I looked for an item on Google using the name of the item. The link I found on Google was www.anthropologie.us (.us instead of .com). I ordered the item but later realized that it was not the ".com" website. I called customer service and they asked if I worked for Anthropologie, because I shouldn't have access to ".us". That was a long time ago, but I did notice that sometimes the ".us" website had more items on the sale section then the ".com" website. I haven't accessed the ".us" for years now, but I think it's their "test-drive" website, to test new features when they are developing a new site. Or it's where they make available more sale items (maybe customer returns?). Well, I think the whole idea of discovering new things and items hidden the website is really fun! Only the addicts and the ones who really want to go for that item will be able to find it!

roxy said...

Anon, I had a similar experience. I ended up on what was clearly their staging site. Only I felt like I was breaking the rules (I'm a dork like that) so I immediately closed the browser tab and was afraid the Anthropologie police were going to yell at me. Luckily I am still a free woman. ;)

(also this leads me to wonder why they're letting the Goog index their staging site...)

Anonymous said...

Well, I only realized later that I wasn't in the official website. I was in panic thinking I gave my credit card number to a fake Anthro website! I called customer service immediately and they sent me the item. They are always fabulous! There was no Anthro police at my door so far!

ath said...

Do the stores charge shipping when u call them directly? My experience is that some do and some don't. It is not consistent. Some stores say the store has to call them directly to have the shipping charge waived.

roxy said...

ath, only employees pay shipping when they call a store. Regular customers should not be charged shipping.

Anonymous said...

Wrong Roxy!
There are times when a customer will have to pay shipping.
The only time shipping is waived is if the customer is in the store and we do not have the item and we call another store to locate that item.
If you are online at home and the time is sold out, but we have it in the store you do not have to pay shipping.

You will however have to pay shipping if you are just calling from your home and you dont 'feel like' leaving to come get the item. If the item is online and in stock then you will pay the shipping.

Lots of people try to 'cheat' the system this way. Which is wrong. If we do not have the item in a store and you saw it online we can only waive the shipping if it is something we had that is no longer available.

Many items (shoes and bags especially) are online only items. When we call the catalog they will not let us waive the shipping because the item has never been in the store.

We offer the free shipping as a service to you because it is an INCONVENIENCE if the item is not in the store or online.

But of course there are always was around this. If a customer is nice I usually just waive the shipping because I can. However, it is not the rule.

Sometimes associates are not explained the rules very well. And I'm sorry if it is confusing without consistency.

The rules are flexible for a reason. So we can help the customer and go above and beyond for her to make her happy.

Anonymous said...

Slightly off topic, but I saw the Gumshoe Sweater coat today in a pumpkin color. It was goregous. Too bad I already bought it in the ivory. The store had it in the window and I asked the SA about it and she said they just got them in earlier this week.

Boo Hiss

roxy said...

Anon @ 6:18, thank you for the clarification. It's discouraging that people try to cheat the system so to speak. It makes sense to me that if an item was never in stores that Anthro would charge shipping.

LOL Anon @ 8:18. The pumpkin sounds intriguing, I will be on the lookout for it...

Anonymous said...

There were several times, when my local store ran out of sizes on sale items I want, couple of SAs would offer to find it elsewhee, and even before I ask to go ahead with it, SA would say that I'd have to pay shipping. :(
Then there were other SAs would just get freeshipping on sale items. Inconistency is one of the consistent factor at Anthro, when it comes to Free Shipping or Price Adjustment from my experience.

TripTheLightsFantastic said...

You can phone back the next day to ask for your UPS tracking number. All you need to tell the store associate is your name and date of the purchase. If you order the item on a Friday, most likely you'll have to wait until Monday to phone them for the tracking number.

gigiofca said...

Great info! Roxy, you're awesome :-)

Lacey said...

Thank you very much for this post, Roxy! I actually have this page tabbed because now I use it so often. I was looking for the Sidestep skirt, and one of the NY stores had it in my size for only $19.95! They actually said they would charge me only $5-something for shipping..which was fine with me because the skirt was so cheap anyway. I did what you said and called as soon as the store opened...which was a little rought because I live in Hawaii,...haha yes I actually woke up at 5am Hawaii time, called NYC, and went back to sleep. :) I guess I really wanted the skirt! Thanks for the info I'll update on if the skirt came!

roxy said...

Wow Lacey that's dedication! (I would have done the same.) I'm sure the skirt will be AMAZING on you, it's so lovely. And on a sidenote, I ♥ Hawaii!

Lacey said...

Ok, so an SA from the store in NYC called me to tell me that they have to charge me $15.95 for shipping to Hawaii, and that is my only option! Thats pretty ridiculous if you ask me....that just frustrates me because there is no anthro here, so you'd think they'd compensate for that a little bit with lower shipping costs since there is no other way to get the skirt to me!

roxy said...

Lacey, put it on hold under Roxy. Then shoot me an email.

gigiofca said...

Just utilized this post today. Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I fell in love with a dress at my local store but they didn't have it in my size and it was sold out online. I was so sad and then I found this post. Customer service gave me numbers of three stores that had it, I called one of them, and it's shipping out tomorrow :)