Ask An Anthropologie SA :: Answers

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A couple of weeks ago the community came forward with many wonderful questions for Anthropologie employees. Although not every question is answered in today's post, several SAs have kindly taken the time to answer some of the most burning questions posed by the community. We'll work our way through as many questions as we can in the coming weeks.

Questions and their answers after the jump -- feel free to ask new questions in the comments!

To all SAs reading, I ask that you do not answer questions in the comments. Please email me if you'd like to anonymously participate in providing answers! By keeping the answers in one place we help community members find the explanations they're looking for. A HUGE thank you to all of our SA participants, especially SA Alpha who suggested this feature.

1. If somebody returns an old item, does it get returned to sale room with current price? Or does it get sent away somewhere to get rid of or donated away?

SA Alpha - If the item is in good (wearable, like new) condition and has not been dimed out, it is sent back to the floor (whether it is on sale or full price.) If the item is damaged, obviously worn, smells bad, or is otherwise compromised, we damage it out. If the item is slightly damaged (button missing, very small/faint stain, etc), we might return it to the floor with a damage discount. Damaged items are either sent back to corporate, thrown out, or donated.

SA Beta - The items are always given the current price of the item. For example if there is a style of Pilcro jeans in the store that have gone on sale and then someone returns a pair of the exact jeans, they’ll go into the sale room the same as the pairs of Pilcros that were already in the store.  However, if the item is so old that it is ringing up as a Dime Out item, then it will be sent back to the company.

SA Gamma - If the item is still for sale in our system, it gets marked to the current selling price and put out on the sale floor (or in backstock if there isn't enough room). Every once in a while we are lucky enough to process returns for items whose current selling price is 9.95 and then we are allowed to purchase them (I've had some extremely good luck with this, it is an amazing perk of being in the right place at the right time!). If the current selling price is 0.10, then the item is 'dimed out' and we are not allowed to put it onto the sales floor or purchase it ourselves.  

2. Where do the items go that are dimed out, really? I've been told that they can no longer be sold. Do SAs get to take them?

SA Alpha - Dimed out items are pulled from the floor, dimed out in the system, packed up, and sent back to the home office. I have heard rumors that home office employees are able to buy them really cheaply, but that has never been confirmed. Store employees are not allowed to purchase dime-outs. 

SA Beta - Unfortunately no, SA’s cannot purchase Dime Outs.  The managers will process them in the computer, and then they are sent back to Anthropologie.  I certainly wish that we could buy them though, there have been some really great ones returned!

3. Question about returning things purchased online... I usually fill out the order form the same way I would if I were mailing the stuff back. Does that help or is it the same amount of work for you guys either way?

SA Alpha - If you're returning an item you purchased online, filling out the order form doesn't help us. Just make sure you bring the packing slip/receipt if you have it - that makes our lives and yours easier!

SA Gamma - It's the same amount of work either way. We need to look up your order in our system to get the information about how much you payed and what payment method you used, and anything else (quality issues, etc.) we can just ask you. Just make sure you come with the invoice, your Anthro card and credit card, and the item in its original packaging so we can more easily process your return!

4. What happens to items that are damaged when they are returned? Does Anthro keep track so they know if there was a quality issue with a particular item?

SA Alpha - Items that are damaged when returned are evaluated to see the extent of the damage; if the item is unwearable/we would be embarrassed to sell an item in that condition (smells like cigarette smoke, etc), we damage it out. If the item is only very slightly damaged (missing button, tiny snag, etc), we might return it to the floor with a damage discount. We do not note down returns to track quality issues in the store; I am not sure if corporate tracks quality issues through the system.

SA Beta - It depends on how damaged the item is.  If there is just a small pull in the thread a hem that has fallen out, the item may be marked at a discounted rate and placed back in the sale room.  However if the item is “too far gone” and would be a bad representation of the quality of the product, the item is “damaged out” and unable to be sold. 

As far as I know, Anthro does not keep track of the quality issues with different products. 

5. Is it possible to set up "shopping parties" with our local store? Or is that bloggers only?

SA Delta - Personal shoppers set up shopping parties all the time in my store. Just ask them. I’m sure they will jump for joy and give you lots of delicious snacks and fun facts about the new trends and designers etc. in the hopes for some sales from you and our friends. Better than Tupperware!

Roxy - Our other SAs weren't sure on this one, so I asked around at a few Anthropologies in the NYC area (2 NYC stores, 1 CT store and 1 New Jersey store). The answer I got was that the stores are happy to accommodate small groups of 2-3 people as a 'party' and will make a personal shopper available if you call ahead to schedule. However, as far as larger groups of people are concerned Anthropologie doesn't do parties, it holds periodic after-hours events at the store. If you'd like to plan a small group party at Anthropologie or to set up an individual styling session talk to your store's personal shopper. Customers registered to receive emails through the anthro program will receive emails about in-store events.

That said, unofficially I have heard of exceptions being made to the 2-3 person rule for customers shopping for things like bridesmaid dresses. Those were groups of more like 5-7 people. So if you'd like to have a party at Anthropologie I suggest contacting your local store to see what they can do! 

6. Which items are you loving this season and which ones are you embarrassed to put on the floor?

SA Alpha -  I'm not a huge fan of the Bruna Dress ($298, review) and the Mural Maxi ($188). My favorite items out right now are the colored Stevies ($158), the Lousa Dress ($148), the Cruz Peasant Shift ($188), and the Firebloom Cardigan ($128)! 

SA Episilon - I've seen so many customers look amazing in the Split Boatneck Tee ($88). It would be a great date night top! I personally am all about the classic shape of the Lora Dress ($148) which was available in a solid last year under a different name. (Note from roxy: it was the Ruffled Oska Dress.) I don't think the Marseille Pencil Dress ($148) is in stores but we got an online return of it and the SAs were taking turns oohing and aahing over it. I'm shocked the Clancy Toggled Jacket (now $60) didn't get more love -- it's a fantastic layering piece that says Anthropologie to me.

I'm not loving the tops with the silky backs, like the Whimsy Motifs Top ($58). Customers love the prints and then get disappointed by the fit. I'm not sure why anyone would want to look like they have a deformed back.

7. What comes up on the screen when my anthro card is scanned?

SA Alpha - Nothing. The first screen that comes up asks for a "Customer ID", at which point we scan the Anthro card if the customer has one. Then it just reverts to the item SKU screen, where we ring up purchases. 

SA Beta - If there is an email on file, the email address will come up on the screen to be verified. Otherwise, the card is just processed and the screen immediately changes to let the SA ring up the items. 

However there is a website we use to look up anthro members, and from that screen we can look through old transactions and retrieve old receipts.

SA Gamma - Nothing, usually. If you don't have an email address on file with us we may receive a prompt screen asking us to add an email, but otherwise the system just attaches the transaction to your card and nothing more.

SA Epsilon - We see no customer information if we just scan the card. It just shows the card number and then goes back to the checkout screen. There is a screen where we can make updates to your address, birthday or email address. There is another screen where we can check your purchase history associated with your anthro card. No credit card information is stored in your anthro account that we can see.

8. Are the personal shoppers specially trained? How are they different from the SA's?

SA Beta - I only worked with the personal shopper at my Anthro store for a short period of time, so I’m afraid that I don’t know much about the training that goes into that job.  However I do know that when the personal shopper is working, all clothing purchases that they help with are rung up under their employee ID.

SA Delta - Yes, the personal shoppers are trained, but not sure on the specifics. I know they take trips to other stores for fit meetings. For example, they learn about the new clothes Anthro is pushing for spring such as the Charlie tapered pants etc. and can pass the info to the customer. They also spend time trying on the clothes, taking pictures and reviewing so they know about the fit and options. They have sales goals and expectations that must be met like in any other sales related business. Sales associates are not on a commission . The PS’s in my store would help you with any type of sale. They can be pushy at times, but prefer to know if you are only looking for sale items, on a budget, or want the latest and greatest hot trend. 

9. Do the personal shoppers only try to get u to buy full price items or would they help you on just sale pieces?

SA Beta - Not at all! The personal shoppers are far more focused on helping the customer find items that they are interested in and that flatter their figure. Regardless of the price or the amount that the customer purchases, or even whether they purchase anything at all, the Personal Shoppers simply want to be helpful and give the customer a better shopping experience.

SA Gamma - Our personal shopper helps with all items - she works individually with the client to understand their needs in terms of style and budget. It is not uncommon for her to request that we bring particular sale items to a customer if she thinks they will work for her needs. Also, because we stock so much product and things are constantly getting marked down, many times the item that the customer needs will be on sale. So, in my experience, personal shoppers will offer a mix of both full-priced and sale offerings. Our personal shopper is also very good about suggesting accessories (bags, jewelry, shoes, and the like) for customers who may not be looking to spend the money on full-priced clothing but are still looking to jazz up their existing wardrobes. 

SA Delta - Anthro does an amazing $$$ business off that sale rack, so don’t be shy if you need help with anything.

10. Are mangers given a lot of leeway in terms of policy? Are some more "by the book" than others?

SA Beta - All managers that I have come in contact with follow the rules pretty strictly, but there is definitely a variety in their attitudes concerning the policies.  Some managers conduct the store in a very strict and down-to-business manner, while others are a little more relaxed.  The same tasks/policies are carried out regardless of the manager, but I’ve found that the atmosphere can vary a little bit depending on who is the manager at the time.

SA Gamma - There are definitely some non-negotiables that all good managers will keep in mind, but some policies are more open to interpretation than others. In my experience some managers will (within reason) do what they can to make sure the customer has a positive shopping experience (particularly if something has been botched or has gone wrong), while others will strictly adhere to policies across the board and make few exceptions. But like I said, there are certain non-negotiables that any manager will be expected to enforce. My suggestion is that it never hurts to ask for clarification on particular policies or to mention past experiences - sometimes there are misunderstandings and if the manager isn't informed about the issue they will not offer to go the extra mile to make the customer's experience a pleasant one. 

11. What candles do employees have going in the stores? Do you have a favorite scent? Are there any particular candles/scents that are most frequently used?

SA Alpha - We use lots of different candles - I don't believe there's a specific candle that all stores have to use. If we have to damage out a candle for some reason, we try to burn it in the store instead of throwing it out.

SA Beta - The “signature” Anthropologie candle (at least in my store) is the Volcano Capri Blue ($28).  They burn it in the front of the store, so that it is the first thing customers smell upon entering the store.  I love that candle, especially in the beautiful mercury glass jar.  Over Christmas I also discovered the Illume Boulangerie candle ($16), and I absolutely adore the Whipped Cream & Pear scent.

SA Gamma - Capri Blue's Volcano ($28) and Aloha Orchid ($14) are the perennial favorites and usually our top sellers. I love these scents but I can't have them burning at home because they make me feel like I'm at work, that's literally how often they are burned in the stores! Voluspa's Goji Berry ($18) or Baltic Amber ($18) are also frequently burning in the store. My personal favorites are the Simpatico scents ($28, they last a really long time and aren't too overpowering), the Illume tin jars ($16, the wintry Balsam and Cedar scent is my absolute favorite), and the Voluspa mini candles (only 10 dollars, super easy to travel with, and makes a great gift).

SA Epsilon - We mainly burn the Capri Jar Candles ($25). But when I'm opening I really like the Jacinta Pot ($30) in sweet berry. I gave my mom one for Christmas and she uses it as decoration!

12. Do you rotate responsibilities in the store or do you always do the same thing? For instance, do you work the dressing rooms one day and the register the next? In my local store, it seems like the same girls are always working the register. Do you have to have certain qualifications or "work up" to that position?

SA Alpha - We rotate, usually every hour. Managers decide where each associate spends the hour (sometimes two or three), and then come to switch us out as needed. I'm sure that's highly variable depending on the store, but at mine it's really just based on where the managers send us. There are no "qualifications" to work the register besides that you have to be register trained.

SA Beta - Responsibilities throughout the store are broken down by hour, so typically SA’s will shift tasks every hour on the hour.  However, SA’s are usually assigned different roles based on where they work better and where they are more beneficial to the company.  For example, newly hired SA’s are usually given the duties towards the front of the store, welcoming customers and helping straighten up the store.  Employees also have a tiny bit of say when it comes to their responsibilities.  For example, I absolutely hate working the fitting room and would much rather work the cash wrap.  So since I am helpful and efficient working at the cash wrap, it is pretty easy to have the managers schedule me to work there! Sometimes I’ll spend my entire 8 hour shift working at the cash wrap. Ultimately the managers choose where each employee works throughout the day.

SA Gamma - In our store, we are zoned to different locations and these zones change every hour so sales associates don't get overwhelmed or exhausted by staying in one place in too long. So in a typical 8 hour shift, I may stand at the door for 1 hour, work the fitting room for 1 hour, work on size runs for 1 or 2 hours, work on register for an hour, then work in backstock for part of an afternoon. Newer associates spend more time in fitting room or at the doors, while more seasoned associates will be size running or working in backstock since these tasks require more product knowledge and expertise. 

SA Delta - There is an hourly call out for sales associates. There are three main areas of the store:

Front Zone- there must always be at least one person in the front of the store greeting customers, but more importantly watching for theft. It is impressed upon that you can’t leave the “front zone” unless covered. (Lots of blatant theft in this area near the doors.) We also unpack stock here with a hawk eye.

Fitting room: There is always at least one girl in the fitting room. Putting away clothes and assisting customers. I seem to spend a lot of time back here. The manager makes the schedule for call outs. I like to think that she knows I’m strong with customer service, but don’t get much feedback, so could be wishful thinking. Usually a personal shopper is back here as well.

Cash/wrap is third call out area. Usually a manager and/or senior SA works here along with regular associates depending on sales dollars. It’s s nice break from hauling the clothes on those heavy wooden hangers. If you prefer not to be trained on the register, you don’t have to. Likely, you are happy with part time work, good discount and don’t aspire to retail management and added stress. This is me!

The full time associates who are at the register everyday are usually managers and/or seniors. They put in a lot of time for little money in my opinion.

Thanks again to all of our participating SAs this week! I look forward to the next round of questions and answers.