Used Snow Tires and Lots and Lots of Shoes!

You Can Count on Customer Service at Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale

Nordstrom has come to stand for customer service in a way no other chain of stores ever has. Originally a shoe store, Nordstrom first opened shop in Seattle in 1901 and grew into the largest independent shoe chain in the United States. The chain expanded into the clothing market in 1963, but it wasn’t until a man in Fairbanks, Alaska, walked into a Nordstrom store to return his used snow tires – and got his refund with no questions asked – that Nordstrom became synonymous with customer service.

Spurious or not, further discussion about the snow tire legend must wait until I’ve hit upon the reason why Nordstrom is such a hot topic on Google Trends today.

At the Anniversary Sale, some of the affordable fashions are not apocryphal

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The much-anticipated Nordstrom Anniversary Sale begins today. You already know to do this, but I am obligated to remind you: Get a head start on your shopping by requesting online today for a small loan from a payday lender. If you prefer not to drive, stand in line, and feel the press of humanity hunting for bargains (or if you’re simply afraid to leave home) you can shop at the sale online, too.

The Anniversary Sale, which runs through August 2, is your chance to pick up a new fall wardrobe, get yourself a fabulous new pair of boots, add some cute shoes to your current collection, and buy those new fall handbags and accessories you’ve been drooling over. According to the advertisements I’ve seen, you’ll find discounts on new merchandise for fall, including True Religion jeans for women at $189.99 ($297 after the sale) and Rock & Republic jeans for men at $159.99 ($250 after the sale). I realize that if you do the math, this claim is at odds with the foregoing sentence, but sale items are reputed to be 40 to 60% off.

At the Rack, all of the fashions are affordable every day

If something seems amiss in my suggestion that you get an instant payday loan so you can save money at the Anniversary Sale, you may be a candidate for shopping at the Rack. Pedestrian as it appears – it looks more like a flea market than an upscale department store — the Rack is loaded with deeply discounted Nordstrom fashions all year long. With luxury and boutique shopping on the wane, Rack outlets stores are all the rage.  Several new stores are slated to open soon in Texas, Minnesota, California, Florida, Ohio, and Colorado.

Getting Back to Used Snow Tires . . .

used-tiresNordstrom has never sold tires, but some sources claim that the tale about the snow tires is true. According to Pamela Abramson in “Nordstrom’s High Style,” (Newsweek, 1987), in 1975, Nordstrom acquired three stores in Alaska from the Northern Commercial Company, which did sell tires, and converted them into department stores. So when the customer, who had purchased the tires from Northern Commercial, brought them back to the newly converted store, the return was accepted.

The details don’t matter

There is, of course, much inconsistency about the details of this oft-cited customer service legend. Sometimes it’s a tire, other times a set of tires. Sometimes it happened in Fairbanks, other times in Seattle. Sometimes the customer says nothing about why is he returning the tires, sometimes he claims he bought them there, and other times he simply says they did not “stand up properly.” Sometimes the amount of his refund is $25, sometimes $145, other times $125 per tire. Sometimes the clerk saw the price on the side of the tire, other times he simply asked the customer what he paid for them, but a receipt is never involved.

The customer is always right

Originally the company denied the account, but according to Bill Kossen in “Success Came a Step at a Time for Nordstrom,” (Seattle Times, 29 May 2001), John Nordstrom said he was there when the tire was returned to a Nordstrom store operating out of one of the converted tire stores in Alaska. He said the customer seemed a bit confused but sincere, so the employee gave him his $25, thanked him for coming in, and invited him back to shop.

Among the many problems with the details of this story, however, are that Nordstrom didn’t acquire the tire shops until 1975 and John Nordstrom, co-founder of the Nordstrom department store chain, died in 1963. The discrepancies may not really matter. What does matter is that in every version of the tale, the customer is always right.

And Moving On to Shoes . . .

Some sources claim that you will find draped dresses in hues like sapphire and ruby, leggings, luxurious faux fur, chic thigh-high boots, ankle booties and hardware embellishments with a rocker edge at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. Others limit their predictions to leather jackets, vests, dresses and accessories that incorporate current trends such as menswear-inspired details. But the discrepancies don’t really matter because in any version of the sale, there are lots and lots of shoes!