Jos. A. Bank Clothiers

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You’ve heard the commercials.  “Buy one suit, get two absolutely FREE.”  In a 30 second radio commercial spot, you’ll hear this phrase at least four times.  Most men in markets where their stores are located will never bother going to Jos. A. Bank.  It’s not because the name is pretentious (it is), but rather because most men have no need for suits.  The client base is shrinking.

For those that do entertain the idea of more formal dress, the following two questions might arise, “Is their clothing so cheap that they can afford to do that?” or “Are their prices so ridiculously high that they can afford to do that?”  And, it’s quite possible that with those two thoughts in their heads, they run instead to mall-store-of-choice where the price is expected to be reasonable, or even better with a coupon.

I went, and I’ll go again, clearly understanding that their pricing structure falls into the latter category.  As their sales shift from one gimmick to the next, I can only imagine the fun the staff must have changing the prices on their products every couple of weeks.  But, ultimately, the question that should arise is, “Are their clothes worth it?”

I’d have to say... maybe.  Certainly they have the selection.  For whatever style or color I might be seeking, they’ll have it or something close, regardless of whether it’s a sport coat, slacks, shirts, or other accessories.  To their credit, they even have a small but very capable selection of dress shoes. 

The company has to be making a good profit.  Aside from selling “whatever” at a multiple to cover what is said to be “free,” they have two other means of income.  The first is tailoring.  You won’t find slacks pre-measured to your exact length.  Their tailoring is well done, but it adds a tidy percentage to the total bill. 

Second is the trap for efficient shoppers.  “Great choices.  Will you be needing shirts with that?”  Or ties.  Or cuff-links.  Or shoes.  Or a belt.  Or dress socks... all of which are priced quite a bit above expected retail prices.  Gotcha, if you’re into one stop shopping (those items go on sale at other times.  Patience.)  To be fair, the quality of their goods is high; it’s just that lesser quality can sell for significantly less.

Like every other internet shopper, I tend to look at purchases as commodities.  Research a product, make a selection, find the cheapest price.  Jos. A. Bank does not fit into that paradigm.  The key is service, something that is spoken of frequently by all sorts of companies but which is routinely devalued by their customers... until they need it.

During my first visit to the Alpharetta, GA location, years ago, I was assisted by Telfari (last name withheld in case he doesn’t like it splashed across the internet).  I have a pretty good idea of what I’m looking for when I go to Jos. A. Bank.  I would guess that 99% of men do.  It’s not the type of store where I would expect men to wander in just to look around.   That has to help the sales staff, knowing that the odds are that you’re there for something specific.  They have staff who know where that something is. 

I don’t like “salespeople.”  I’m a loner.  I don’t like getting pushed or steered.  I don’t like seeing commission signs flashing in their eyes or a desperation in order to meet a quota.  Both of those enable behaviors that will send me to the exit. 

Telfari was polite, he listened, he exhibited a confidence without arrogance, he found several choices in the vicinity of my description to help refine what I was wanting, and he ultimately registered, in my cash-reckoning system of Kohl’s and other discounters, a pretty nice sale.

I don’t need a lot of dress clothes, but sometimes, you need more.  A couple years later, I went back.  Telfari was still there.  In retail terms, I think that’s noteworthy.  If he recognized me, I don’t know.  But the transaction was the same.  Skip forward to a few months ago, and I needed two jackets taken in (happily), and when I returned, one was ready, and the other had additional chalk marks on it, outlining what he indicated to likely be moth damage.  I haven’t seen a moth in my closet, but the damage was clear, whatever the cause.  I was staring at it in surprise, which was just yielding into discouragement at the loss of a jacket and whatever I had spent on it, when he said, “Don’t worry.  We just wanted to point this out to you.  We’ll replace it for free.”  After which, he went to the rack, pulled an almost identical jacket in my current size, slipped it on my shoulders...  Service matters.

I had bought shoes at the store as well, and a severely curved quarter (rear of the shoe) dug into the tendons above my heel.  I returned them, and they were traded out with a different style, no questions asked.  Service matters.

I shared this story with two co-workers who I know also shop at their stores.  One said, "I had an issue with some slacks.  I was happy with them, but the type chair that I have wore through the fabric rather quickly.”  He didn’t go to the store to complain, but mentioned it.  Telfari replaced it.  Service matters.

I’m unfortunately in the position where I have to dress more formally than I had for years, so I had a need to buy more slacks, shortly after Telfari replaced the jacket.  I hadn’t asked at the time, but I did this time.  If there was a warranty of some sort, it certainly would have expired.  So, “Why?”  He said that it was left to their discretion, and as the damage did not result from my negligence, he has the authority to make things right for the customer.

My father-in-law used to do consulting related to the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, often doing assessments to help corporations prepare for the audit that might lead to this award.  In one such case, he found that the doorman at New York’s Ritz Carlton had personal authority up to $20,000 to ensure that a customer was satisfied.   That’s a lot of money (and it was in the 1990’s), and I’m certain there are accountabilities that come with that authority.  It takes a trained and trustworthy staff as well as a corporate mentality that is willing to trust in its employees.  That’s not a small thing.  That trust can be measured in different ways, but when $20,000 is at stake, that’s a commitment to do the right thing.  

I think similarly about Jos. A. Bank.  Telfari’s business card indicates “Chairmen’s Society.”  I don’t know if that is based on longevity or sales volume, but I hope there is a component with quality of service in mind.  Every company would like to think that their product or service is worth more than a competitor’s because of something they do.  It’s talked about a lot, but not encountered often.   I’m still surprised that I’m willing to pay more for something than I would if I went elsewhere.  But, it’s worth a little more when a company has demonstrated a commitment to quality service*.

*not a paid advertisement.

1 comment :

  1. They are pretty good. I tend to patronize Men's Warehouse when the need arises. I had real good experiences with them years ago, and as with you & J.A.B., you tend to be loyal. I am thankful that I do not have to use either very often.