I'm deliberate and specific in my shopping objective: one outfit for my daughter's Madame Alexander doll.
Now, before even entering the store, I have issues with FAO Schwartz and this doll... which my daughter received at a birthday party that took place at FAO Schwartz in NYC [don't ask; it's a whole other story]. Imagine a hand-size version of American Girl Doll where you pick skin, hair and eye colors. She came with a sad-looking pink stretchy shift [that I subsequently jazzed up].
I have a soft spot for dolls [vs. baby dolls] and hate to think of them not being loved and played with by a child. Going from experience, I know that the chance of a doll being ignored increases dramatically if she has no clothes.
So, I did my duty at the party and purchased one additional outfit -- trying to overcome sticker shock. I assumed that I could easily purchase other outfits for special occasions online.
When I got home and started researching, I learned that not only could I not purchase outfits online, but that my options consisted of shlepping into NYC -- or another FAO location -- or calling a personal shopper and wading through verbal descriptions of what the choices consisted of.
Can you imagine? Can you believe how inefficient and inconvenient a proposition? In this day and age? I was stunned.
But the poor doll needed clothes. And although I made her some, she still needed shoes and a few other items and with Surfaces in Las Vegas and FAO Schwartz there, too, well I had a less inconvenient option to consider.
If you've been to the FAO Schwartz at The Forum Shops, it's an imposing visual experience complete with Trojan Horse, larger than life stuffed animals and a vertical cornucopia of toy possibilities. Should be fun, right?
I take the main escalator which takes me to the top floor - one floor too high. So the store flow has forced me to an indirect path to my destination [I forgot to mention, I am tired from standing all day, my feet hurt, my back is sore and FAO Schwartz is as far removed from the entrance to the Forum as is physically possible]. I find the escalator to the mid level and locate the Madame Alexander section. It is poorly kept with broken or incomplete displays. No one occupying the register area there. The outfit I opt for is out of reach [I am average in height - i.e., what I encountered most shoppers would]. I must use another item to wriggle it off its post.
Did I mention that the entire store felt abandoned? Few customers, not a single kid. Not many sales associates.
I went in search of a manned register to pay. Found it and left.
Fast forward to 2008. Essentially the same experience. Same sad vibe. The interior of the store hasn't been updated, rearranged, changed in any way. As for Madame Alexander's outfits, they are exactly the same, except that they've been marked up an additional $5.
Oh, and when I checked out, I had to work to get one of the four sales associates to pay attention to me, they were so busy chit-chatting.
Needless to say, what few warm and fuzzies I felt for FAO Schwartz are gone. Not only do they force me to behave in a way that is inconvenient and inefficient for me - the customer, but they make very little effort to encourage me to return to their store: they aren't updating their merchandise frequently and their customer service attitude is indifferent.
FAO Schwartz breaks every rule that Paco Underhill details in Why We Buy: The Science Of Shopping. And with each visit, they charge me more for the same. Hard to believe that that's what a luxury retail experience is all about...
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