America is a fantastic county! I love it for several reasons. I get to breathe fresh air, to drink the clean drinking water that runs through my tap, and to eat delicious organic and vegan food. I am in awe of the diversity in America, the gurgling rivers, the voluminous mountains, clean beaches and rocky deserts. Here, I am able to horn my interest in travel. Luckily, Americans, with an exception of few, have been rather friendly and welcoming towards me. I envy their free spirits and humor-loving personalities. But all of these are only minor reasons why I cannot go back and live in India. America has introduced an entirely new interest to me, the primary reason I am here to stay. The joy of shopping!
Shopping here isn’t about going to a store and being wooed by the sales person only so long as the sale lasts. Instead, in America the shopping experience lasts from the minute I step into a store (or even just get the idea about buying something) until I am done using the product. I’m courted from the moment I rise, with loving emails in my inbox. I am then lured into the store with its tantalizing décor, attractive fragrances, welcoming staff and soothing music. And, if I don’t feel up to going to the store that day, no problem! I can shop online. The phrase “free shipping” always gets me.
It’s not really about the glamor the stores offer or actually owning lovely new things. These are only part of the reason of why shopping here is so great. Following the purchase there is a continued love and service that has me hooked. In my opinion, American brands have figured out the most brilliant shopping strategies. Brands convince me that they will stand by me no matter what, even after I have made a commitment to them.
To put it another way, it’s not the shopping I love as much, but rather the return policy of companies that make previously unattainable items within reach. An expensive jacket from The North Face, for instance, is now affordable because if, after spending two hundred dollars on the piece in question, it doesn’t keep me warm, I can politely send it back for a full refund. It takes a great deal of confidence from the brand to be able to do this.
In three days following Thanksgiving, a cautious shopper such as myself, has managed to spend about $400 on clothes and home accessories, which frankly I didn’t need. Most of these were from Anthropologie, a store that has stolen my heart with its Bohemian flair and eclectic collections . Their sales model seems to be to get shoppers into their store or online as often as possible. So they get new stuff in rotation every few days and quickly drop prices of garments less than a couple of weeks old, placing them under their sale section. Shoppers keep going back to see the best deals, and I’ve been lucky enough to find new choices on their sale rack as often as twice a week. As I write this, I realize I have been into different Anthropologie stores three times in the last four days.
I love getting a good ‘deal’. Watching the rates drop on a piece of clothing that, even though overpriced in the first place, manages to pull me in. Also, the thing about sales is that they make me greedy. I want everything from everywhere, gullibly believing such discounts will never come back. The ever-friendly staff at Antro (I even gave it a nickname) suggest I buy multiple garments when the entire store is on sale. They add that they accept returns anytime if I were to realize it was not what I fancied. Excited, I swipe my card, making a mental note to return some of the clothes are not needed, knowing fully well that this is never going to happen. They know it too.
In India, ‘sales’ rarely happened. If a store does hold a sale, it’s ALWAYS on clothes that I wouldn’t want. There, sales persons are only interested in shoppers until a purchase has been made. After that I am accustomed to the clerks not caring about me. There was no, “Thank You” or “Have a wonderful day” and, returns are unheard off even on defective merchandise. I am used to being ignored almost through my shopping experience, but definitely after the cash transaction.
The first time I realized the magic of shopping in the United States was a couple of years ago when I went to The North Face, the outerwear company, with a complaint. I had bought a pair of expensive North Face boots from Journeys. After a few months of wearing, they had ripped. Very hesitantly I asked, “Well, I bought these from Journeys but was wondering if I could have them repaired. I will pay.”
The store associate, without evening examining the shoe, apologized. Actually apologized! To say I was shocked is an understatement. “It’s within the guarantee, so I don’t think you should have to pay. We can have them shipped to the service center and they should be able to fix it for you. It will take up to six weeks though. I apologize for the inconvenience.”
A few weeks later, I got a package in the mail with a brand new pair of shoes. My boots didn’t come repaired; I got a new pair!
Gradually, I became willing to pay anything for this type of shopping convenience. I endorsed stores that have made my shopping experience so easy, or rather returns so easy. In fact stores such as Anthro even take care of my receipts. I no longer need to keep it for a sweater I changed my mind about. I simply take the item to them, provide my phone number and they pull up my shopping history.
Whole Foods doesn’t do this. But something pretty amazing happened with one of my purchases from them. I bought a box of cut cantaloupe from them and on reaching home and tasting the fruit, it was spoilt. I called them and without a moments hesitation the guy on the other end said, “bring in your receipt, the next time you are in and we will credit your account.”
I thought to myself, I could have just as easily been lying. These brands are so confident in their product and they are willing to overlook a few dishonest customers that might actually be abusing the system.
In another similar event, I bought a bottle of vinegar and stored it in a cool, dark place. A couple of months later when I pulled it out, to my disgust I held a moldy bottle.. I vaguely remembered having bought it from Whole foods and having thrown the receipt away, there was no way to verify. I took it to the store that I think I made the purchase from. They showed equal disgust at the mold in the bottle and gave me four dollars in cash.
How amazing is shopping here? I get to try clothes, food and even fabulously expensive mattress before I decide they are worth keeping. I get to be part of the world that that I may not have if not for this fantastic return policy.
I have become so spoiled with generous return policies that I, now, scoff at a store with a two-week return. Sorry! They just aren’t getting my business!
I shudder when I think back to shopping in India, in the dark ages where ‘returns’ have not yet been discovered. I have left my bad shopping days behind. American brands have realized that it is not just the initial courtship that counts but rather the long-term relationship that truly matters. Wonder when other countries will get there.
This country is now home. If for some reason I had to leave America, I will miss it: it’s land, its food, friendly people and air. But most of all I will miss the relationships I have with my favorite stores. How will I ever be able to go back to living in India or any other country in the world?
America has me hooked.
Shopping Tips To Live In America:
- Buy the best brands to stay warm in winter. They last a long time, keep you warm and definitely are worth it.
- Look around. You will find brands that are to your taste. They all so not sell the same stuff. Often once you find a brand you like, the others will fall into place. Everything is available in America!
- Buy more than what you want. Try on the size and fit in the comfort of your home. Keep what you think suits you and return the rest.
- Sales are legit. Buy what you need when prices are marked down. Most times prices drop even during a season. That way you get discounted merchandise when they are still in style.
- Many brands do not carry petites in store, but will offer free shipping if you place an order from their store. Brands like Athleta, have free postal returns as well.
- Try to save receipts for as long as you can. Places like Bed Bath and Beyond have a life time return policy.
- Outlets do not have the same return policy or guarantee. But they have really good deals. If you are visiting America and do not need these perks of guarantee, definitely shop at the outlets. Sometimes they have sizes and quality is different. For instance I am half a shoe size bigger at the Nike Outlet Store.
If you have other tips that can be added to this list, please leave a comment. I would love for this list to grow.