On Sunday my friend Amy reached out to me in distress.
“Hey, can you work your magic and see if there is a place near me where I can get a suit for <my daughter>? I know there must be someplace, but every f***ing Google search I do comes up with bathing suits. I’m about to scream. There is a semi-formal dance for 8th grade and she doesn’t want to go because… dresses. Any help you could provide would be aces. Thanks much!!!”
After gauging that she had a decent budget with which to work I didn’t hesitate to recommend Brooks Brothers… boys’. Even though Amy and her family live in North Carolina which isn’t a bastion of tolerance for the LGBQT community, I had enough faith in the Brooks Brothers brand and quality of service that I felt confident in my response. After she returned from her outing Amy promptly updated me on the experience.
“Brooks Brothers was a bust, product-wise. BUT the associates were amazing with a capital A! I make a beeline for the youngest associate and launch into the story of our quest. She introduced us to Phyllis — a more seasoned associate. Phyllis leads us briefly to the boys’ section, which is pitifully small and disappointing so we journey to the ladies’ section. I can see <my daughter> looking increasingly crestfallen because have you seen the Brooks Brothers ladies’ section? In a lovely turn of events, Phyllis says nothing will do and sends us to another retailer. Never in a million years would I have expected 1.) a seemingly stuffy old bird to be perfectly accepting and tolerant of my daughter’s refusal to wear anything remotely feminine and 2.) someone not only to pass up a sale, but care more about what’s best for the customer. Guess that’ll show me!”
This is the Brooks Brothers I know.
I remember the first time I walked into a Brooks Brothers store. It was at Lenox mall in Atlanta. Weaving in and out of sections barely touching things, I wanted to comfortably browse without the fear of attracting a sales associate.
The men’s section was interesting. “This clothing is too big.” Some of the women’s slacks and blazers appealed to me. “This clothing is a too feminizing.” Then I saw the boys’ section and lit up — the quality, selection, pricing, sizing. “This clothing is just right.” Goldie Lox had found the bed in which she would stay.
Once I knew I’d be buying some of the wonderful shirts and blazers through which I browsed, a sales associate approached. I’m not going to lie — I was a bit anxious and uncomfortable worrying how I would be both perceived and treated. Brooks Brothers is the oldest American clothing retailer steeped in rich tradition for nearly 200 years. In fact, Brooks Brothers has suited 39 of 44 U.S. presidents. There were rumors that the man who currently sits in the oval office wore Brooks Brothers to his bigly under-attended inauguration. Notably, Brooks Brothers had no comment on this.
Artie — an older gentleman in distinguished clothing and a silver well-groomed beard — approached me. “How can I help you?” I walked him through my thoughts and goals for this visit. He helped me select the right sizing and fits and took me through the inventory that would help get me my Brooks Brothers boys’ foundation pieces. He was warm, kind, and more helpful than I could have dreamed. In fact, a few days after my purchases I received a hand-written ‘thank you’ note from Artie that I keep to this day. What a class act.
While the visit inspired me I thought Artie was an outlier — the exception and not the rule. As I started visiting more Brooks Brothers stores with my new strategy in mind I found that Artie was right in line with the level and commitment of service I have come now to expect.
About a month ago I visited a Brooks Brothers in Perimeter mall where I was approached by a sales associate whilst browsing tuxedo blazers. He walked over to me and said, “You know, Reese Witherspoon wears our boys’ blazers.” My immediate thought was, ‘Hey, buddy. I’m no rookie here. I got this.’ And then I realized that he was trying to make me feel comfortable shopping outside the boundaries of the women’s section. I immediately self-corrected and thanked him for his help. He further informed me that if the suiting needed to be adjusted, Brooks Brothers would tailor the apparel for no additional cost. I passed this information on to my friend Grey who promptly bought her first tuxedo at a brilliant price point and that fits her to perfection.
Brooks Brothers has become something of a happy place for me. No matter which store I visit in what state I can count on being treated with genuine kindness, service, and respect. Last Thanksgiving when my wife and I visited my parents, they took us to a Brooks Brothers outlet. (They get me.) I had a great conversation with Jason, a wonderful sales associate. Ready to level up my bow tie collection, I tried one or two on to see what the fuss was about. The quality and options were tops. I found a few two-sides bow ties, increasing my options for neck wear versatility. Jason was impressed by how artfully I tied the (soon to be my) bow ties.
This same visit, I tried on a pair of window pane trousers and walked out of the dressing room. My mom and wife called my name. (Actually, to be fair, I only heard my mom. I’m pretty sure that if there was a Mindy a few stores over that she, too, would have heard and come running.) A gentleman wanted to buy a bow tie for his son but didn’t know how to tie it. Jason asked if I would share my skills with the father. After carefully taking him through it step by step, his wife asked if she could record it on her phone so they could share it with their son. My mom having practically orchestrated this moment took the picture on the left so that I could keep this memory in my heart.
So, when I say that Brooks Brothers is something of a happy place for me — that could be an understatement. We’d all do better in the world if we cared more about what’s best for the customer.