The Time I Tried to Shop at Burlington Coat Factory

Hi there.  Remember me?  I used to blog here?  The thing about blogs is that they’re easy start.  They’re less easy to maintain (especially when you can no longer blog about what you used to blog about) and by the time you find yourself running a professional dance company, teaching anthropology and—oh yeah—trying to publish a book, they’re just plain annoying.

In fact, every time I sit down to write something, I find myself annoying.

And that’s where the real trouble starts.  Every blog-worthy idea seems stupid.  And once those stupid ideas start to pile up, it’s like what’s the point?

Fortunately, bitchiness makes for good blogging.  And Burlington Coat Factory has just given me a very good reason to be bitchy.

customer service

I’m due for a SUMMA evaluation later this month, which means a bunch of external auditor folks will be coming to my class with clipboards and checklists.  It’s the not the first time I’ve been through this sort of thing—we got evaluated all the time at The School—but it will be the first time I’m being evaluated in a non-studio situation.  As in I can’t very well go in wearing yoga pants and a leotard.

I used to have a pretty decent “professional wardrobe” thanks to my first job out of college but then I got a little… well, artsy.  My mom has been after me to get a new suit for years but I’ve never seen the point.  I don’t work in an office; I don’t need a suit.  And even when I do occasionally need a suit (job interviews, conference presentations, etc.) I just throw something together and finish it off with a scarf, a pair of heels and two chopsticks wedged into my hair.

I like to think of it as the shock-and-awe approach to dressing professionally.  Most people are so focused on my accessories that they don’t notice I’m wearing a bargain basement dress and not a proper powersuit.

But the SUMMA evaluators aren’t most people.  And a lot hinges on this evaluation.  So I decided to finally break down and buy a proper suit.

And by proper, I mean Burlington Coat Factory (because let’s face it: the $25 gift card I got for Christmas won’t buy even half of a suit at Macy’s.)

I headed down to the Oregon Ave. store, which was perhaps my first mistake.  (There’s a reason why most people in my neighborhood claim to live in “Queen Village” and not “Sou’ Philly.”)  I selected eight or nine suits to try on only to find that the woman’s fitting room was “closed.”

Having worked as a sales associate back in the day, I know what “closed” means in retail parlance.  It means “We’re closing in an hour and we don’t want to get stuck working late because of some idiot in the dressing room.”   Not wanting to cause a scene or cost some poor underpaid associate her night out,   I politely followed her instructions to try the men’s dressing room on the other side of the store.

Well, wouldn’t you know, the men’s dressing room was “closed” too.  The entrance was blocked by a clothing rack and when I managed to locate another sales associate, I was told to go back to the woman’s department.

By now, I wasn’t feeling quite as compassionate.  Suits are heavy.  Eight suits are really heavy.  Especially when you have to carry them across the entire store.

“So what you’re telling me,” I surmised, “is that I can’t try these on?  Anywhere?”


“But this is a clothing store.  People come here to buy clothes.”

The sales associate just shrugged.

I was tempted to drop the suits on the floor and storm off but I didn’t want to be rude so I defiantly hung the suits on the wrong rack (take that Burlington Coat Factory!) and headed towards the exit.

But then I thought of my brother.  My brother wouldn’t take that kind of bullsh*t.  My brother would ask to speak to a manager.

So I went back and uttered those seven magical words: I need to speak to a manager.

Except I added an eighth word: please.

And that was probably my second mistake.  Disgruntled customers don’t say “please” if they want results.  But I did.

The “manager” was sitting on the ground looking about as authoritative as a kid in sandbox (I’m still not convinced that he actually was the manager) and when I explained my plight, he replied that the dressing rooms were closed.  That was it, end of story.

“But why?  It’s still over an hour until the store closes.  I could understand if it was already 9:00pm but this is… this is unacceptable.  I mean, this is a clothing store!”

He rattled off some sort of lame excuse about “spills” and “maintenance” which I immediately recognized as “We close the fitting rooms early so we can get out of here early but I can’t tell you that because it’s against the rules.”

I was ready to spit nails at this point—I don’t have much free time for shopping these days!—but I resisted the urge to raise my voice in the hopes that he might offer up one of many obvious solutions that presented themselves.

You know…

Like open one of the dressing rooms?

Or point me in the direction or the restroom?

Or offer to hold the suits until the following morning when the dressing room “construction work” would be done?

But no.  Let’s just say Mr. Manager won’t be winning Employee of the Year any time soon.

I wished a good evening before I could stop myself (sometimes I wish I could have my brother on headset during times like these.  He’s much better at being a bad ass than I am) and stormed off.

Evidently it’s okay to browse at Burlington Coat Factory after 8:00pm but God help you if you need to, you know, actually try something on.  I mean, seriously, did you think you were shopping at a store that sells clothing?

13 Responses to “The Time I Tried to Shop at Burlington Coat Factory”

  1. becky119

    Wow, I have to say, I was very excited when I saw that the new email that popped into my inbox was a notification of a new post! That being said–I know how you feel. Adam is ALWAYS telling me to have a stronger backbone in similar situations and I just don’t know how. I’ve worked in too many retail/service industry positions to be actually rude to anyone. (Even if they are being rude to me!) Like today, I had to call about the water delivery and I was very upset because they screwed our order up and I wouldn’t be able to have any of my Easter tea today. But the person was very helpful and it wasn’t her fault that she works at the company that messed up my order. I guess that’s kind of a 1st world sort of problem, isn’t it?

    • Kat Richter

      Funny you should say that Becky, as I was walking back to my car, I was totally thinking “This is really a First World problem…” Hope you guys had a nice Easter and that the tea/water situation has been resolved!

  2. aka gringita

    This is absolutely unacceptable … if for no other reason than BURLINGTON COAT FACTORY HAS THE WORST RETURN POLICY IN THE WORLD. Meaning, they basically don’t have one. You HAVE TO try things on, because you don’t have the option to take it home, try it on there, and bring it back if it isn’t going to work.

    Which probably means that people spend more time in the dressing rooms.

    Which is probably why the employees hate having people in there close to closing.

    And bad corporate customer service policies trickle down to worse local customer service.

    Better luck elsewhere.

  3. Landlord

    They do have pretty good price points on their suits though, maybe you’ll get somewhere by contacting them directly? It is a policy that I’m sure they would want to clamp down on…

  4. strawberryquicksand

    You did better than me! I would have simply hunted down a wall with a mirror on it in said coat factory and got down to my knickers and tried the blasted things on then and there and to hell with a change room or no change room! They sound like complete bastards, and if we had Burlington Coat Factory where I live I would NOT patronise them on principal!

    • Kat Richter

      Believe me, if I’d been wearing nicer underwear (and perhaps a bra, come to think of it…) I totally would have done it!

      • strawberryquicksand

        HAHAHA yeah, bra would have been good. My sister, once upon a time, was on holiday in Mexico and really needed to pee. The woman manning the toilet stalls wanted 5 pesos for her to go and use the loos. “cinquo peso, cinquo peso” she kept nagging at my sister and refusing her entry. I mean 5 pesos is paltry but the woman was not going to let her off,and my sister didn’t have any coins on her. So finally my sis was so pissed off that she pulled down her daks, squatted and pissed on the ground in front of the woman, dug a tissue out of her bag, wiped, and threw it down at the woman’s feet and pulled her duds back up and walked off. Take THAT, cinquo peso woman!

  5. kellyg411

    You should totally tweet this post at the Burlington Coat Factory Twitter feed and create a ruckus and get them to send you free stuff. I hate that store. I am a manager in retail, and yes, it sucks to have to stay late, but it’s part of the job. And frankly, when I go in to work at 3pm anyway, I guess staying til 11 is okay!

  6. renpiti

    Nothing gets the angst pumping like reading about someone else’s customer service woes. Glad you popped back to share it. It’s a good thing they didn’t pull that stunt on some moody, face-painted teen looking for a good trench coat to start a rampage in.

  7. M

    Wow! That’s completely unacceptable! The response of the ‘manager’ would have irritated me even more. So much so that I would have asked for the district manager’s name and contact info to let him know I was serious. I’ve found this to net results when company policy isn’t being followed. If it didn’t get results, I’d contact the DM and be firm but not necessarily fiery. An hour before closing!? Please!

  8. Megs

    Ah…the joys of Philly customer service. I lived there 10 years ago, and my favorite holiday tradition was to go to the Ross Dress for Less on Market at Christmastime. It was the most entertaining experiences of the season. There would be an hour long line that would wrap around the store, and the employees were so uninterested/uninspired/uninvested, just the looks on their faces alone would send me into gales of laughter. It was like the old SNL sketches with Maya Rudolph, where she worked at the post office, if she had even less energy. I remember one time, someone asked the woman at the counter for something, she took 2 whole minutes to give a slight “ugh”, 2 more minutes to roll her eyes and turn around, 4 minutes to walk to the counter 4 feet behind her and 4 more minutes to turn around and come back to the counter. It was fabulous.

  9. Rose

    Please keep in mind that this is store specific. Having worked at Burlington and having experienced interaction with our sister stores, I have quickly found that it really depends on the people working. There is another Burlington I frequently call when working and I am always embarassed and disappinted when getting off the phone. I also know for a fact that we would not shut down the dressing rooms that early. We usually stay half an hour after closing waiting for customers to leave. I promise that you would get places by calling the district manager. Reviews and comments we recieve tend to have a BIG influence on the store. It really saddens me to see this post and I hope your shopping goes better next time!


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