The SNEWS View: Our shopper just says ‘no’ to riddling retail acronyms

Our shopper finds retail riddles right and left. It was as if Batman’s nemesis The Riddler was behind every corner, saying, “Riddle me this, shopper-girl…”
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I’d been off the shopping grid nearly six months living in Montana, basking in various outdoor pursuits. But, since I was back in Southern California over the holidays, I decided to tap into my SoCal roots and hit South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

South Coast Plaza is a bastion of capitalism where the word “recession” still seems non-existent as I was jostled by crowds. I grew up shopping at this mall and thought I was a fairly savvy shopper. But by day’s end I learned I had a leading role in a new reality show called “Stump the Customer.”

My first stop was at Nordstrom to buy some chi-chi face lotion for a friend. I waded through the crowds to get to the counter and flashed a sheet of paper with the moisturizer’s name on it to the clerk. She looked through cases and skimmed the computer and found they were out of stock.

She turned to me and said, “We can do a DTC for you.”

A what? I stared at her for a moment. The way she said it, she seemed to assume I knew what that meant. I’ve worked in retail and have been a trade journalist for years, but I’d never heard of a DTC. “Uh…what does that mean?” I was forced to ask…feeling somewhat clueless and just a tad dumb too, neither of which are good feelings for a clerk to make a customer feel.

“It’s ‘direct to ship’ – we’ll send the lotion to your house and you won’t have to pay for the shipping.”

Well, first off, how does anyone get DTC out of “direct to ship?” Shouldn’t it be DTS I wondered aloud? She clarified that it meant ‘direct to customer.’ Ahhh…it became more clear, but wouldn’t it have been so much easier just to have said, “We can ship it to your house for free.” I know, I know, I’ve been living in Montana and I guess I missed the course in new retail communication techniques.

While I’ll agree it was hell-a busy at the mall that day, acronyms only seem appropriate if your job is time-sensitive. Like NASA rocket scientists -- they need quick acronyms to communicate swiftly while figuring out how to drill holes in massive meteors before they strike the Earth. I don’t think the sales clerk at Nordstrom is tasked with saving the planet, so she can drop the DTC stuff.

Perhaps this is simply a result of suffering from the email and text age where people no longer laugh, but instead LOL. Instead of screaming out a good old-fashioned American curse word, they blurt something stupid like “OMG,” even when they see a big meteor approaching.

I was puzzling through the sales clerk exchange as I wandered down the mall before I entered Victoria’s Secret, where I expected my shopping experience would be so much easier to understand. I told the salesperson I was looking for a bra and she asked me if I wanted a full cup or a demi-cup. Huh? Demi cup? Is this Victoria’s infamous secret?

Not one to be shy and being just plain curious, I asked, “What’s that?” She explained that a demi style has a half-cup so you can wear it with a plunging neckline and it won’t show. Granted, I probably should have known that (seems others I know do) but, like I said, I’ve been in the backwoods of Montana for a few months. (Later, at home, I looked up bra styles online and found out there are more than 30 types of bras – all with different utterly confusing names. Who knew?!…and I’ve been wearing them for years!)

This shopping trip was becoming quite an education. I felt as if Batman’s nemesis The Riddler was behind every corner, saying, “Riddle me this, shopper-girl…”

I ducked into the familiar trappings of Abercrombie & Fitch, more eager than ever to escape the insider lingo. There I spied a rack of cute tops at the front of the store. I glanced at the tag to check sizes and see the price and instead read this: “Not for Sale.”

What?! Now I had been truly stumped. What apparel store displays a rack of, yes, apparel at the front of the store and doesn’t sell it? (At least the tag didn’t just say NFS!)

OMG. HOAS. Apparently I need to RFTM to understand this new retail world I find myself shopping in. LOL. Maybe I have been in the woods too long…but SRSLY, wouldn’t it be so gr8 if we all just dropped the lingo and said what we meant? You know, in plain English…KNIM?

--Wendy Geister

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