Nordstrom I: We are never, ever gonna part

Perhaps you’ve heard the infamous story about how Nordstrom accepted a tire return. For those who haven’t, it goes a little somethin’ like this:

Here’s a true story to prove the power of unconditional guarantees: About a dozen years ago, a guy walked into the former Fairbanks, Alaska, Nordstrom department store with two snow tires. Never mind that the Nordstrom department store chain sells upscale clothing, not automotive parts. He walked up to the counter, put the tires down, and asked for his money back. The clerk, who’d been working there for two weeks, saw the price on the side of the tires, reached into the cash register, and handed the man $145.

The interesting thing to me is that snopes.com, a website developed to disband urban myths, is decidedly undecided about the validity of this story. The confusion is a result of conflicting reports from the company itself. In 1988, Nordstrom officially stated the story was merely an example of the level of customer service they provide and not true. Nearly ten years later, John Nordstrom (yes, those Nordstroms) claimed he was there when it happened.

Regardless, I guess the point is that Nordstrom has exemplary customer service and this story demonstrates that commitment in a very simple and easy-to-retell manner. And I’ve witnessed this customer service first hand. After a shoe purchase, I received a personal, handwritten thank you note including a direct line in case I need further assistance. I have cards from sales reps in every department I shop, and they recognize me when I return. My friend took it one step further by befriending a saleswoman. They’ve been friends for years, and this woman knows her size, color and style preferences, and calls my friend at home when she’s pulled aside items she might like.

So, imagine my surprise when I had a less than satisfactory experience . . . but that, my friends, is a story for next time.

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