Sunday, September 20, 2015

... an awful Halloween experience at Sur La Table has been corrected...

A little over a month ago, The Spooky Vegan posted “Halloween 2015 at Sur La Table” introducing me to the store Sur La Table through the view of their Halloween products. I immediately ordered the Spider Web Appetizer Plates, a set of four for $15 plus shipping and handling. I normally don’t drop prices on my blog but with today’s post it is intentional. My blood is still boiling and you’ll learn why.

The closest Sur La Table is 27 miles from my home. That isn’t such a big deal since you all know that I have a 100-mile commute to work; but, on the weekend I prefer to keep things close and local. My fella and I opted to go to a recommended restaurant in the southern part of Richmond making Sur La Table quite close to our destination. I was excited for a date night and a little Halloween shopping.  

There are some other aspects of my life that you all know that Sur La Table does not know. I love Halloween and all things spooky; I am a DINK (Double Income No Kids); this is the season that I call my “Spending Holiday.” Why some Americans drop thousands on Christmas, I drop mad cash on Halloween. No regrets either because this is the one time of the year that everyone likes what I love year round. Many of you know the feeling.

Last night my fella and I had a nice dinner and then headed to the mall. While we were on the way to Sur La Table, we went into Bath & Body Works and I made my second large Bath & Body Works purchase of the season. Their Halloween is finally up in stores and there were several items that weren’t originally posted online so Yay! (I’ll post more details about this later) With two bags in hand, we kept shopping.

We arrived at Sur La Table. We entered and saw a fall display which included a beautiful Staub Pumpkin Dutch Oven that I recently bought from Crate & Barrel. This wasn’t part of last night’s hunt though. There was a Christmas section; nope, not interested. And then a Thanksgiving section…no thank you. In the back of the store, there it was THE HALLOWEEN DISPLAY! Gweee!

I picked up the Spider Candy Bowl ($10); the Mini Halloween Spatulas, Set of 2 ($11) which I really don’t need because I already have mini spatulas but they were too cute; Jack-O’-Lantern Jacquard Kitchen Towel ($10 each… I purchased two of the spider towels so that makes it $20); the Spider Mug ($10); and, the Spider Pot Holders ($10). My fella was holding our other shopping bags while I made my way to the register. I placed my items down and my fella snuck in a bag of Hammond’s Candies Halloween Candy Corn ($8) and here is where the problems begin. This season, I have spent about $75 at Sur La Table. That isn’t a great deal of money but it certainly is a nice chunk of change when it comes to stores who rely on repeat business. That’s where they have lost me.

The cashier who I won’t name in this post (but will in my corporate letter) immediately made a comment about the candy corn. I asked if he was stating that their candy corn wasn’t any good. And that’s when he responded "candy corn is nothing but sugar" that one can buy "if you're into eating pure sugar.” His tone was a bit rude but I shrugged it off because maybe he was having a bad day. He then proceeded to say that Halloween is a ridiculous holiday. I laughed and responded that my entire purchase included their Halloween items. He pushed back by stating, "Halloween is a ridiculous holiday that is only for kids.” Again, I thought this guy was pulling my leg. He can’t seriously be debating my purchase with me. He stated that Halloween is an “awful” holiday. At this point my fella moved away. He could tell that I wasn’t going to back down and that this transaction was starting to become a bit tense. In many situations, I would have left everything on the counter and walked out making a follow-up call to the store… but not this time although I did put back the candy corn. I liked the other items and also wanted more than just the name listed on his badge, which I presumed the receipt would provide me.
As he proceeded to note my items as silly even noting that he didn’t care for spiders, he requested my name to put into their store system. I noted that my last name means *Child of the Land of Spiders* in Polish. At that point, the other retail associate walked away. She was an older woman who had been helpful earlier in my shopping experience and even when I first approached the register she commented that she thought my vampire belt buckle was cute. I wish she had been the one ringing up the transaction instead of the snarky wanna-be foodie hipster who wanted to tell me all about his preferred holiday, Thanksgiving.

When he started in on the merits of a “real holiday” (Thanksgiving), I responded that I was a vegetarian and then he told me that Tofurky from Whole Foods is better than turkey. Is this guy for real? When one works in retail, one must treat all of the merchandise and customers in the store with respect especially when all that the patron is buying pertains to said *awful* holiday.

I am not his therapist. I do not care if he does not like spiders; I do not care if he does not like Frankenstein. The fact is that while it hasn’t happened in many years, I am somewhat used to this type of discrimination. As a young gothy girl, everyone thought it was their right to comment on my appearance or the aesthetic that I liked in whatever didactic way they pleased. They had no idea that I was raised by parents who taught me to be strong, independent, and to stick up for myself in ways that their generation never believed they could. You treat people with respect and they should treat you with respect… at least that’s what I was taught. I am also a firm believer that if the store wants my business, they’ll treat me in a way that expresses that. I did not get that feeling from Sur La Table.

While this was a terrible experience and my fella was pissed and wanted me to walk away and make some nasty-service phone calls, my immediate thought was that this would make an excellent learning opportunity for those snarky individuals who work in retail. This incident does not stop me from buying Halloween items. In fact, I am probably the target audience for stores like Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, World Market, and Sur La Table for even having Halloween items. Aside from having the recreational cash to spend on such “ridiculous” items, I also like the products. I’m pretty sure those who design these products for these big chains would appreciate that I enjoy their work. These big box stores wouldn’t make it if we weren’t buying it.
From one weekend  of recent Halloween shopping
Many of us have worked among people where we have to smile and note that the customer is always right. The snarky retail guy last night even muttered something about “Well, the customer always has to be right” but here is the thing, I do not have to shop at THAT store and honestly in the future I won’t; I do not even have to shop at Sur La Table although I’m not asking any of you to not shop there. Their products are nice quality and super cute. 

Next year, I’ll stick to their online store which I understand is not necessarily good for business—why have a retail store if everyone can simply order online? I just hope that Sur La Table realizes that they do not have to put up with the nonsense and negative attention that unenthusiastic workers bring to their business. With an increase in focus toward experiential shopping, this was a textbook example of what a customer should not feel.
Follow-Up: I am pleased to report that on a Sunday afternoon, I received a response to my email to customer service.

"Thank you for contacting Sur La Table Customer Service. We are so sorry to hear that you have had that horrible experience with one of our Sur La Table Stores, however we will forward this to our management team and they will forward this to the stores direct manager so that can be address, again we do apologize.”

Second Follow-Up:

JD Scalia, the district manager for Sur La table in the Mid-Atlantic, sent me a personal email at 6:20 PM on a Sunday that not only shared his deepest apologies for this incident but also shared his own passion for the Halloween holiday. It has become increasingly clear that my visit was an unfortunate fluke and not how Sur La Table does business. Thanks to Sur La Table for righting a wrong! Somehow I feel like Halloween just won a little battle :D


  1. What a little turd!!!! I really hope that Sur La Table at the very least SPEAKS to him about how you treat people when they walk into their establishment. And I hope he is reprimanded. You are better than me. I would have posted his name, and probably looked him up on Facebook and friended him so I could drop my post on his wall.

    He just didn't realize who he was dealing with. <3 Sorry that happened to you. Its like the bigger kid who tries to ruin the younger siblings Christmas by telling them the truths and not truths of Santa Claus... if you get my drift...

    1. Be sure to check out my follow-up :D

    2. Awesome! :) Its nice when they respond positively!

  2. What a horrible experience you had! Fortunately, I don't have to (or can't, really ^^) shop there, so I won't. Write a nice letter to his supervisor and teach him a lesson!

  3. I was very cranky when I read this, I worked in customer service for years and never behaved anything like this to a customer even if I was having a terrible day or did not agree with their choices. I am glad that the management cared and got back to you so quickly regarding his behaviour!

  4. Unbelievable behavior from that dude. :O But lucky that the other employees are nice! ^_^

  5. What a judgmental jerk! Good to know Sur La Table followed up quickly and appropriately.