Sunday

To the J.Crew Red Phone!


The very Burberry style December ads from J.Crew. From Olivet.
Sometimes, to misquote C.S. Lewis, I blog to know I am not alone. This applies to throw pillow addiction, taste in movies, or, in this case, the realization that an enduring, beloved icon contains one horrible flaw. I am, of course, referring to the J.Crew Red Phone.

The right way to use a red phone:  in your own home. Interior design by Lindsey Coral Harper, from Habitually Chic.
The Red Phone is a strange, and as far as I can tell in the world of retail, hideously unique thing. In every J.Crew store there is a little blonde wooden table, sometimes in the shop's center, but more frequently squirreled away near the sales section, upon which rests a J.Crew catalogue, perhaps a pencil, and a red telephone. The purpose of this device is to connect you, the shopper, with a live human being somewhere else in the world to whom you will read the catalogue number of the item you wish to purchase that is not, sadly, available in that store. 
On this particular visit, before you advanced upon the red phone (where you were led by a sympathetic and perky member of the sales staff), several things occurred. 1. You wanted a particular item (size, color, whatever). 2. The J.Crew store you were standing in did not have the item. 3. The sales person checked her computer and established that the website DID have it. 4. You said, delightedly, "great! I want to order it!" 5. At which point the sales person, oddly, left the computer, and walked you across the store. To the telephone. "Beep, boop boop, beep!" She punched the 1-800 number in, handed over the receiver, and left. 
You the shopper were left to ponder such questions as, "is the phrase 'I'd like the Speckle Cardigan in light fawn' actually secret code for 'I am a spy, connect me with the Kremlin'?"


"Hey Gorbie! Yeah - so do we have a deal? 20% off madras blazers?"
So you stand there alone in the middle of the store, feeling a tad silly, with your state of the art, touch-screen, internet-enabled cell phone in your purse, waiting for someone to answer on the other end of the line. Funnily, the connection is not so great, and, you realize, belatedly, that there are suddenly a lot of people in the store. A LOT. You have to shout your (previously top secret) size a little louder so that the red phone wielding sales associate on the other end can hear it over the din of the crowd. You begin a slow and steady retreat into the rack of discounted men's navy blazers behind you, but curse the old-fashioned phone cord, you've nowhere to go. Now, the sales person wants your full legal name! And credit card number! And security code! And mailing address! You begin to realize that a previously harmless looking teen in a slouchy hat is rather attentive to your call. A mom with her teenage daughter is frowning at the racket you're making. The sales rep on the other end is rattling off your total cost and confirmation number without regard to your lack of pen and paper. 
Palms sweaty, you finally hang up and think the thought that every retailer around the globe with a return policy works so hard to keep out of your mind: "Was that really worth it?"

"No, no, no. It's a Bat Card, not a Master Card!"
I've had several "red phone experiences" during my long love affair with J.Crew, and I'm always left wondering: what ARE they thinking? A red phone call means free shipping on your item, but there's absolutely no reason an in-store computer transaction wouldn't either (indeed, most other retailers offer that service). Is it meant to imply higher quality service? I can't imagine why the customer is expected to enjoy being handed off from a personal, in-store experience to an impersonal phone. Is it supposed to be classic? Identity theft is so not classic. Is it meant to invoke quality? Boy, nobody does catalogue store order experiences like... Sears. And finally, in this day of red iphones, why bother at all? If you J.Crew associates won't place the order for us, we can just make the call from the relative security of our car. Or even order it online from our cell. Or at home. 

A Sears catalogue order location. With ice AND guitar strings. But do they have khaki trench coats?
So, J.Crew, wonderful store, leader in ruffles, icon of reinvention, I am respectfully asking: ditch the red phone. Give us secure, convenient, ordering from the front desk. And please, start that home decor line soon. 

The new red Want Organic for J.Crew Newbery iphone case. See! We knew that you knew that we knew that there were iphones!
xoxo,Sanity Fair
Images: Presidential red phone, freerepublic.com. Reagan on the phone. Storefront. Bat phone. 

4 comments:

VogueOntheRange said...

Girl! I love this post! I felt the same way the first time I ever ordered from the red phone...

studioJudith said...

I'm thinking a red phone in a vintage phone booth...
be seated and insure a bit of privacy.

In the middle of the store .. .
shouting all that personal info -
no,no,no.

Jjj

Anonymous said...

I use to work for Mark Hampton in the early 80s and he too had a Red Phone! It was solely for his use only and it was only to be used to receive calls from him. In other words this way he could call the office at time of the day and be sure that everyone would know he was calling and that it would never be busy as no one was allowed to use it to call out or in.

When he was out of the office for any length of time we would all line up to the phone and one by one receive our orders from him. We were only allowed to write these orders on legal size lined yellow note pads. Sometimes before he left for a trip we would all give him our pads and he would give us bulleted missives written by fountain in indigo blue script- days later after we had acted on these orders we would line up at the Red Phone again one by one read him back his orders and tell him what we had accomplished.

All this was before the cell phone and a every day use of email.

Southern Aspirations said...

LOVE it! Laughing out loud. I admittedly have not used the Red Phone and after this probably won't. ;-) Can't believe they haven't set up some sort of chic computer kiosk.

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