"Let me see your butt," he said, shooing me with his hand. Instinctively, I knew I could trust him. I turned around, lifted my jacket and...

Share story

“Let me see your butt,” he said, shooing me with his hand.

Instinctively, I knew I could trust him. I turned around, lifted my jacket and gave it a wiggle. Moments later, he was off.

I was at the downtown Seattle location for Forth & Towne, a new retail concept by Gap Inc., which caters to women who have outgrown Banana Republic but aren’t ready for Talbots.

He was a style consultant, trained to recommend pieces in the most flattering silhouettes (hence, the once-over) and to point out styles I wouldn’t choose myself.

The store’s centerpiece is a circular fitting salon, designed to make a shopper forget she’s just worked 10 hours, has mascara running down one eye and a knot in her hair. (Or, at the very least, he didn’t acknowledge mine.)

This store stands out for its customer service, even in a town defined by The Nordstrom Way.

Traci Entel, principal for Katzenbach Partners in New York, co-authored the research study, “The Empathy Engine.”

She said developing good customer service isn’t as easy as it looks — not as easy as, say, installing the same hotel beds as a competitor.

“The companies who are making mistakes,” she said, “believe they can control the experience from the very top.”

Entel’s advice? Chuck the customer-service script, empower frontline employees to make decisions that provide a consistent (not over-the-top) experience and put your employees, not customers, first.

She mentioned a hotel that manages according to the golden rule: “They know if they make the right choices when it comes to the employee, the employee will make the right decisions when it comes to the customer.”

Moments later, the style consultant returned, this time with a pair of jeans and a gold brocade jacket.

He offered me bottled water to take into the dressing room.

The jeans fit like a glove, although I went with a champagne-tinted, silk short-sleeved top, its pleated neckline a smart take on a classic piece.

I went back a second time to try on suits, this time with a different style consultant. I vowed to return after calling from my dressing room for pants in a larger size.

She handed them to me without a trace of sympathy in her eyes. Now that is customer service.

— Monica Soto Ouchi


Wingardium leviosa! “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the final installment in the profoundly popular “Potter” series, went on presale Thursday at bookstores across America in anticipation of its July 21 debut. Just like the levitation spell, the series has lifted sales for Seattle-based Amazon.com. Before the sixth book came out in July 2005, the online retail juggernaut had sold a record 1.5 million advance orders. MSO

Jones Soda gives away pop and its other drinks every Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. It’s one per person, and in warm weather, a line of free-soda-lovin’ customers snakes out the door at 234 Ninth Ave. North in South Lake Union.

Besides a free drink, folks get a look at Jones’ funky headquarters, including a sit-down hair dryer just inside the front door, and a waiting room with the Periodic Chart of the Atoms is sure to elicit high-school flashbacks.

Outside the free hours, drinks are 50 cents each with a limit of two per customer per day. — MA

Choice Organic Teas in West Seattle has converted several of its herb teas to fair trade. The Egyptian farmers who grown its chamomile, hibiscus and spearmint will use some of the money from fair-trade premiums to address their high illiteracy rate with programs like reading and writing classes and scholarship funds. Choice, whose parent company is Granum, also introduced a new fair-trade-certified herb tea, Lemon Lavender Mint. — MA

Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. Monica Soto Ouchi covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-515-5632 or msoto@seattletimes.com.