September 28, 2010

The Shorts heard ’round the World. ~ Darla Magee

How Twitter Helped Me Get My Lululemon Shorts.

I hadn’t planned on shopping that day.

Fridays are my day off, so I generally spend them running errands and catching up on things that I need to get done—like sleep. But that day, I felt pretty good, and after a conversation with my sweet yoga student and friend Kim, we decided to hit some Tex-Mex…which happens to be located, conveniently, just a few steps away from our other favorite addiction: lululemon.

Lululemon, as most of you know, is a company based out of Canada which, in my opinion, has the absolutely best yoga clothes available. They are also some of the most expensive yoga clothes available, but completely worth it.

Kim and I talked about the perfect shorts, aka the Magic Shorts.

I am a yoga teacher who is over 40 but not quite 50. I teach HOT YOGA. Typically, girls who do hot yoga wear very, very short shorts and a sports bra. Down South we are a little more modest, and as a teacher I believe that modesty is important (at least while teaching). But long pants and 105° is torture. So I have usually settled by wearing cropped pants—lululemon Groove Crops, to be exact. They’re great and they cover everything that I want to have covered, but they’re still a little too warm for hot yoga.

The perfect pair of shorts, I’ve always thought, would be a rise style that comes to just below the belly button, is close-fitting, and goes just about to the knee. In black. These perfect shorts have been elusive for many years. But recently I found them on the lululemon website, so I ordered three pairs in a size 8. (lulu calls them the Biker Groove Shorts.)

I waited with great anticipation for the shorts to arrive, and divulged to Kim that they would be coming any day.

After lunch, Kim and I decided to walk over to lululemon. We did some shopping and tried on a few things. She bought three items, but I didn’t buy anything because I was anticipating the arrival of the Magic Shorts.

When I got home, the shorts were in a UPS box in the driveway. I was excited! I brought them inside and opened them up immediately. They looked like they would fit. However, when I put them on, they were a little loose. They weren’t loose in the waist—that part was actually a little snug; the place where they were loose was between the waistband and the leg band. Strange.

Lululemon calls their customer service hotline the “Guest Education Centre.” If you call the Guest Education Centre, you’ll soon realize that they carry different stock than what is on their website. The Guest Education Centre didn’t have the size I needed. And while looking at their website, I realized that the website did not have my size either. While talking to the lululemon employee on the phone, I pressed her to please keep looking. After several minutes of searching, she told me that she had found the shorts in two stores—in New York and California.

I was thrilled! “Great,” I said, “Send me all of them in my size!” She said unfortunately she could not do that. I would have to buy them directly from the store.

“No problem!” I said. “Give me the phone numbers of the stores that have them.” She did so.

That’s when I entered the lululemon twilight zone.

I called the California store first. Yes, they had the shorts. But, they wouldn’t let me buy them. Yes, you read that correctly: they would not let me buy them. Apparently I had to walk into the store to buy them. Did I mention I live in Texas?

I thought, sometimes California is referred to as “the land of fruits and nuts.” This one is nuts. So I’ll just try New York City. They understand the importance of fashion and economics, and certainly they’ll be more sensible.

I called the New York lululemon store. Yes, they had the shorts. Yes, they had my size. And no, I could not buy them. I had to go in person into the store to buy them.

By this time I was getting quite frustrated. So I called the Guest Education Centre again. Clearly I needed some education.

The next gentleman I spoke with confirmed that I could not buy lululemon clothing from a store directly over the phone. This was their company-wide policy.

This is about the time that I started to think I had stepped into some crazy world of retail that could not possibly exist.

You’re kidding! I have the money; I want the shorts; you have the shorts. What is the problem?

The problem, apparently, is that it’s against lululemon’s policy to allow you to buy an item from one of their stores over the phone, although you can purchase anything you want over the phone with your credit card if you call the Guest Education Centre directly, or order from their website. It was at this time I absolutely knew I had stepped into crazyland.

I was not going to get those shorts easily.

I told the gentleman at the Guest Education Centre I wanted to return the shorts that I had purchased online, so he simply gave me a return authorization number and thanked me. I couldn’t believe it.

Over the years, I’ve spent way too much money with lululemon. Anytime I like something, I buy three pieces of it. I have more black Lululemon jackets than anyone else in the world, I’m certain. My American Express card is so familiar with lululemon, if I try to buy workout gear at any other store, Amex calls me and asks if I’m not feeling well..!

I sat at my computer feeling completely dumbfounded and perplexed.

So I started to tweet my frustration on Twitter:

My tweets began:

@lululemon So pissed! IMPOSSIBLE! I can’t buy lulu in CA store unless I go in TX store and SHOW THEM MY CREDIT CARD? #losingsalesisnotsmart

No response from lululemon, so I tried again:

@lululemon I have spent 10’s of K’s thru your stores, phone and web. THIS is how my loyalty is rewarded? #idiots

And again:

@lululemon I have spent 10’s of K’s thru your stores, phone and web. THIS is how my loyalty is rewarded? #idiots

And still no response. So, again:

@lululemon Glad you’ve done so well off me. Too many other new competitors out there for me to continue this lunacy. #lookingelsewhere

Still nothing from lululemon, so I decided to ask my Twitter followers, and use the #yogadork hashtag. This would certainly alert all those yoga people….

Who is your favorite NON lululemon company for yoga clothes?? #yogadork #back_to_nike

This started to bring in responses from my fellow yogadorks:

@nerdyyogini Was curious as to what was going on

@nerdyyogini The clothes are great. The people are idiots. #yogateachersgetpissedofftoo

I kept going:

@lululemon ACK! I can protect my own credit card! If it’s good enough for your toll free phone sales why not? This is beyond! #yogadork

@yoga_mydrishti A darling yogini up north offered to go buy them for me…

@yoga_mydrishti Thx darling Nancy. The only place they are is in NYC and CA.

And then, finally, lulu cam back with:

@sweatydarla As an alternative, give us a call @ the Guest Education Centre and we can check our phone sale inventory: 1.877.263.9300 option 2.

Now I was really starting to get CRAZY!

@lululemon Darlings… I spent 20 minutes on the phone with you! YOU told me to call NYC for the shorts! NYC refused me!

@lululemon So you gave me my RA# and sent me off very unhappy.

@lululemon So b/c of your ridiculous policy not to get them from NYC 4 me … #yogadork

@lululemon …nor allow me to call & order myself, I will return the wrong-sized ones. You will lose a $160 sale now and many more later. #yogadork

Other friends on Twitter started suggesting different brands for me to try:

@yoga_mydrishti suggested HardTail:

@yoga_mydrishti @nerdyyogini Indeed Hardtail are cute! Are they wicking?

As others started saying how they love lulu and how strange this all seemed, I responded:

@nerdyyogini @yoga_mydrishti Me too. But I ordered on the phone w/ @lululemon TRUSTING an easy exchange from such a BIG RESPECTED company.

@nerdyyogini @yoga_mydrishti They would rather refund me and let me pay return shipping than offer REAL customer service.

A response from lulu:

@sweatydarla Our stores need to verify your credit card in person before placing a phone order. I’m sorry for any confusion on our part.

@lululemon Instead of trying to do damage control here, why not get the exchangeable shorts from NYC for me ?

@lululemon Charge me for them… credit my card once you get the return items? Heck! I am TRYING TO SPEND MORE MONEY WITH YOU!

@lululemon Your stock is up today… maybe you don’t need the sales?

This was apparently more than they could take:

@lululemon UPDATE: lulu reps monitoring Twitter CALLED ME to make the shorts fiasco go away! They are sending the shorts! #backinlululove

And they did! lululemon actually called me, took my credit card number, and sent those size 6 Magic Shorts straight from New York State… or was a California? I can’t remember.

What I do know is that I love the shorts. They’re perfect, they are magic—and they’re mine!

You might be interested to know that I’m still buying lululemon clothes, as I put it in one of my last tweets on the subject:

Sorry Mr. Darla. It looks like my Luon® addiction will continue to assault the AMEX. #almostamiracle

I cannot imagine what would’ve happened if lulu had not dug themselves out of this terrible sales hole. I also cannot imagine that I would have to go the rest of my life not shopping for black luon. Overall, I’m happy about this. Unfortunately, later attempts to buy more of the Magic Shorts were met with yet another stop sign. Apparently these shorts were only a summer item, and they are no longer available in lululemon’s inventory.

In the end, I did not send the size 8 shorts back to lululemon (nor get a refund). I kept all three pairs. I wear one pair; I gave one pair away to a student of mine; and the others are sitting—still wrapped in the plastic bag—waiting for me to open them. I love lululemon’s clothes, but do not love their customer service, I do not love their policies, and frankly I find their employees to be a little cultish, a little too chipper, and a little too interested in where I do yoga and where I work out.

But, I do go back often—very often, too often—I can’t help myself. There’s something about those Magic Shorts that keep me coming back!

Darla Magee is a dog-lovin’, gun-totin’, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is, multi-certified yoga teacher based in Texas.

You can keep up with her on her blog, Posting from the Path.

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