Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The Customer is Always Right?

Several years ago I worked as a seamstress for a bridal shop. After the other girls made the sale, I would step in and make the alterations. It is amazing how everyone thinks you can take a tuck here and a pinch there and work miracles.

I remember one particular customer. She came in and tried on the dress she'd ordered several months earlier. It fit her perfectly and only the hem needed to be taken up. The problem was she wanted it tighter. This request came on the assumption that tighter would make her look skinnier. We tried to explain how this wouldn't work, but our advice fell on deaf ears. I looked at my boss, silently pleading with her not to make me do this job. I could only predict problems. But the customer is always right.

Several days later she came in for her next fitting. She wasn't happy with the alteration. She insisted on us making it even tighter. Apparently she still didn't think she looked skinny enough. We repeated our original conversation about the problems with making it too tight. But, once again the customer is always right.

The third time she came in, I knew the bride would not be happy with the new look. When she put the dress on, she came close to tears. The fabric across the front of the dress pulled in unattractive horizontal wrinkles and the seams were strained. We could barely get the zipper up. The mother was thrilled, she thought it looked great. The bride started blaming us for wrecking her dress. I reassured her that if she wold come back the next week, we would try one more time. She didn't look like she wanted to trust us, but she agreed. I talked with my boss and told her my plan.

The next time the bride returned and tried it on, the fit was perfect. The fabric hung smooth and the seams were unstressed. She looked in the mirror and beamed. We looked at her and said, "Wow, you must have lost weight. It looks gorgeous on you." The bride and her mother couldn't stop gushing over how great the dress looked. They were amazed at what losing a few pounds would do. I looked at my boss and she winked at me. I had let the sides out to the original measurement and pressed the stitching lines away. But as far as the customer was concerned, we had taken in the sides to make her look skinnier and performed a miracle in making her dress fit her perfectly.

I still chuckle when I think of this satisfied customer. It makes me think of writing and the steps I take to please my "customers". I let them read drafts and make suggestions. I let them read more drafts and make more suggestions. But when it comes down to the final version, it really is up to me to take the suggestions and use or discard them as I see fit. And hopefully when the they get the final copy, they leave satisfied, because the customer is always right.


ali said...

Bwahahaha!!! Stephanie I loved your story! You told it so well and, because I lived an experience much like that, it brought back memories! Except in my case, I had a not-too experienced seamstress make wedding dress cheap, cheap. I didn't get any fittings - just the first one so she could set the pattern and the last one! To this day I am shamed by my wedding pictures because the dress was SO tight across my chest that my breasts were completely squished flat inside the dress. If I'd had a say I would have said "let it out a little!". Sad! :( Your customer was so lucky to have you to 'fix' her problem so she looked lovely on her big day!

Stephanie said...

Oh, it makes me cringe when I hear stories about "not so experienced" seamstresses. It gives the rest of us a bad name. Glad you enjoyed the story, sorry you had a bad time with your wedding dress.

Ronda Hinrichsen said...

What a great story! I was so glad you made the point about writing to your audience at the end, too. Critique groups--all our readers-- are wonderful and can often save the day by providing that little advice that might solve a major problem. However, every bit of advice we take needs to make sense to us, the authors, too. We are the ones who've dreamed and sweated over our stories. We are the ones who know all the ins and outs of it. Only we can know what really works for us and what doesn't. Because, after all, if we aren't happy with what we've written, does it matter what others think?

Stephanie said...

Well said.

Josi said...

Hey my current character is a seamstress, I might be asking for some advice here and there.

Great analogy and so very very right. We are the captain of our ship, but taking advice from experienced crew can make the journey smoother.

Stephanie said...

I'd be glad to help where I can. I'll be sure to read that one.

Ajoy said...

Wonderful analogy! This blog entry shows just how well you write. Thank you for sharing.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

ajoy, glad you enjoyed it.

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