Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My baby, she wrote me a letter...

So as I my blogroll can attest, I am a big J. Crew fan. So much so, that I have a free jcrew.com baseball cap that I got back when 1) J. Crew sold baseball caps and 2) They were trying to entice their customers into trying out this crazy new thing called "the internet" that you could use to buy stuff.

J.crew (like most retailers,) has always left something to be desired when it came to showcasing models of color. I chalk it up to them being products of their environment ;p I have coninued to shop there because I like their clothes, and have been satisfied with the service I receive.

Contrast this to Abercombie & Fitch, a place where I stopped spending my money because I wasn't satisfied with the service that I received. Now, I know that A&F tends to give crappy service to everyone, but that seems like a pretty good reason not to spend your money there, doesn't it? I'm also too old for that place these days. Sidenote--did you know that Abercrombie and Fitch was involved in a class-action lawsuit a few years ago that they settled for $40 million dollars? Charges of racial, ethnic and gender discrimination. Sucks to be them.

Ok, back to J. Crew. I got a catalog in the mail a few weeks ago, and immediately noticed a brownish lady on the cover. As I flipped through the pages, I saw that she was on a lot of them. It was a woman named Liya Kebede, and they were partnering with her to promote her children's clothing line. I want to reinforce this kind of behavior, so I wrote them a letter. It said:

Dear Mr. Drexler,

I am writing to express my surprise and delight with my April '09 J.Crew catalog. I have been a long time fan of J.Crew clothing, wearing it since the days of the barn jackets and rollneck sweaters of the early '90's. As your company has made a transition with its designs, I am pleased to see that you are also expanding your ideas about beauty and what the "J.Crew customer" looks like. When I saw Liya Kebede so prominently featured modeling this year's spring fashions, I was excited to see a beautiful, sophisticated woman of color representing your company. As such an iconic American brand, J.Crew is in a unique position to help reshape and expand the idea of the "All-American girl" as we embark on this next decade of the 21st century. The United States is a country with a rich history that includes Americans of all shades, and it is very promising to see a major retailer acknowledging and celebrating that fact. Keep up the good work.


I used my name, the myblackfriendsays.com is again, for branding purposes.

There are a couple of things that I want to highlight that can help you write an effective compliment/complaint letter to a company.

1) I addressed the letter to the CEO. Now does that mean that he is definitely going to read it? No, but it shows that that's who I intended it to get to, and so the chances are greater that he will see it. Also, if they send me a response, they will have to acknowledge that Mickey is the person that I sent it to.

2.) I emphasized my long relationship with the company. Long relationship= $$. Long time customer that is happier now than she was before = more $$. And like Diddy would say, "It's all about the benjamins, baby."

3.) I made a point to tie-in what I was writing them about to their brand image. This is really important because big corporations are obsessed with their "brand image." If you can show how what they are doing is or isn't consistent with that image--it can have a big impact.

4.) I made it clear what I wanted them to do. In this case, "keep up the good work." But this step is important if you're complaining about something also. It's not effective to right a letter and say, "I'll never shop here again!" because if you do that, what is their incentive to try and satisfy you? Companies want to know what you want them to do to "make it right." If they can do that, they will. If they can't--they'll tell you what they can do.

I'll let you know how it turns out. And I want to also say that sometimes, nothing comes of writing letters. I talk in this post about a similar situation. I never heard anything back at all from this company, and as a result I don't buy their products--and I take every opportunity to encourage others to spend their money elsewhere.

It is important to note that regardless of the outcome, I am making my voice heard. And that is definitely worth something.

As always, I welcome your comments.


  1. Cathy2:49 PM

    On a less cerebral note, I gave up on Jcrew b/c I couldn't stand the volume of catalog mail. One order and BAM, you're back on their list for a year.

    I like your tips for letter writing. I tend to get all fired up and bitchy. I need to review the honey/vinegar saying, I think.

  2. I hate Abercrombie. Do you remember those awful "Asian" shirts several years ago with stuff like "Two Wongs Can Make It White"?

    Eff them.

  3. Anonymous1:53 AM

    I saw your note on TLO and loved what you said ... so glad I tracked back and found your blog and twitter!

  4. "I used to work for A&F... that terrible customer service is not coincidental, I'm sorry to say, nor was (is?) it discouraged by the managers.

    I didn't see the racial, ethnic or gender discrimination (at my store), but they most certainly hired on looks-- hence the group interviews and random employees wandering through during the interview process. We were ranking the interviewees based on how hot or not they were, and that factored into who got hired. True story.

    Not en pointe to your topic, but yet another reason to hate on Abercrombie and may lead to another post for you? Inequality based on looks? You've talked a bit about internalization of how people view (or may view) others before, so not that far of a leap, is it?"

  5. Great letter, and thanks for the tips. They'll help as I write my own mad letters. I don't mean to flog my blog, but I still gotta write to Old Navy about this mess.

  6. j galt1:25 PM

    good for you that was a well written letter to the ceo. I understand that the First family is a big supporter of J Crew. It seems to me on the surface that it is a well run company with a srtong sense of social responsibility, I hope they do not loose their way.