Oh Dear (or: A Small Rant)

I recently visited a yarn store which is a newcomer to the downtown Boston yarn scene.  The store is not one of my usual yarn haunts and seems unlikely to become one.  I had been there only twice before, and on this particular occasion I was with two friends, one of whom had traveled a significant distance to make a (not very small) yarn purchase.  I, myself, was there to register for a class.

After registering (and paying) for the class, I began to browse through the selection of solid Koigu KPPPM (say it with me: "mmmmm").  Some of you might remember that I'm planning to knit myself a feather-and-fan jacket this fall and Koigu KPPPM is most definitely a yarn contender.

I saw a wonderful solid: maybe purple, maybe gray, maybe brown.  You just couldn't tell which it was.  "Gorgeous" would have been an understatement.  I wandered over to the variegated skeins and chose a complimentary colorway.  Suddenly I had a project!  The colors were perfect, but absolutely not what I had envisioned for this sweater (I was thinking of something more blue/gray).  Was this true inspiration or a whim?  Would I like this combination on second inspection?

There was only one way to know.  I grabbed my Palm, and copied down the colorway numbers.  I did not, however, copy down the price.  I wasn't ready to buy that day, I was just planning.  This will be a special project, and there's no way that I'm going to buy (expensive) yarn that I don't completely love and is not exactly what I want.

At this point, the shop owner came over to me and said, "Ah!  What are you doing in front of me?  Just so you can go on-line and buy it!"

Excuse me?!  Frankly, the thought hadn't entered my head.  I wasn't ready to buy anything; I was merely doing research and planning for a special project.  I explained this to the owner, and she backed down.

After I had had a chance to think about what had happened, the comment really annoyed me.  Didn't I just get bullied by the shop owner?  The fact that I had to defend my (perfectly innocent and reasonable) action makes me reluctant to return to her shop.  My yarn notebook (now on my Palm) is filled with lots of things: yarns I like, yardage, gauges, pattern ideas, you name it.  For all she knew, I could have been noting a design idea, converting yards to meters, or multiplying how many skeins I needed for a project.  I take notes all the time.  Even if I was noting the colorways for on-line shopping, it was none of her business!

I know that this shop does not have the very best yarn prices in the area (and I suspect that the shop owner knows this, too).  The price was reasonable given the shop's location on a well-heeled shopping street in the Back Bay, and certainly within the general price range for Koigu.  If the shop owner had been the least bit helpful (mentioning similar colorways, enquiring about the combination that I was laying out, etc.), I would have overlooked the price in return for superior service.  Give me a good brick-and-mortar LYS over an on-line store any day of the week--price be damned! 

There's no way that I'd give up the personal service, good advice, and friendly atmosphere of my LYS to save (in this instance) a few dollars.  I'm in a position where having the yarn in-stock and available is more important to me than saving a buck or two a skein.  In my experience, on-line yarn shopping requires a lot of guesswork, waiting, and back-and-forth.  I don't have time to do that with every yarn purchase.  I do it rarely: when the price savings is significant (50 percent or more), or when I cannot buy the yarn locally.  The touching, discussing, and browsing (i.e. the shopping) before I buy are important steps for me.  I'm a big believer that good LYSs will be around if we support them. 

[Before I get slammed with comments, let me acknowledge that I realize that my situation is not representative of others, and "significant" savings means different things to different people.]

I also believe that LYSs will be around if they offer us knitters outstanding service in a way that no on-line store could ever achieve.  Treat me well, and I'll be a loyal customer (and recommend others!)  This does mean that sometimes I'll come to your store to browse, to look at color cards, to touch, to pick your brain, and (yes!) to take notes--without buying a skein.  It's give and take.

Let me give you an example.  Just before visiting this store, I popped by A Good Yarn (Definitely one of my LYSs, and if you're local to Boston, it should be one of yours, too.  See what I mean about recommendations?).  I had a credit there, and I needed a US5 Addi circular.  I also wanted to browse a bit among the books.  I spent a friendly half hour (at least!) feeling yarns, skimming books, and talking to the staff.  Guess what: I walked out with not only my needle but also a pattern book (everyone's having babies you know).

It must stink to be a yarn-store owner and realize that someone is using your expertise and your store's resources to research an on-line purchase.  I'm not sure what can be done about that, but I know that chastising potential customers is not a good business strategy.

I'm definitely leaning towards the Koigu for this project.  Unfortunately, I won't be placing the order at this store.


I don't blame you for wanting to place your order elsewhere. That's just poor customer service. If she was worried about you going online, she didn't have to say anything. All she had to do was talk to you about your project, among other things, and she could have made a friend and a loyal customer. I'm at the end of my rope with companies that don't feel that they should serve their customers. They just want your money, and I don't want to feel used in that way.

I agree the lys handled this poorly. I know the ecomony is wacko and he/she may be nervous about business but don't make accusations and offend customers. I agree with Anna, if she simply talked to you about your project she could've saved a sale.

Sounds like she's in it for the money and not the love of knitting--did she think she was going to get rich opening a yarn store? With so many places opening up, it's "survival of the fittest." You really do have to reach out to your clientele and "bond" with them. Are you still going to take the class? Let me guess, no refunds, right?

I had a similar bad LYS experience a few days ago - I dont' blame you for not wanting to return, I won't be returning to my bad experience! My (no longer) LYS won't allow kids in the store. Period. Even if they knit (as my DD does). Nice huh?

I wouldn't buy from that store either. I was looking at a kit. Little expensive, but I was interested. Because a friendly LYS owner/worker came over and started talking to me about how fun it was to knit and showing me different styles. I ended up buying it because she was friendly. I probably could've saved a few bucks online, but I want to see these people in business when I come back here and spreading the craft to others.

Sounds like a bummer. I would hope that any LYS proprietess would be happy for the contructive criticism - I say, make this post into a letter and pass it on to her. Let her know that she (or her staff) made you walk away from her doors for good, if she's any good, she'll take note and work to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Wow, that is certainly a crappy experience Colleen! There are so many great yarn stores in Boston. There is no need to return to one that treated you that way.

I am really curious what class could entice a good knitter like you though!

Your comments are dead on. I have a similar perspective to yours -- support the good ones, even if it's a bit pricier. There are a few yarn stores that I will simply never purchase from again. The service is poor and there's a real attitude. The ones that have outstanding service really stand out. And in a service-oriented profession they should know that's what wins and retains business.

If she was savvy she could have struck up a converstaion with you to see what you wrote down -- politely. "Isn't the koigu gorgeous?" would have done it, and instead of pissing you off she probably would have started up a chatty conversation about what you're thinking of making. She's right in that she needs to be aware of the online competition, but boy does she need a lesson on how to manage it!

Good for you for exercising your right and buying elsewhere.

So, what were the colour numbers? I'm curious to know what the maybe purple maybe grey maybe brown but drop-dead gorgeous whatever it is colour is...

And I don't blame you for not going back. People take notes. Sometimes it's for online purchases, sometimes not, but if knitters didn't make notations, well, they wouldn't be knitters. Sometimes it takes me a good five or six visits to a place before I'm sure of my purchase. And I'll go where the service is good.

If I think this is who I think it is, we all know she can be a bit scattered. Her remark wouldn't have made *anyone* feel good about purchasing in the store, even if she said it in a joking manner.

On the other hand, have you been to Windsor Button lately? The husband and wife owners have gotten to be much more hands-on helpful recently (whereas before they would just let you browse, which I also like). I like it! And the prices are good ;).

Thanks for the recommendation on A Good Yarn. I'll definitely be checking it out!

You know what amazes me most? How there are so many yarn stores in the Boston area and we all have such difference experiences at them. I've rarely, if ever, had a positive experience at Windsor Button, but I know people who LOVE it and go there as often as possible. If I am correct in my guess of the store that you're writing about here, I've had great visits there even if I haven't bought anything. I guess all we can ask for is consistency, right? I usually give people more than one chance (what if it was a bad day for them, they have something personal going, etc) but when it's happened three times, forget it. :)

Anyway. Love your blog and I've been staring at people on the T in hopes of seeing you knit. :)

Very true.. I'll take good service over online prices when its in my budget. When planning a project, another knitter's expertise is valuable. And bad service, forget it, I might not even go back.

I'm with you. I like to see my yarn up,close, and personal before I buy. Internet shopping is only for great bargains or if you can't find what you need. You might want to drop that store owner a quick note to let her know how you felt. If it's a new store she may need the constructive criticism. With that attitude she will lose more customers than she'll gain.

You're right, it's all about customer service. I get great service at several yarn stores in the area (esp. A Good Yarn) and I go back there because I like the staff (and the stuff). The yarn owner at the other store may have been having a bad day, but it's too bad that her own anxieties ruined your experience there.

I agree about the service issue. Sure it may be possible to save a few bucks on-line, but then you factor in the shipping cost and the waiting and it may not be worth it.

Knitting is a tactile hobby. We want to SEE the colors, FEEL the yarn, FONDLE the swatch. When a project is brewing, I tend to have definite ideas about the project: what the color should be, how it should look, how the fabric should feel and drape. It's hard to figure that out on-line. Brainstorming color and yarn options with someone knowledgeable is a pleasent part of the process. Sure their prices may be more expensive than on-line options, but I will gladly spend my money there.

I am never without my Palm Pilot in my LYS, taking gauge notes or calculating yardage. It's obvious from the way she treated you that the proprietress lacks basic sales skills, but I am also not convinced she is much of a knitter--if she were, she would know that knitters need calculators.

YOu're lucky to have a choice of LYS's! With only one anywhere close, I have to shop online to get what I want sometimes. I completely agree about supporting my local shop, and I do, believe me, but I can't expect her to carry everything in the universe, either.

I work at a yarn shop and I'm just horrified by that story. I make notes all the time. We're knitters. We're always thinking, wishing and planning. Why wouldn't we take notes?

What absolutely galls me is that she automatically assumed the worst! I take notes all the time and many of those time in a LYS. I've written down a color number before, just so I go online and look at the color again and think if it's what I really want. Or if the color is almost out, I write it down, so I have the color number. If I need to order it, then I don't have to guess or wonder when looking at a color card if this one is the right one, with the color number, I just know!

With service like that, it's hard to imagine that you would ever go back. She could have easily kept the sale by talking to you about your project, etc. Now she's alienated a potential customer.

I'm all for good service. I've bought yarn before online, usually stuff that I already know of, or maybe trying something inexpensively on KnitPicks, but if I want a particular brand or kind, I just order it from my LYS if they don't have it in stock and I'm usually very happy to give them my business.

Hmmmm. I think I know which one this is, both from your description and the "scatterbrained" comment. I don't like it much anyway, and now I certainly shall not go back. How rude. I'm a Windsor girl myself.

what shop is this? funny you should mention a good yarn. i went there when it first opened a few years ago. i was so excited to have a store within a few T-stops of me. and i had a lousy experience. but i've been there since, where i was helped by johanna (who i didn't know was johanna) and had a great experience. so sometimes all it takes is for a shop owner to realize that maybe they don't have the greatest people skills and maybe they need to hire someone who does.

A second comment! How often does that happen?

Remember when we went to Wild & Woolly and I spotted that Classic Elite yarn on the lower level? I fondled and fondled, and although I didn't buy on the spot, I knew I had to write down the info for the future.

I asked the employee there for a piece of pen and paper, clearly stating what I intended to do. She didn't even pause!!! I was armed in no time, and she even made sure I saw all the colors that were hiding in the back! If/When I decide to use that yarn, is there any doubt I'll go back to Wild & Woolly and get it?!? Or, since they are SO good about shipping promptly, order it with them over the phone?

Great post and interesting comments! Part of the joy of visiting your LYS is having a friendly, informative chit-chat with the employees or other shoppers. A friendly and helpful atmosphere is well worth the extra money you pay for the yarn. A good yarn store knows if you don't buy today, you'll buy tomorrow -- a loyal customer is a repeat buyer.

Interesting post. I think that I was in the same store today, and while I did not have the same exact experience, customer service was definitely lacking. I do love a Good Yarn though and want to check out Circles.


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