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Highs and lows of shopping

So, I’m in the fitting room with a cashmere sweater that’s been marked way down and about $600 in jeans when I glance at the floor.


In addition to what appears to be a used Band-Aid stuck to the tile, there is a wad of dust the size of a golf ball and a general aura of grime I haven’t experienced since that summer I lived in a fraternity house.

Besides still being queasy from my recent experience, I am perplexed. How could a department store that sells jeans approaching the $200 mark — an incredible splurge for most people, myself included — be arrogant enough to think anyone would buy something so special after being in such a dirty fitting room?

Granted, things get busy on the weekends. Fitting rooms get messy. But judging from the look and size of the dust ball, it was clear to me that it’d been quite some time since the room was swept.

I did not buy any jeans that day.

A psychological advantage

Whether it’s Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom, Target or T.J. Maxx, a shopper shops as much for a feel-good experience as she does for clothing.

At Target, for example, she can feel fashionable and thrifty because of the chain’s smart partnerships with young and cutting-edge designers such as Thakoon, one of Michelle Obama’s favorites. Or Anna Sui. Or Rodarte.

A T.J. Maxx patron knows that shopping the no-frills discount store is like being on a treasure hunt. She doesn’t know what she may find and that’s part of the experience. For her, it’s all about the thrill of the hunt and the ensuing conversations about what a great deal she got on her treasure.

Shopping is about psychology as well as merchandise. For most people, money is tight. If I’m going to splurge on something, I want to feel good about doing it. Spending money at a store that makes me feel as if it appreciates my business makes me feel good.

And if stores don’t realize that, they should consider this 2006 study by Envision Retail, a London-based worldwide consulting company.

Shoppers who use a fitting room are 71 percent more likely to buy than someone who is just browsing.

Shoppers who use the fitting room will buy twice as much as a browser.

And shoppers who get service from a clerk while they are in the fitting room will buy almost three times more than a browser.

Perhaps this is why I’ve been carrying a balance on my Nordstrom charge. I have consistently pleasant dressing room experiences there — or as pleasant as they can be considering I’m forced to look at myself while standing in front of a full-length, three-sided mirror.

“We try to maintain clean dressing rooms to help create a comfortable area for our customers to try on clothing,” said John Bailey, a Nordstrom spokesman.

“Our dressing rooms are an important part of the shopping experience at Nordstrom because customers make decisions on what they’ll purchase there.”

A little better

I went back to the store with the dirty dressing room a few days ago, and was glad to see it had been swept out.

There were what appeared to be dusty threads on the floor and it was still dirty, but it didn’t make me want to gag.

I looked at the jeans again and saw a couple of pair I wanted to try. But I headed to another store at the other end of the mall instead.