Real Bridal Store Policies and Why I Disagree With Them


I have had the pleasure of working with and for some great bridal salons. I am now working independently of any one establishment because I feel it gives me a unique opportunity to be impartial with my bridal customers, giving them the best advice I can for their unique situations. It also lets me offer my brides a quiet, non-crowded place to contemplate her fitting needs. Salons can get quite busy and it's so very hard for them to make each bride feel special. Many of them have understood the value in moving their alteration services outside the sales floor for the same reasons I have chosen to keep my work separated.

One in particular here in Cincinnati has shown great courage in choosing this alternate way. They have a referral list that they give to their customers so they can choose an alteration specialist to work with. This frees the salon to focus on the ordering details and allows the alteration specialist the freedom to advice her bride in the proper fit without the salon breathing down her throat. I have had my name with them for a long time and I have had no complaints from customers about them. I wish all bridal salons were that brave.

The following are some of the things I have encountered working with and for bridal salons that I happen to disagree with. Some of these are just a matter of differing opinions, but I am stating them here so you as a bride can understand what these situations are so you can better prepare yourself for dealing with them.

#1. We Never say "No" to a Bride wanting to have alterations done in-shop.

Reason for Policy:

Many Salons want to assure a bride that no matter how busy their store gets, her needs will be taken care of.

My Objection to Policy:

This policy sounds great on the surface but could have disastrous results. During the height of bridal season (May and June) the alteration department of any salon is putting in long hours working on the meticulous needs of these special gowns. They get very stressed out. The fatigue and eye strain gets hard to deal with. Sixty to eighty hour weeks are not uncommon. Now, any decent seamstress can do a good job hemming a simple pair of blue jeans while stressed out -BUT just think of what type of mistakes can be made when any normally skilled worker is put under such stress.

My Policy:

I take on only as much work as I can do for the hours I can be efficient in any given week. When I am booked up, I don't agree to "squeeze in" any more customers. It's just not fair for the ones already on my books. Yes, it means less money for me, but isn't it more important for the bride to have a quality, unstressed seamstress working on her precious gown? I know a few very good alteration specialist who I can recommend to these customers. I do not refer customers to any sewing specialist that I might know is in the area, if I have not ever seen any of her work.

I was told about this policy from a store I was interviewing with for the manager position for their Alteration department. It was a huge bridal and formal wear store that I thought had a good reputation so I was considering joining their team because I love working with brides and this opportunity gave me more brides to help. But sadly, they would not allow me to make referrals outside of the store even to well qualified seamstresses. Instead they wanted me, in times of over-booking, to, "just hire someone". Not only did they think it a good thing to have stressed out workers, but unskilled ones were OK too. Very scary situation that I refused to take advantage of.

#2. We Do Not Do Refunds, All Sales Final

Reason for Policy:

Weddings get canceled for many reasons. Few salons are interested in making sales that have a high risk of returning just because a fiance got cold feet, mainly because they usually can not resell these dresses at full price.

My Objection to Policy:

There are legitimate reasons why a bridal salon should be willing to bend this policy but most will not. They might even say that they have no choice which is simply not so. They made the rule, they can break it. Even if it was found out that the sales person was dead wrong when she told you that your gown could be altered to fit, after you find out it can not, they will not refund you the money. This is just wrong.

Again, because these stores have no reason to assume you will ever return to shop there again, they have no obligation to give what other retailers would call minimal customer service. One store told me flat out in my job interview that their goal was fast customer turnaround, NOT spending inordinate amounts of time with any one customer's issue. I find this attitude distasteful. Bride's need time to make those all important decisions. A lot is at stake. Salons that do not understand the special need of brides need to get out of the business, in my opinion.

My Policy:

I don't sell dresses, so I don't have a refund policy, but I think Salons should at least be willing to refund the garment price if it is found out that alterations would not make it better, or if they just simply could not be done.

#3. We Maintain Uniform Alteration Procedures

Reason for Policy:

The growth in the bridal salon business has made it possible for chain stores to become fashionable. As the chain adds more stores to its family they start to think that routine alteration procedure and policy is a good thing. One store told me that they wanted every dress to have their hemming procedures the same way for uniformity in understanding between the fitter and the person doing the sewing. And so that any worker could go from one store to another and understand what is to be done for any dress they are given to work on.

My Objection to Policy:

Another Policy that sounds good on the surface. And yes, it would be convenient for a worker to move to another store in times of need and find familiar procedures - BUT, no 2 gowns are alike and no 2 brides are alike. You can't just put wedding gowns into cookie cutter categories. Whatever a gown needs to fit the individual needs of the figure of it's bride is what has to be done, whether it fits into someone's set procedure or not. Clothing alteration is just as much Art as it is Science in this respect.

My Policy:

There are some things that are common to every bridal gown, but most are not, so I do my best to stay flexible and keep an open mind about what each bride needs. For instance, there are 3 different ways I pin a hem depending on the needs of the gown - where the decoration is, if it is best for the gown that the hem to be done at the waist or the bottom, how many layers of fabric there are, etc.

I pledge to do whatever it takes to get that gown right within the capability of the gown. That means that I can only work with the variables the gown allows. If a bride bought a gown 2 sizes too small and the seams are trimmed underneath so that there is no fabric to make room for her needs, than she might end up buying another gown. Having said that, there is much that can be done to camouflage alterations like this. It takes a little creativity on the seamstress's part and a bit of understanding for the bride, but things can be done if a bride is amenable to going outside her initial vision of her perfect gown and accept some creative design changes.

#4. Our Main Goal is the Selling of Dresses. We are not a Full Service Salon.

Reason for Policy:

Modern day bridal gown stores have come to the conclusion that personal service is not bolstering their bottom line. This unfortunately is true because many brides have wanted lower prices for wedding attire. The result is a store that either only sells dresses or offers little in alteration services.

My Objection to Policy:

I doubt it is very necessary to state my objection, but it is because I worked for a store that stated this to me that makes this policy so shocking. I understand that businesses need to make a profit to stay in business, but to blatantly tell their employees to skimp on service to accomplish a bigger profit just doesn't seem right. Even though I was clearly told at my interview that my job would be to move brides through the alteration process as quickly as possible, I took the job because I thought I could change their minds with the way I made customers happy. I was wrong and didn't last long at that store. I was told I spent too much time discussing things with brides at fittings and was too fussy with the workmanship. After a particularly demeaning episode in front of a bride, I up and quit.

My Policy:

Stores that do not offer alteration services are just fine to me. They don't lie to brides about giving good service. And they offer brides a wonderful choice to find a seamstress that can work for them with no one spying or setting unreasonable rules. I would so much rather say each bride is my boss than to have to juggle the opinions of my supervisors with the bride's wishes.


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