Nordstrom, Jo Malone and the gift of kindness

The funny thing is that by the time I called Nordstrom lost & found, I’d made peace with the fact that someone else had requisitioned my $142.00 purchase of Jo Malone perfume. I’d visualized them spraying it on, sighing in satisfaction at the delicate English Pear and Freesia, or the zesty, invigorating Grapefruit, or the brand-new-to-me Nutmeg and Ginger cologne. When the customer service person in Lost and Found asked me to describe the product I’d lost, four days earlier, I hardly felt like going there anymore.

But let’s back up. Here‘s the story as I relayed it on Facebook the day before my last-ditch-effort phone call.

The stoned sense of exhaustion you feel after the sixth day of a road trip, 900 miles covered, friends, family, and one particularly unwell, beloved sister visited. The pleasure you get at spying a big mall when you have an hour to spare and want to do something special for yourself, because the next day, you have to do that 900 mile drive in reverse. The delight at seeing a Jo Malone counter at Nordstrom, because you’ve adored the sample of grapefruit cologne you just ran out of, and having a favorite cologne handy on a long drive at the end of a tiring trip is just perfect.

Adorably nice clerk named Christina + sampling a few new scents you’d never tried before = two bottles of perfume purchased to the tune of $142, which garnered you a complimentary Jo Malone gift bag (including a trio of three more scents – score!). Happy dance all the way out of the door.

The challenge of too much shopping mall stimulus 30 mn later and the relief of returning to a quiet car. The horror of realizing that the hand clutching the Jo Malone bag is empty. Racking fogged brain produces no clues. Retracing steps for the next 30 minutes to no avail. Bag is gone. Stupid, fogged, tired me, now minus my new treasure.

The child’s tears that arise when I return to the Jo Malone counter empty-handed, and see the puzzled, concerned look on Christina’s smiling face, which turns into pure compassion when I explain in a wobbly voice. I tell her I’m ready to just buy another bottle, to take the edge off a 900 mile fume and self-castigation punishment the next day.

“No, no,” she said. “We don’t want you spending more money today. Let me assemble you something.  That way you’ll have something to hold you over until you get your original bag back.”

“It might not happen,” I sniffed, the tears still, annoyingly, a steady leak. “It probably won’t.”

“There are good people out there,” she said.

“There’s both kinds,” I said, all pessimist and defeat.

Christina gave me a reassuring smile. “I have a good feeling about this,” she said, and set off to do what she could do for me right then.

The deep, deep appreciation for people in the world like her, who manage to find a silver lining for your cloud. She gave me another beribboned Jo Malone bag, with a second complimentary gift (free with a purchase over $130, so she told me “easy to give you another one!”) and two generous, oversized sample bottles of what I’d bought and lost.

In the end, back home, the reverse 900 miles traveled, and more accepting about my loss, calmness, amid a wry understanding that life is like this. Sometimes you lose and it just hurts. A bottle of perfume, a marriage, a house, a car, a life — you go through pain regardless of the loss’s size. When you’re tired and vulnerable, a small loss can feel huge. But, in return, life gifts you with surprises. Maybe the someone who’d found my unattended Jo Malone bag really, really needed it. They picked it up, took it home, and likely stared, agog at this unexpected bounty. Because that’s the flip side. My mistake had gifted someone $142 of lovely perfume, just as Christina, my lovely Nordstrom clerk, had gifted me with something I very much needed at that particular moment.

Kindness. Compassion. Price: immesurable.

And now you know what followed this aha, dear reader, that I myself didn’t while penning the above. That phone call to Nordstrom lost and found, a Hail Mary pass and catch combined.

I had indeed left the bag right there in Nordstrom (when?! where?!) and someone had turned it in. I waited, disbelieving, for the punch line, the “just kidding!” or “whoops, my mistake, wrong item, not yours!” from the customer service person speaking to me. None came. Instead, a cheery request for my mailing address, and would two-day shipping be okay? Free of charge, of course. A Nordstrom policy.

Nordstrom is a unique company, still family-run and owned since John W Nordstrom opened  his first shop, a shoe store, in 1901. This year marks the 20th year in a row Nordstrom has made the Fortune 100 “Best Companies to Work For” list —  just one of 12 firms to do so, and the only one in the fashion apparel segment. I’m not surprised; I’ve always noticed their quality customer service and you can almost feel it in the air, the culture of empowerment that they encourage among their employees. When I spoke with Christina over the phone, the day after my box arrived, sharing the good news, telling her what a difference her actions made that day, she agreed that Nordstrom is a great company. She shared that their new store manager told all the employees that one of his top goals was to keep employee turnover down. Think of it. What an affirming philosophy. What a nurturing work environment. I remember Christina’s comments the day of my loss, her “Oh, we don’t want you buying anything more today. Let me, instead, give you a gift.”

Is that the coolest thing or what?

I told Christina that her kindness to me that day had been one of the most unforgettable gifts I’d received. Even superseding the return of the perfume and gift bag, back to me via mail. Her sympathy and compassion in my time of tearful vulnerability had been everything.

“Oh, you just made my day,” she said, and my own heart swelled, all over again.

What a wonderful gift, kindness. It’s something we can give away free, to boot. It doesn’t require planning or analysis or foresight. It’s just doing the right thing at the right time for the right person.

Thank you, Christina. Thank you, Nordstrom. Thank you, Jo Malone. I’ll remember this gift for some time to come.

13 thoughts on “Nordstrom, Jo Malone and the gift of kindness

  1. KellyM

    Love this. And I know the postscript to this story, how Christina’s kindness begat more kindness, how Classical Girl paid this forward. Sometimes the world works just the way you wish it would all the time.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Aww, smiles, KellyM. Can I share the postscript? It is indeed lovely. To the rest of you: Kelly is a wonderful friend whose glorious novel is on submission to editors right now, and it’s a pounding, draining experience to put your beloved project of several years Out There with editors. I was there 6x (3 books x 2 submission cycles) and it’s soul-crushing. She has been there for me, always, when I’ve needed kindness. So when I got the box with the purchase back, and see, now I had TWO gift bags from Jo Malone, I took the second one (or, rather, the first one that went AWOL) and mailed it to her, with a “attention: kindness enclosed” note. (Well, Kelly, if those weren’t my words, they were the words in my head!) Didn’t tell her in advance. One day she just got a box, that held a sleek little black gift bag of kindness, in three different scents.

      She liked it. She got it.

      Paying kindness forward is SO much fun. The happiness in knowing she was receiving it, opening it, has not gone away. xoxo to you Kelly, who listened to me cry when I reported the loss, and got to enjoy, with me, the return.

      Reply
  2. KellyM

    It was every bit as wonderful for me to get that bag as it was for you to be on the receiving end of Christina’s kindness. And Classical Girl has been there for me many times, as well. I’ve packed that lovely Jo Malone bag and will be taking it to an upcoming writing residency, where I will be the best-smelling writer around. I love being part of this story. And that English Pear and Freesia body lotion is heavenly!

    Reply
  3. kathleen hermes

    This story reminds me of our stroll on the beach at Carmel, “losing” our shoes and having all kinds of stories about the person who took them because they needed them more than we did. And, sheepishly finding them afterwards. No kindness was exchanged though. Reading this offers a wonderful start to a Monday, when so much of the country is struggling through mother nature’s havoc. No kindness there, in her raw power to destroy.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      YES, Kathleen! That, too, is a story/anecdote worth blogging about, as well. One that’s a bit more humbling. Oh, the stories we created and believed until we saw the less glamorous truth, right under our noses. But then again, that pretty much describes the human condition and the thing that all of us do.

      I always love your thoughtful comments – thanks for posting!

      Reply
  4. admin Post author

    Here’s a very interesting thing to add that makes me like Nordstrom even more. This is an excerpt from a memo the three Nordstrom co-presidents — brothers Blake, Erik and Peter Nordstrom — sent to all their employees following Trump’s Muslim ban, back in February.

    “When John W. Nordstrom came to the U.S. as an immigrant, he was given opportunities that allowed him to find a more prosperous and happy life. In so many ways, our humble beginning and the work ethic and gratitude that goes with it helped shape the culture of our company to this day. Over 116 years we have been fortunate to be able to build on the foundation JWN laid for us, thanks to all of you who have chosen to bring your unique experiences and backgrounds to work here at Nordstrom every day. We currently employ more than 76,000 people who comprise different races, ethnicities and genders. We literally have thousands of employees who are first and second generation immigrants. Every one of your unique qualities brings a richness that allows us to better reflect and serve the multi-cultured communities we’re a part of and ultimately makes us a better company. We are a better place with you here, no doubt about it.

    It’s important that we reiterate our values to all of you and make it clear that we support each of our employees. We will continue to value diversity, inclusion, respect, and kindness… you can count on that.”

    Nordstrom, you ROCK!

    Reply
  5. Annette

    And thank you, Terez for sharing the love by sharing your emotion filled and serendipitous story. Reminds me of when I inadvertently left $60 and my little Belgian keepsake coin purse on the counter at a duty free shop in a New York airport. Arriving back in Doha and realizing my loss, I managed to track down that terminal’s duty free shop’s manager (minor miracle in itself!). I explained what had happened – getting my cash out and finding it wasn’t enough so paying by credit card. To make a long story short, several days later Kathleen received three $20 bills in the mail from the manager on my behalf. Some one had taken the coin purse 🙁 and turned the money in. My gratitude was my consolation, and I decided that someone else must have needed that sweet little tapestry coin purse more than I.

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Omigosh, what a great story, Annette. Like I keep saying, I LOVE all your travel stories and hope they will be a future book! Thanks for sharing it here. (And how crazy, that they turned in the $$ and kept the purse. Usually the other way around.)

      Reply

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