Nordstrom is known for having crazy-good customer service:
They let you return clothes from 2004.
They smile while ringing you up and then help you preserve your energy by physically walking around from behind the counter and handing you your bag.
Their women's restrooms are larger and better decorated than your master bedroom.
They offer "shoe-in" classes to teach your kid how to tie his shoelaces, and they even offer rooms for nursing moms, filled with plush couches and cozy stuffed chairs, all set amid a gallery of colorful, fun art.
They've done their due diligence. They have nothing to prove.
And they definitely didn't have to do what they did for mom Melanie Miller. But they did. And it's awesome.
Melanie is a 37-year-old mom of two from Vernon Hills, Ill. (Full disclosure: Melanie and I are technically related, as she's married to my second cousin.) In the late summer of 2015, she called up Nordstrom for help with a jacket return. The call ended up being more complicated than expected, so Melanie spent a good deal of time of the phone with DeEda, her customer service representative. The two got to chit-chatting, and Melanie happened to mention a recent back surgery she had endured. The surgery came on the heels of years of fairly crippling back pain; she mentioned this, too, but just in passing.
"We were basically just shooting the breeze as she tried to find a record of my purchase, which was taking forever because it wasn't in the system for some reason," Melanie told me one night over sushi and Sauvingnon blanc.
It's worth noting here that DeAda actually started scrolling through Nordstrom-related Pinterest pages in an effort to track down the jacket by looks alone … and was successful. That allowed her to determine the name of the jacket, which allowed her to search for it in Nordstrom system, and this crazy Rube Goldberg-esque technique allowed her to find Melanie's purchase. (Think this is cuckoo-crazy customer service? Just wait until you hear what happens next.)
After almost an hour, the situation was resolved and Melanie hung up the phone. She never thought twice about the conversation.
A few days later, her phone rang. It was DeEda. "I've been thinking about your story," DeEda said. "I can't get it out of my mind. So I told my boss about you and we were trying to figure out a way to make your life a little easier. We want to help you out. What if we treated you and your husband to a spa day?"
Why don't I get magical calls from customer service unicorns promising me free paraffin mani/pedis?
I took a large gulp of my wine and, summoning my most evil of dagger eyes, glared at Melanie. I believe the words, "I hate you" might have slipped out of my mouth. Why don't I get magical calls from customer service unicorns promising me free paraffin mani/pedis?
For a moment, Melanie thought she was being punked. But as she and DeEda spoke, it became apparent that this retail wet dream was actually happening. Melanie was concerned that a massage might be too rough on her newly rehabbed back, so the two of them began brainstorming other possibilities.
DeEda: "What else do you like to do?"
DeEda: "Where's your favorite place to eat?"
Melanie: "Well, just after my husband and I got engaged, we had dinner at Spiaggia." (Spiaggia is widely considered to be one of the premiere Italian restaurants in the country.)
DeEda: "Perfect. Why don't we send you to Spiaggia?"
Done. A few weeks later, a $200 gift card to Spiaggia showed up in Melanie's mailbox, along with a note that read (I'm paraphrasing here), "We hope that this brightens your day and makes your life a little easier."
I asked Nordstrom if I was hallucinating this story, but their PR department assured me that it's the real deal: "This kind of surprise is something that we do from time to time to better connect with our customers. We don't have formal policies about how often or who receives them—it's something that's really up to our employees."
When pressed for a few other examples, I was told that when a customer recently let Nordies know via Instagram that she was bringing her son the stores to celebrate his 12th birthday, Nordstrom was so thrilled they chose to celebrate with them that they gave them a store gift card. Another customer reached out asking for help ordering new shoes for her mom, who happened to need two different sizes. Not only does the department store offer split shoe sizes, but they surprised them with a gift card to make their day of sneaker shopping a more fun.
Hey, @Nordstrom! My 40th birthday is next week. Just sayin'.