by Hank Leukart
December 21, 2005

Jenny from Nordstrom, you’re my hero!

Nordstrom’s excellent customer service helps avoid a dating disaster.

A French blue dress shirt from Nordstrom

A French blue dress shirt from Nordstrom

C

orporate holiday parties — or at least the ones I’ve been to — always feel like a bad skit from Saturday Night Live or an uncomfortable scene from The Office. Sure, they can be fun, but only as much as a person can possibly have at a party where Folgers replaces your real party friends with your co-workers and their unusually unattractive and boring significant others. The most fun I’ve ever had at a one of these was a few years ago, when I brought a younger, college-aged friend of mine as my date. She had a bit too much fun at the open bar, and by the end of the night, she could barely walk toward my car before she passed out in the front seat. Who would have thought that a corporate holiday party would be too much fun for a college student to handle?

This past weekend, I attended a Russell holiday party. The employees at Russell are “global leaders in multi-manager investing” — which mostly means that they’re really, really bad at holiday party karaoke — or as Russell calls it, “Russell Idol.” Russell hired both professional DJs and another professional, uh, party-exciter, to stand in front of the dancing crowd and throw photocopied paper money into the air. I never really understood what was going on.

“I need a shirt with French-cuffs that looks exactly like this, but fits me!”

Because I have only worn a suit about once per year since high school, I decided to buy a new tie — one both in fashion and without stains — and dry-clean my suit. When the night of the party arrived, I readied my suit, tie, and blue, French-cuffed dress shirt from college to make me look dapper for my date’s arrival at 7:45. But, at 7:15, when I tried on the shirt, I discovered that my current neck is now twice as fat as the old neck I had in college. I never knew. The shirt mostly fit, but buttoning the collar required pliers. When I finally managed to get the collar buttoned, I looked more like I was wearing a suffocating straight-jacket than a shirt. Whoops. I figured I could simply wear another blue shirt, but my others were casual shirts on which the collars could not be buttoned. I was in a bind. Literally.

Now in a state of frenzy, I ran to my car and immediately drove downtown to Nordstrom. Of course, with only eight days until Christmas, the traffic was horrible and every parking space and parking lot was full. I drove around for about 7 minutes until stress finally got the better of me. Then, I “invented” a parking space next to a row of already-parked cars; I tried to make it look as though I thought there was one more space in the row, even though the row was missing the additional painted vertical line that would have been necessary to make it a real parking space. This gave me an idea: cities should reserve emergency parking spaces that a person can use only once every six months. When a person parks there, he would put money and his license plate number into the meter, and after that, he would not be able to park there for another six months. Then, people with dress-shirt emergencies wouldn’t have to invent parking spaces.

I sprinted inside Nordstrom, looked for the beautiful girl who usually helps me (she wasn’t around), and finally ran up to some woman, yelling, “I need a shirt with French-cuffs that looks exactly like this, but fits me!” (I was wearing my entire suit with a T-shirt underneath and carried the ill-fitting shirt in my hand for reference.) Within 10 minutes, Jenny from Nordstrom measured me and picked out a perfectly-fitted shirt that matched my tie just as well as the old one. We rushed together to remove the 20 pins and tissue paper from the shirt, I put it on in the middle of the store, and finally, I sprinted back to my car and drove home. I even made it back by 7:45, just in time to meet my date. Any world where one can buy a perfectly-fitting shirt that matches another you own in under a half hour — including travel time — must be a great world.

Lesson learned: try on your French-cuffed dress shirts at least once each year to make sure they still fit your neck. WB

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