Campus Life

Squid vs. Whale

We Welcome Feedback

My roommate Sam and I were at Nieman Marcus the other day looking at Prada party shoes. It was then that we decided the current avenues for constructive feedback to the powers that be in America are woefully inadequate. Sam and I are strong proponents of constructive criticism, especially when it comes to consumer products.

For instance, Sam once wrote a letter to Trader Joe’s suggesting that they should not advertise goods as 50 percent organic since that implies that they’re also 50 percent chemical. Likewise, he has advised the Coca Cola Company to consider that Dr. Pepper out sells Mr. Pibb because the public is looking for a cola with a more advanced degree. He proposed Pibb Esquire as a more viable title.

I as well make a habit of sending angry monthly letters to the editors of the J. Crew catalog. This month’s installment will bemoan the reemergence of shawl collars for men, which I hate.

As no one has ever responded to any of our missives, we feel the world would be a better place if feedback mechanisms were held in proper regard. Then Barneys New York would know not to hang their clothes on pendulums. No one wants to see a $1,200 velvet blazer achieve periodic oscillation. And yet, Barneys New York seems to think you do.

There can only be two reasons for this. The first is that Barneys is aiming for a more Foucault-inspired shopping experience. The second is that shoppers are perhaps more inclined to spend outrageous sums when they’re nauseous. Either way, had Barneys New York actually listened to consumer feedback, they wouldn’t be putting velvet blazers on pendulums. They also wouldn’t be making ill-fitting $1,200 velvet blazers in the first place.

Banana Republic has also recently turned a deaf ear to feedback. They’re peddling a new fall fragrance called “Cordovan.” Cordovan is defined as the “subcutaneous layer that covers the equine posterior,” otherwise known as a horse’s ass. Boy do I want to smell like that before a date. Are you ready to go out to dinner yet? Yeah, one second, let me apply some of this so you’ll confuse me with a saddle.

If only there was a way for companies to actually adapt to people’s tastes. It’s amazing that they spend so much money on trying to figure out what people want and yet inevitably fail. Remember New Coke? To date, writing letters and yelling at Banana Republic sales associates seems to have gone nowhere. No, change needs to come from the top down.

Here’s what I’m thinking. These fancy retail stores love ultra modern installations for their stores. This is why Barneys does the pendulum thing and Abercrombie and Fitch hasn’t actually shown a picture of a fully clothed person in five years. Why don’t they make shopping a more interactive experience? Shoppers can only vote their approval by buying things; we need a way to instantly vote our dissatisfaction! Just as with political elections, I’d rather vote against somebody than for somebody.

When you enter a store, they should hand you a little remote with two buttons: (1) Like and (2) Hate. Then you should feel free to roam around and be judgmental. Don’t like that stupid shawl collar men’s cardigan? Then point and hate. It’d be even better if you could point it at other shoppers too. Hipster with the too-skinny jeans: point and hate.

Of course, I’m walking around in a mall right now complaining incessantly and writing a column on a BlackBerry. If I had such a remote, I’d point and hate myself.

This is actually a good thing. Stores need to be reminded not to design absurd blazers. Likewise, I would be okay with the occasionally reminder of just how absurd my own existence is. In fact, almost everybody in the world would benefit from an occasional absurdity check. Who says the like/hate remote should be limited to shopping? Imagine speed dating with one of these things.

Well, the remote won’t be invented today, but there is hope in the land of feedback. As I awkwardly communicate this column on Sam’s BlackBerry with my thumbs, he is filling out a customer service survey that will give him 15 percent off a garment bag. We’ve been weighing out the cost-benefit analysis of a three-fold garment bag vs. a two-fold bag. We’ve decided that the space saving benefit of having three folds outweighs the problem of having another crease in the suit.

Hopefully the people who make garment bags will take our feedback into account.

Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.