Friday, September 10, 2010

Talbots "Final Sale" in More Ways than One

During the 20 years I was in the Foreign Service, I spent thousands and thousands of dollars on clothes from Talbots. There were lots of reasons why I loved my Talbots clothes (nice quality, beautiful fabrics and colors), but the most important was that they always fit. I am short and overweight and those WP sizes really worked for me. I have always liked to sew my own clothes, but with two kids, a 24/7 job, and a need to occasionally sleep, it was great to be able to rely on Talbots to provide my professional wardrobe. The clothes weren't cheap, but I tried to take advantage of the sales, and the sight of a red and white box in the mail always made me happy.

I knew something had changed a couple of years ago when I ordered a pair of jeans on sale that was way, way too tight, made for a different species of creature altogether. We're talking tight from the knees up, and wouldn't button at the waist. I never got around to sending those jeans back, nor did I magically shrink to fit them, so after they had hung several months in the closet I dispatched them to a thrift store where some short person with skinny everything hopefully found them useful. Still, I didn't lose faith in Talbots, which had outfitted me so well for so long, and I picked up a pair of black embroidered capris last year that were cute and comfortable. I have already worn and washed them to death.

I reasonably assumed that whatever the fit issue was with the jeans, it had been solved, and a couple of weeks ago I ordered three t-shirts and another pair of black capris, these denim and spandex, on sale. The total, with shipping, was $125.15, which wasn't especially cheap, but hey, Talbots has my size and the mall, forty minutes away in Bloomington, doesn't.

Well, as you have probably guessed, the black capris, like the jeans a couple of years ago, were designed for no woman alive. The crotch length suggested hip-huggers, but the waist was cinched in at least two sizes too tight and scooped down in the front. The waistband wasn't contoured in the back and stuck out awkwardly. The lower hips fit well, but that waistband cinched me in at an awkward place and created a double muffin top that no t-shirt could hide.

One of the t-shirts was a little loose, one too small and one just right. I decided to send back the capris and the too-small t-shirt. When I looked at the receipt, however, I noticed that the capris were not listed on the return form because, according to the order summary, they were "Final Sale". I had never seen such a thing in over 20 years of shopping from the Talbots catalog, so I called the 800 number on the back of the order summary and asked what Talbots could possibly be thinking, sending out pants that fit no one and marking them "Final Sale".

The very nice fellow who answered the phone explained that Talbots had just instituted the final sale policy recently, because of the large number of returns.
Evidently it occured to no one at Talbots that after a customer has been tricked once into purchasing a poorly-designed, ill-fitting item that can't be worn or returned, she is not likely to purchase anything else in the future. That could solve the problem of the large number of returns, but perhaps not in the way that Talbots management was hoping.

I managed to halfway fix that waistband by inserting a triangle of fabric on both sides to make more room. It wasn't a professional fix by any means, but it does mean that I can wear them with a long shirt and breathe, too. Still, my faith in Talbots is deeply shaken. Next time I'll just go to the mall.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Recipe Report - Indian Chicken Stew

For dinner tonight I made the "Slow Cooker Indian Chicken Stew" on page 215 of the September 2010 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I changed the recipe slightly, adding a whole box of chicken broth instead of a cup, which was a mistake, because it turned out a little watery, and cooking it for a half an hour in a pressure cooker instead of five to ten hours in a slow cooker, because I don't own a slow cooker, and because I was expecting a ravenous DS home from cross country practice within the hour. As it turned out, I didn't have any curry powder and while I was out in a long line at the local grocery buying a jar, DS showed up and ate a bowl of cereal.

None of that changes the essential result, however, which was really very tasty and nourishing. We ate it with saffron rice, generously prepared by my darling husband. It made a lovely dinner without anything else but iced tea. Mildly spicy, thanks to the curry and ginger, colorful thanks to the red and green of tomatoes and spinach, comfort food with an exotic aroma. Even DS, who was no longer ravenous thanks to the bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats, ate a whole plateful.

And we got a bonus: This recipe came on one of those pull-out pages to be added to our red gingham-checked BHG cookbook for future reference. How great is that? Another success like this one and I will completely forget about the peach and blackberry slaw fiasco.