So You Wanna Start a Blog

We  recently discussed personal branding in one of my OB classes, and ways that your online presence can add or detract from your personal brand. There were a lot of questions about blogging, from how to get started, to the benefits or headaches of having a blog. I had one in-depth conversation about starting a blog, and I figured it would be helpful for anyone else that is considering a blog. So, here’s a few questions and tips to consider if you wanna start a blog:


What’s your goal? First, what are you trying to accomplish by starting a blog? Are you trying to position yourself as an expert in your field? Catalog your thoughts, phases of a specific project, or stages in life? Are you trying to help people with your expertise? The goal of the blog will drive the content, posting schedule, and tone, so you want the goal to be fairly broad. You also want to make sure it’s adaptable to different platforms and styles. This part of the principle comes from the book, “Built to Last”, which discusses how great companies use a flexible goal to keep pace with changing times. Google’s goal wasn’t “control the internet”, it was “compile and deliver information”, which means that if search engines become obsolete, Google won’t stray from its mission about information by moving to a new platform. Similarly, “position myself as an expert” is a much better goal than “write 800 words per day about the subject of pricing in retail markets”.

What kind of format? Sometimes a traditional “blog” format is not the best way to deliver your content. If you’re looking to help people by sharing your expertise, “how-to” archives might be a better fit than a daily or weekly blog post. If you’re looking to exchange ideas with people in your industry, a forum might best meet the needs. It’s wise to consider whether you intend to post regularly on an ever-changing topic, post static information on standard best practices, or respond to reader questions and comments. Many of these methods co-mingle, so you don’t have to pick just one. However, you need to consider each format and plan your approach for content delivery.

What’s the perspective? Are you planning to post anonymously, under a pseudonym, or under your real name? Do you plan to discuss personal, professional, or mixed topics? These questions are directly linked to the goal and format of the blog, but the answers can change over time. Many bloggers have started out as anonymous posters discussing professional topics, but eventually outed themselves as the owner of the blog. Others started posting professional topics, but later wove in personal stories. There’s no right or wrong answer, but you need to decide on the tone of the blog before you get started.

What’s the posting schedule? One of my biggest mistakes when I started my blog, was not considering a posting schedule. I figured I would just post whenever something popped into my head, and as a result, sometimes I had 1 post per month, and sometimes I had 20 posts per month. Your goal and the type of content you choose will drive your posting schedule. If you’re posting on a subject matter with very little change or new information, it will be pretty difficult to come up with new material for daily or weekly posts. Again, there’s no “correct” posting schedule, but it’s best to set expectations for your readers. Should they plan to stop by every day? Can they ignore you for 3 months and then show up to one new article?

Prepare for launch. I also made the mistake of launching my blog with no material! I hit the “go live” button, and then let it sit for a few days with no articles, no links, nothing besides my “hello world” post. This is a bad idea, particularly if you start publicizing your blog immediately. I highly recommend creating at least a month’s worth of content, and posting a few days’ worth of content before telling the world that you have a blog. Also, how are you planning to tell the world you have a blog? Are you intending to link to on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter? Is it going to become a line on your resume? Are you planning to use word-of-mouth for publicity? The amount of content and type of publicity prior to launch will be driven by your goal, format, and posting schedule, as determined above.


I jumped into the deep end when I started my blog, and I didn’t really consider ANY of the questions or tips that I presented above. Because I was wandering aimlessly, it took about a year for me to gain any traction in readership and brand-building. There’s no right or wrong way to answer any of these questions, but if you wanna start a blog, I highly recommend taking the time to consider each question in detail!


Perpetuating the “In Group”

This post might be a little bit controversial, but I’m going to throw it out there, since it’s been on my mind for a few weeks. I’m completing another Organizational Behavior (OB) class, and we often discuss concepts around forming groups and behavior within those groups. There’s a concept of an “in” group and an “out” group, “we” vs. “them”, “us” vs. “the other”. These concepts have been particularly applicable lately, as I’ve been reading a lot of articles about the pay gap, the ‘ole boys’ club, and disputes between minority groups and majority groups.

From the articles around the web, it seems that many people feel that the ‘ole boys’ club continues because men are intentionally sexist and exclusionary, and that women aren’t fighting hard enough to break down the walls to force their way into the network. I sometimes fall into this hyped-up mentality that often incites sensationalism, instead of an honest look at a problem, and a plan of action to come to a solution. But then, once in a while, my own bias hits me square in the face, and I realize that in general, things keep going the way they’ve always gone simply because of human nature.

Take my MBA classmates, for example. I had the good fortune to work with an excellent group in my OB class, and I would love to work with them again. I would also love to be introduced to people that they would want to work with again, because I trust their word. I commented that I wanted to host a casual networking party toward the end of the summer, and extend it to them, and any of their classmates or contacts that they’d like to invite. The goal is to trade professor recommendations, find good group members for future semesters, and ultimately, build relationships with people that can help you on your ascent up the corporate ladder. This is how networks form: I picked people “like me”, and they will in turn introduce me to people “like them” (and, good ‘ole math, if a=b, and b=c, then a=c… there’s a proper name for that, but I haven’t used it since freshman year of high school!).

It’s interesting, because on the surface, the people “like me” are actually a pretty diverse group. In my group this semester, there’s males and females from several different cultural backgrounds, including China, Haiti, and Chile, a few white males, and a few white females. Groups from past semesters include males and females from several other countries and cultures around the world, so this networking party would be a nice rainbow. However, our backgrounds are very similar. We all grew up with the expectation of going to college, and many, with the expectation of attending graduate school. We all work in nice offices, wearing nice clothes, and we go home to a nice neighborhood, to nice spouses with good jobs. We all speak fluent English, and we all behave according to American norms. Despite a wide array of cultural norms in our personal lives, we do business like Americans.

Quite frankly, it’s just easier that way. When we say “business formal”, we all know what that means. When we say “standard presentation”, we all know what that means. When we divide the work load for a project, we know what “deadline” means. It’s just easier to work with people who are like you, so you end up gravitating toward them, and perpetuating the “in group”. At least in my circle, we’ve moved past skin color and gender issues, but we use education and money as the new barrier. Again, not intentionally, but because it’s just the path of least resistance. I don’t know that this is necessarily wrong, either, since some of it has to do with life stages as well. I relate better to people who are in graduate school or a business environment, just like I relate better to young married professionals than a stay-at-home mom.

The concern is that the “in group” never gives anyone else a chance to break in, even though they may be perfectly suited to join the group. It’s most dangerous when the bias is not obvious, like the group I described in my case. We look diverse and inclusive on the surface, but we’ve got some pretty strong bias in the group. Would we be willing to invite someone with little or no work experience to the networking party? Probably not. Would we be willing to invite someone that isn’t pursuing graduate studies? Pretty unlikely. Then again, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, and Google started in a garage. Granted, everyone in the world isn’t a college-drop-out-turned-billionaire, but there are definitely smart, capable, well-connected people that don’t fit “our” criteria. And thus, the same network trends continue, and business as usual goes on. This is also problematic because we live in a globalized society, with a worldwide economy. I like to think I’m open-minded about different business customs and I love exploring other cultures. I rarely examine my own bias when it comes to business interactions, because I believe I don’t have any. This is a false sense of security, and though uncomfortable, it’s necessary to understand the judgements and preconceived notions I have about people with different backgrounds.

I don’t have any concrete solutions for breaking down the “in group” mentality, but I believe it starts with brutal honesty within ourselves. I’ve taken the time to understand a situation with my networking prospects, and I’ve been considering the consequences of my actions. Have you recognized a time when you perpetuated the “in group” mentality? Is there a person that might not fit the criteria, but could bring valuable insight, connections, or perspective to a situation?

Presentations Make Me Happy in My Soul

Can we just talk about how much I enjoy giving presentations and public speaking? It’s just fun for me, it really energizes me, and I am generally in a great mood after a successful presentation. I know a lot of people hate standing in front of a large group of people to talk about things, with all eyes focused on them, but I live for these moments in business and academia. I had a presentation last week, and if I do say so myself, we kicked butt. So, how did we go about kicking butt and having a class session that made me happy in my soul?

It starts with the subject matter. Our professor gave us free reign over the subject of the presentation, so doing the research was challenging, engaging, and I’ll go ahead and say it: FUN. Thus, when we stood up to present our findings, we were having fun. I know we don’t always have the luxury of choosing the subject matter and the medium to present, but there’s always an interesting angle, a new statistic, or a new way to make the material applicable to your audience. What gets your juices flowing? It’s much easier to excite and engage the audience if you’re excited and engaged about the material.

We looked the part. I’ve been very surprised at the number of students that show up for a scheduled biggest-project-of-the-semester presentation in jeans and a t-shirt! This is not professional, and I don’t care how great you are at speaking, you lose a few credibility points if you don’t look the part. My entire group showed up in business formal attire, and we looked sharp. Standing up together in a suit and tie or a well-tailored sheath dress immediately set us apart. The professor commented that we all looked nice, and several students noted that we looked so professional. I don’t completely agree that clothes make the man, but I would argue that clothes can definitely break a man in situations that call for a commanding, authoritative presence.

We were practiced and prepared. This sounds like common sense, but it goes beyond just having a group meeting to run through the important points and hand-offs. All of us are seasoned presenters, and we’ve examined our own presentation style with face-to-face criticism, web cams, and mirrors. You might think this is overkill, but you don’t get great presentations by accident. I hate vocal fillers (the ahhs, umms, and uhhhs that punctuate presentations), so I’ve made a point to cut those out. During undergrad, I asked a fellow classmate to count the number of times I uttered a vocal filler. He asked me to give him honest feedback after his presentation as well, and we both honed our skills. So, in addition to the “who’s doing what” conversation, practice alone, and get brutally honest. Watch tapes or look in the mirror… you might be surprised at what you see.

I enjoyed working with this group on this presentation because we had great synergy and work ethic. Everyone did their part, and everyone came to the table prepared and professional. Then we stood up and nailed our presentation. Man, it’s a great high 🙂

Pushy or Persistent?

Ah, sales people, so much blog inspiration from these calls! In theory, the marketing department works with the sales team to create wonderful synergy, and everyone makes money… in practice, that’s not always the case. Since I know a little about how this whole sales game works, I try to help the sales reps out from other companies. Namely, I try to help them out by telling them “no”. No, it doesn’t sound like your product is a fit. No, I don’t need you to send additional information. No, I will not make a purchase from you, so instead of wasting your time on me, go find a more profitable customer. Sigh… and then you have the sales reps that just. won’t. give. up. Even after I’ve been helpful in letting them know I’ll never be a good customer! I’ll nickel and dime you, pay you after the 30 days, and make myself hard to reach. Trust me, YOU DON’T WANT TO DO BUSINESS WITH ME, SO JUST MOVE ON!

I had an interaction with a particularly persistent rep. He says he’s not pushy, but I’ve told him some version of “no” three different times, and he just keeps on callin’ me. Today’s interaction went like this:


Rep: I wanted to follow up on last week’s call. Did you talk to your VP about my proposal?

Me: Yes, and as I said last week, I really don’t think your product is a fit for us. I appreciate the offer of a free trial, but it’s really not what we’re looking for.

Rep: I just need one shot to prove to you that it works. Just do the free trial, and I promise I can show value.

Me: Well, as I mentioned previously, we normally set our budget in October or November, so we don’t have the budget this year. It doesn’t make sense to do a free trial for a product that I know I don’t have the money to purchase, particularly when it’s not a good fit for us. We take a survey of our customers every year, and this survey is used to help allocate the budget. Our surveys have shown that your product is not a good fit, so unless we see the tide change in this year’s survey, we won’t include the purchase in the budget. If you’d like to send over a media kit in October, I can re-evaluate the fit for the 2013 budget.

Rep: What’s going to change between now and October, honestly? It sounds like you just don’t want to put the time into it right now.

Me: If I don’t have the budget for the product, and I don’t believe it’s a good fit for our needs, it doesn’t make sense to do a free trial right now. I’m happy to re-evaluate it for 2013, but we won’t be making a purchase right now.

Rep: Are you even the decision-maker? What’s your title? Who gets to decide on this? Can you just shoot straight with me?

Me: There are several decision-makers, but let me tell how this will go: I’ll ask them again, they will tell me “no” or indefinitely delay the decision, which translates to “no”. Thus, I’ll keep telling you “no” or indefinitely delaying the decision, which translates to “no”. You’re welcome to send a proposal when we evaluate the budget for 2013, but at this time, I can tell you that we won’t be moving forward.

Rep: Ok, so if I call the VP of Sales and get his blessing, you’ll find time to do the free trial?

Me: The VP of Sales travels frequently, and he doesn’t believe it’s a good fit. You can try to reach him, but at this time, we won’t be moving forward.

Rep: Ok, thanks, I’ll try to call him. I just need one shot to convince you that I can provide value. I’m not one of those pushy sales types, so if you do the trial and it doesn’t make money for you, I’ll get out of your hair.

Me: Ok, good-bye.


Dude, you ARE a pushy sales type! I’ve told you “no” three times! I’ve also told you the timeframe that if it was ever going to move to yes (which it won’t), it would not be until 2013. I must admit that this guy did a few things well: he uncovered the timeframe for a decision, and he uncovered the decision-maker. What he failed to realize is that even though I’m “only” a gatekeeper, my bosses rely on what I tell them. So, my answer is essentially the same answer as the decision-maker, because they’ll ask me if his product provides value, I’ll tell them that I don’t recommend it, and they’ll tell me that we won’t make the purchase. Until you convince me of the value, you’re not getting a shot at the “real” decision-makers!

I’m fine with a phone call and a persistent sales rep, but this guy started rub me the wrong way. I think he could tell that I was getting annoyed, because he tried to switch to a more friendly subject… my accent. Funny story, most people I meet say that I don’t have an accent, and since this guy knows I work in the Dallas office, it’s a good bet that the hint of a southern accent that he detects probably indicates that I’m from Texas. And, after a 5 minute pushy phone call, calling out my accent doesn’t do this guy any favors.

Maybe I should be rude more often, but I feel like it’s common courtesy to politely tell a sales rep “no”. I hate watching our sales guys visit, call, and waste time on a customer that will never give us business, so I try to make sure other reps know when we won’t be making a purchase. What do you think, readers? Was this guy pushy or persistent? Was I unclear in my message about not making a purchase for at least 8 months (but really, never)?


There are certain topics in the workplace that are supposed to be off limits. In polite society, these topics are also excluded from the dinner table! I recently had a somewhat awkward “too much information” situation at work. I’ve had a large mole near my left eyebrow for most of my life, but it’s been growing in the last few years. After several reminders from my mom, I finally made the appointment to have it removed. It turns out that it was large enough and deep enough that they had to perform a small surgery to excise the mole, resulting in 4 stitches sitting smack in the middle of my face! I had to wear a band-aid when I returned to work the day after the removal, and I had black stitches showing for the next week.

The first awkward moment happened when I had to go to my first doctor’s appointment. I was under the impression that I could have the mole removed in one visit, so I scheduled a sick day for the entire day off on a Friday. I walked past a manager’s office on my way out on Thursday, and he said, “I’ll see you tomorrow!” I replied that I would be out on Friday, and he asked where I was going. I replied that I had a doctor’s appointment, and he had a confused look and asked, “Oh, the whole day?” I then explained about the mole and he told me, “good luck.” It’s always said that women give too much information in the workplace, but humans are naturally curious about things, especially when they require a full day of scheduled sick time. And, in this case, it wasn’t an overly gross or invasive procedure, so I didn’t mind going into details. But, what if it had been something intensely personal, like IVF? Or, something particularly gross, like a colonoscopy? Or, more awkward, what if I was lying and I had job interviews set up at other companies? At what point do we deflect questions that might force us to provide TMI? Personally, the interaction with my manager didn’t bother me, because I know he wasn’t trying to “catch” me doing something wrong, but the situation still illustrates how easy it can be to meander into awkward or illegal territory.

In addition to the awkward explanation about the doctor’s visit, it was also awkward when I returned to the office. Since it was clear that something had happened to me, some of my colleagues just asked, “What happened to your eye?” In that situation, I just told them that I had a mole removed, and that was that. Some of my colleagues did their best not to stare, but I finally just spoke up and told them that I’d had a mole removed, and again, no big deal. I think sometimes we draw more attention to an issue if we ignore it, because people are stuck speculating about what happened, why it happened, and what’s been done to fix it. I think it’s better to be up front, with a succinct answer when something is obviously visible to the naked eye. However, I think you should keep less obvious issues to yourself. I mentioned IVF and a colonoscopy above, and if asked about my doctor’s visit, I would probably just say, “Oh, you know, routine check-up stuff. Always good to drop by the doctor’s office once or twice a year!” Most people won’t press you further, and I think it’s better to just leave it vague.

I’ve never had a chronic condition that required frequent doctor’s visits, but this situation can lead to more awkward conversations than a one-time, obviously temporary ailment. I had a colleague that was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, which affects the digestive system. This colleague did well to excuse his absence and doctor’s visits by saying, “I’ve been having some issues with my digestive system, and I found out that I have Crohn’s.” This allowed us to go look up Crohn’s symptoms, without having to hear the details of his illness directly from him. Contrast this politically correct response to another colleague I had that went through some health issues. She mentioned a mammogram, a colonoscopy, and a visit to the OBGYN, loud enough for several colleagues to hear it. While each of these procedures was medically necessary, I personally wouldn’t want my colleagues (especially the male colleagues!) to know when I went to the doctor for “lady stuff”. Quite frankly, I don’t think the men want to know any more about the “lady stuff” than they already do, so specific comments about the nature of a doctor’s visit are even more awkward!

I think there’s a fine line between explaining frequent or extended absence, and making sure that you aren’t providing TMI in the workplace. In the case of my mole removal, the “gory details” were tame, succinct, and temporary, so I didn’t mind revealing more about my injury. But, for internal issues that are much messier or gender-specific, I think those are best left out of the workplace.

The Last Slice

I’ve attended a few client dinners and company-sponsored lunches, and I’ve noticed some interesting trends about myself and my colleagues when it comes to eating in the workplace. Maybe it’s because I’m early in my career, but it seems to transcend into the senior ranks as well. So, without further adieu, a few observations:

No one wants to be the first to take the bread or chips on the table. I love bread, and I grew up in a family that obliterates bread. Those loaves at Italian restaurants? Yeah, we’re going to need 3 of those to keep us happy until you bring out our drinks. At Mexican restaurants, the waiter quickly discovers that we each need an individual basket of chips, because otherwise, they’ll spend their whole evening replacing our basket. We just LOVE bread and chips! But, when I sit down with my work colleagues, I suddenly feel restricted to one piece of bread. And, I don’t want to be the first to reach for it. This is silly, because everyone is staring at the bread, wishing they could take a piece, and then someone awkwardly offers me the first piece because I’m usually the only woman at the table! Then, no one wants to eat more bread than anyone else, so we all end up with a half-eaten roll on our plates, wishing we could take seconds from the bread basket. So, if we’re all thinking it, why is it so hard to just take the first piece, go back for seconds if you want it, and finish what’s on your plate?

No one wants to take the last piece. The accounting department ordered pizza the other day, and since I sit on the same floor as the accounting department, they invited me to join them. We had the awkward “take the first slice” moment (similar to the bread moment mentioned above!), and we ended up with three extra slices of pizza. Those slices have been sitting in the fridge for 3 days, because no one wants to be “greedy” and take the last piece. Again, this is silly, as we all probably could have eaten one more slice, thus enjoying the meal more, and reducing waste. But, we have to be polite, and apparently it’s more polite to waste food than to be greedy. This is even more ridiculous when you consider that I thought about eating the leftover slices, but since the food was technically meant for the accounting department, and I’m not in accounting, I felt that I shouldn’t take “their” food!

No one wants to be a glutton. It may not look like it, but I can eat A LOT of food. Like, inhale-a-large-pizza-and-dessert amount of food. When I’m with my husband or my parents and siblings, I go back for seconds, and sometimes, thirds of each item. I eat pie and ice cream, baskets of chips, and an entire platter of fajitas and fixings! But, once again, put me with my co-workers, and I start trying to match their food intake. It seems like everyone else does this, because everyone rarely finishes their dinner. Again, this is silly, because we know we’d love to finish the fabulous meal, but we don’t want people to think we’re gluttonous, so instead, we let them think we’re wasteful.

Everyone uses overly-exaggerated manners. It’s always really awkward to go to a pizza place or barbeque place with my co-workers, because everyone tries to use their fancy manners when it’s just not that conducive. Consider paper napkins: they just don’t go in your lap the same way that cloth napkins do! This is especially true when you consider that a lot of places that have paper napkins also serve the type of food that’s best eaten with your hands. Does it really make sense to try to eat a slice of pizza with a fork and knife, holding your paper napkin in your lap? NO. If you don’t want to see this type of normal dining behavior, you should pick a different restaurant! I’m not talking about courtesy, like chewing with your mouth closed, but rather logistics. We love some good barbeque in our southern aviation dinners, so that probably means we should eat the barbeque “properly”… ie: usually best with your fingers. If you’re offended by finger-food, go somewhere that doesn’t serve it!

It’s just hilarious, because we’re all trying to be on our best behavior with our colleagues, and yet we’re all just regular people that like to eat copious amounts of bread with our fingers. This is also incongruent with the ever-present “keep up with the Jones” mentality that glorifies having more, more, more! We want bigger houses, fancier cars, and fashionable clothes, but we can’t eat that last piece of bread? We can’t clean our plates, lest we look greedy? We push to negotiate for a higher starting salary, but we can’t bring ourselves to take that last slice of pizza! So, I ask, are you “real” when you eat with your colleagues?

Happy Weekend!

I’ve got a busy weekend planned, complete with homework, chores, and a CHL class! That’s right, I’ll be heading to class with a Glock to learn how to handle it properly… become one with the gun, that will be my motto this weekend. Here’s what I’m reading:


For those looking to travel cheap: Workaway

For those dealing with workplace conflict, via The Daily Muse: 3 Times It’s Better to Take the High Road

For those going through a career transition, via Corporette: How to Campaign for the Job You Already Have

For those in the freelance game, via The New Professional: The Halfway Point (an Honest Look)


Like the links? Follow me on Twitter for links and blog posts every day!

Tradeshows in the Dark Ages

Dear Tradeshow Organizer,

Why didn’t you sign up for the online ordering option for carpet, furniture, electrics, and every other standard service at a tradeshow? Why do you insist on making me fill out 10 different forms, fax or scan+email them back to you, and email you to request a confirmation of receipt and an actual receipt for my payment? Further, why don’t you take my AMEX credit card in Europe? Is it really that much more expensive? Surely it’s more expensive to process a wire transfer or company check than it is to pay whatever fees AMEX will charge you to operate in Europe!


A Frustrated Marketer

Alright, readers, that’s my annoying rant for the morning, but there is some truth to what I’m saying. This is a worldwide show, with hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees, and the provider of the tradeshow services has provided online ordering for several shows that I’ve been involved in. In addition to making it less of a hassle for me to do the ordering, it seems like it should be less of a hassle for show organizers. With online ordering, my information is pre-populated, so there’s less room for human error in entering company name, booth number, and contact information. Particularly for my last name, people have trouble distinguishing my “n” from my “u”. Thus, when they try to email a confirmation to, I don’t receive it. So, now they’re spending more man hours going back and forth with me on the confirmation, and occasionally, denying my credit card because they have attributed it to “Ashley Fans”. I assume someone has to do the data entry into a system somewhere in their system, so why not let it be the customer, one time, instead of forcing the customer to hand-write 10 forms, and then forcing your employee to input it into the system! Then, your employee accidentally inputs the wrong spelling of my name because they couldn’t read the hand-written form, and now you have to waste more labor hours having them fix it. And, what if two different people receive my forms, so now there’s two of me in the system? It just doesn’t make sense to opt out of the online ordering, since I know the system is already in place!

Then there’s the credit card issue. I have a corporate AMEX that I use for the tradeshows, as the bills can be pretty expensive (hence the reason I’m not expected to put it on a personal credit card and expense it). Apparently, the European companies don’t take my AMEX…. but some of them do! I know there are fees associated with credit card processing, but AMEX is one of the most popular cards in the world. It’s surprising that many European countries don’t accept this, particularly tradeshow organizers that do business with the entire world.

So, now you can’t read my writing, AND you can’t accept my payment. Sigh… I’m off to ask for a wire transfer and a penmanship class. Here’s to tradeshow organizers that are making things more difficult than they have to be!

Dressing Room Trade-Offs

Trying on clothes shouldn't take an hour!


At least it doesn't take that long to try on shoes.

Skirt: JC Penney

Tank and Cardigan: Target

Shoes: Old Navy

Necklace and Earrings: NY & Co.

Like the outfit? See more details here!


I’m going to look at a marketing and operations conundrum in today’s post, inspired by several experiences at retailer H&M. I received a gift card to the store for Christmas, but I’ve yet to make a purchase. Every time I go in there, the line for the dressing room is ridiculous! We have two locations in the Dallas area, and both of them have terrible issues with the dressing room situation. My sister dropped by an H&M recently, and she also mentioned that she had to wait in line forever to try something on. You might be thinking that this means that H&M is popular and thriving, but in reality, it’s hurting their business.

First, the obvious issue: long lines are making people completely abandon their purchase. I’ve seen women trudging toward the line carrying an armload of clothes, only to look up and down the line in dismay, and dump that armload of clothes onto a nearby table and walk out of the store! Again, some might think it’s ok, because you’ve got all these people willing to wait in line, so they’ll make up for the abandoned purchase. Except, the reason the dressing room line is so long stems from another issue that also affects purchasing.

H&M fit and quality are hit or miss at best, meaning that you have to grab 3 of every item if you want to have any shot at finding something that fits. Sure, in theory, people are carrying in loads of stuff that they’d like to purchase. The problem is that they have no intention of purchasing every item, because at least 2 of the 3 sizes they’ve brought in won’t actually fit! Now you’ve made the lines ridiculously long with no greater shot at increasing the average purchase, and you’ve made other potential buyers abandon their purchase altogether! On top of all that, they’re forced to hire extra floor personnel to handle all the re-stocking because customers are grabbing more items than they normally would if the fit were somewhat consistent.

So if trying on the outfits is such a pain due to the long line and unreliable fit, why don’t customers just buy all the items they like in several sizes, try them on in the comfort of their own home, and return the unwanted items? Because the buy/return lines are ALSO ridiculously long! Maybe people are starting to try that, but instead of reducing the time spent waiting to try on items, they’ve actually just doubled the waiting time in both places. I’ve found one or two items that fit, but I wasn’t willing to wait AGAIN to actually make the purchase, and I’m definitely not willing to make a purchase first, hope it fits, and then have to come back to wait in line.

H&M isn’t trying to sell an amazing shopping experience or the highest quality clothing, but their unreliable fit is leading to long lines in the dressing room and check-out counter, which is causing a high rate of purchase abandonment. There’s a few ways to fix this: make the fit more reliable, build more dressing rooms, or hire more employees to deal with the chaos that their operational problems have caused. This is a pretty classic case study with obvious flaws in operational and marketing execution, and I’m hoping the drop in sales will make them change their strategy in the near future… I want to spend my giftcard, after all! Like the outfit? See more details here!