And we’re back with more of the barnburner “Ron Rider On” series!
This time, the owner of Rider Boot Company (be sure to check out the rollicking Ron Rider On: How Ron Rider Started Rider Boot Company) gets into the story that defines, maybe more than any other, how much he cares about customer service.
All I’ll lead with is: it’s another good one. Stay tuned for more “Ron Rider On“!
“So I got fired from Nordstrom for getting into a fight with a department manager.
I guess for me it’s been…87, 97, 07, 17…for 32 years I’ve done nothing but be involved in shoe stores. I went to work for Nordstrom back when Nordstrom when it was in their heyday. They really were really inventing an industry-changing method of doing retail.
Their whole idea was empowering salespeople. Every department had their own men’s shoe buyer, so they were that close to the customer. And salespeople had the authority to take care of the customer in any way that was necessary to make sure customers were happy. I could’ve spent my whole career in that concept. And it worked. In men’s shoes, we were doing like $8 million in each department. I mean the business was incredible.
So I went to work for Nordstrom at Montgomery Mall. Then they opened the store in Baltimore, where I was living. I opened the store in Towson. And that’s when everything changed.
Nordstrom started to get sued. Some union was suing them for work off the clock. We had to do things like show up three hours before store opening, and go through the White Pages and call local people saying, ‘Hi, I’m Ron. I’m the salesman in the men’s shoe department at the Nordstrom Montgomery Mall. I’d like to know if I can help you with any of your footwear needs.’ I mean, we used to cold call like that.
And we never got paid. In order to get on the list to help customers on the floor, you had to be assigned to each customer all day by the manager. But you had to do a lot of work off the clock to get those customers. So when we opened in Baltimore, that all started to change because of the legal problems. Which meant we stopped being able to attract really good people, and we started hiring people just to fill up departments. The people assigned to management really didn’t know what they were doing.
I got so pissed off one day at a manager who was not doing what I wanted him to do, to serve a customer. I think it was something simple. I told him, you know, “go down to the office, we don’t have the right papers to do orders up here. And I’m waiting on a customer. I need these papers.”
And he was like, ‘I’m a manager. I don’t do that. You do that.’ And said, ‘no, you don’t understand how Nordstrom works. Managers listen to salespeople at Nordstrom. That’s how it works around here. We take care of the customers. So we need your help to serve customers. We don’t work for you.’
Well we ended up getting in an argument, and I tried to beat the shit out of him in the back. My fist went through through a stockroom wall, and I was escorted down to the manager’s office and soon off the premises. But that’s how much I believe in taking care of customers. This is what we do. And of course, I learned that things were changing, and this is no longer what they did. So it was fine.
And that was the end of my Nordstrom days.”