Monday, April 19, 2010

Wedding Karma

Let's talk about the dirty little secret of the wedding gown industry: getting used.

I understand that budgets are tighter than ever for brides, the cost of having a wedding has shot up (some estimates put it over $30,000 on average for the majority of the country) while incomes have been lost or remained stagnant due to the sluggish economy. This has caused brides to look for ways to cut costs.

There are ways that are good, ethical ways to cut your budget that can be invisible to your guests and can leave you feeling like you have harmed no one in your search for the perfect wedding. There are entire volumes written on the subject.

Then there are ways to "cheat" and basically get something you are not paying for. For example, when someone chooses to buy a dress at a brick and mortar wedding gown salon, they are paying for not only the gown, but also a press/steam of the garment as well as the service of that garment, the priviledge of trying it on, being able to get expert advice regarding size and alterations before selecting, and professional guidance through the process of choosing exactly the right gown for their figure. When someone chooses to buy a gown from an internet provider (this is all assuming that the website is not selling knockoffs) they are saving a few dollars, but are giving up the service and the feeling of confidence that if you have questions or concerns, there is a person you can talk to face to face. If you are a bride with a very tight budget, there are no moral problems at all with you purchasing your gown online (at your own risk!).

But what if you want to save a few dollars on your gown AND get the level of service that a salon will give you? What if you found a gown online that you like, located a store that carries it, and went in to try it on, see if you like it in person, look at the color options, ask about what size you might be, and then, getting your questions answered, decided to go back to your computer and order it online? That doesn't hurt anyone, right?

Wrong. It actually hurts several different parties that you should know about.

First. Bridal consultants are mostly professionals. This is their full time job and they often have families to support. It is also a sales industry and most stores work on commission. Like all sales positions, there is a system in place for determining whose turn it is to take the next customer that arrives. When a consultant waits on a bride, she must then typically wait for all other consultants to wait on a bride before she can have another bride. So when a bride arrives to try on a dress that she has no intentions of purchasing from the store, her deception could cause the consultant to lose an opportunity to wait on a legitimate bride for the rest of the day. So she did not "save" a few dollars, just "stole" the services of the consultant and got the value from her.

Second. The store you are visiting has invested in samples of the dresses to try on (these are not provided free by the manufacturers, but are sold to the stores) and is employing knowledgeable staff to assist you. They have also provided a location for you to visit with a dressing room in which you may try on. These things cost money. Everytime a dress is tried on, it gets dirty from handling, can become damaged and will need replacing. When a "cheating" bride occupies a dressing room and a consultant's time, those are resources not available to another bride. This is a contributing factor to why so many stores have gone out of business - because of the cost of offering services with no remuneration.

Third. This costs other brides. How many weekends have I had to turn away brides because my schedule was full; and how many times afterward have I realized that a bride was just using us and had no intentions of purchasing and she prevented another bride access to a dressing room, consultant, and our dresses? It also costs other brides in the bottom line... stores are finding it necessary to make up for the increased cost of servicing so many brides by adding to their costs somewhere.

None of this is to say that anyone should feel obliged to purchase a gown from a retailer just because they shopped there*, only to suggest that if you know you are not going to purchase there, please don't waste their time. Time is money, and your savings is coming off of their backs. Whether you believe in karma or "what goes around, comes around", it is all a question of why would you want to taint the start to your love affair and married life with cheating and deceipt? Your marriage will hopefully be here for years to come (knock on wood), you need to begin it right!

*You should choose the store from which you purchase because of their selection, level of service, stability, convenience and your feeling of confidence with them. Your consultant expects to work hard to gain your confidence. If you end up feeling more confident and comfortable with a different store, she understands. As long as she had the opportunity to present her offerings to you and you were open to receiving them.

NOTE: Out of necessity, stores have become adept at identifying who is using their services. Be warned that if you decide to go this route, you may find it impossible to get an appointment at the store that found you out, and even at other stores in the area in their network. Do you really want to be blackballed?