Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Helen Ficalora, Liz Lemon, and my Christmas Shopping Debacle

In the almost four years my wife and I have been together, there have been numerous, oddly coincidental and eerie parallels to Tina Fey's Liz Lemon character on 30 Rock, and my own wife. From mannerisms, to "Night Cheese", and now the fact that Tina Fey and my wife are simultaneously pregnant, I'm always on the look out for what's next for them to share?

Prior to this past Christmas, I got the idea to get my wife the necklace Liz Lemon wears on 30 Rock, with of course my wife's initials on them. Research led me to Helen Ficalora, the designer of Liz's necklace.

I went to the Beverly Hills store, to purchase two, "V" & "G" letter charms, plus one 14K chain. Each alphabet charm disc cost $145, and the chain was $85. I'm not ashamed to admit that in this downward spiral of an economy has left my once respectable wage earnings, to something I'd never imagine I'd have to live off of, much like many Americans in this country.

So, the grand total of $375 + tax I would have to spend at Helen Ficalora was something I'd been saving for, for a couple of paychecks, before Christmas. Enter my journey to the Beverly Hills Helen Ficalora store. It's a well lit, quaint but elegant, boutique store. The help was friendly upon entrance.

The woman who ended up ringing me up at the register seemed frazzled. We all have our off days I thought, so no big deal. "Your total for today will be, five hundred...", she went on to say. My mind shut off at this point. Was there a higher sales tax in the wonderful city of Beverly Hills? I already felt like the prostitute version of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, upon entering the store...I don't do much shopping time in the 90210.

As my credit card was being processed, the young lady could not get over the confused and distraught look on my face, and realized I had in fact, been overcharged. She realized her mistake, and said she would simply refund the overage amount. I asked if it would be easier to refund the entire amount, and start from scratch, but she insisted this is their protocol. Long story short, she refunded the incorrect amount(which was less than what was stated on my invoice), which later caused me an overdraft charge. The refund process had also caused a suspension of funds at my bank (the week of Christmas shopping), and I was leaving the store with a bevvy of receipts, that looked like I was about to participate in a ticker-tape parade.

Well, I had taken to Yelp to relay the mishaps of my experience, to warn other HF shoppers, and even wrote the store manager an old-fashioned, mailed letter. Neither of which garnered a response.

Two weeks ago, I received a voicemail from a woman claiming to be Helen Ficalora. She wanted to speak to me personally, regarding what had happened. I told my wife, and her response was, "Yeah right. Mrs. Fields just sent me an email for that bad batch of cookies we bought last week." It turns out, one of Helen's children had been reading the responses at their various locations on Yelp, and passed word of what I'd written onto Helen herself.

Any person who has a spouse, knows that an opportunity to prove their spouse's doubts wrong cannot be passed up, so I called Mrs. Ficalora back. It was in fact, the real Helen Ficalora. She was genuinely apologetic, incredibly gracious, and a wondeful listener. She made no excuses for what went wrong, but really compelled me to commit to the rare excercise these days, of forgiveness. I was truly humbled that someone of her stature would take the time to reach out to me, directly. And listen to me. If only more business owners had the kindness of Helen Ficalora. And, the ability to understand that every employee is a direct representation of their image as a business owner.

Also, Helen graciously sent me a check to cover my overdraft expenses. And to boot, she sent me a little something extra, when she heard it was my wife's birthday coming up, as well. The truth is, she didn't have to do any of these things, but yet she wanted to. And did so, without any pretenses. She even confessed that she had "been dreading contacting me for quite some time", as my Yelp review conveyed an impression of me being fairly irate. Her honesty was incredibly refreshing.

The fact that someone of her stature, took the time to track me down, and call me directly, is something that is truly unheard of these days, and something I will always remember. I will always think of her good gesture, whenever I pass any Helen Ficalora store, look at my wife's charm necklace, or watch Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. Unfortunately for my pocket book, I think our household will be supporting the Helen Ficalora name for quite some time to come, which I will gladly participate in, given Helen's goodwill.

An exclamation point, to this story for me personally, is this article that I stumbled upon this article in People Magazine a while ago, that can attest to the nature of Helen Ficalora.

Visit the Helen Ficalora Store online.

"Like" Helen Ficalora on Facebook.

"No Woman, No Cry" (Studio Version) by Bob Marley & The Wailers


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