Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Nordstrom Way: The K-Selected Model of Doing Business

“I come from the land of Nordstrom customer service,” blogger and author Kimmelin Hull tells us. “There were stories about people bringing in pairs of shoes that were years old, in poor shape, and definitely not from Nordstrom. They approached the sales desk and demanded a refund for the shoes they no longer cared for. They got what they asked for.” Nordstrom refunds items at any time purchased from any Nordstrom store. And sometimes even from another store!

Everyone has his or her own story to share, but I like this one: it took place at the Anchorage store soon after Nordstrom’s 1975 purchase from the Northern Commercial Company. A customer, unaware that the store had changed hands, returned a set of tires. Nordstrom accepted the tires. Nordstrom doesn’t sell tires.

John Nordstrom emigrated to the United States in 1887, hoping to found a department store. He co-founded the shoe store Wallin & Nordstrom in 1901 in Seattle. Over the years, Nordstrom swelled from one downtown Seattle shoe store into a nationwide fashion department store renowned for its customer service, generous size ranges and wide selection of fine apparel and accessories—oh, and shoes. “Known for its wide aisles…tasteful fixturing, seating for shoppers and live piano players, Nordstrom epitomizes specialty retail department store shopping,” says Wikipedia.

The Nordstrom model of customer service is based on building a long-term relationship with returning customers; rather than the one-shot sale. It is very similar to the reciprocal altruism I talk about in a previous post that explores "the Prisoner's Dilemma". An incredible example of this practice is the story Spector tells of a customer who loved a certain model of slacks that was on sale at Nordstrom. The salesperson was unable to find her size there or at any other Nordstrom in town. Aware that the same slacks were available at a competitor, the associate secured some petty cash from her department manager, nipped over to the competing store, bought the pair (at full price) then sold it to the customer at the Nordstrom sale price. Obviously, Nordstrom didn’t make money on that particular sale, but this was considered an investment in promoting the loyalty of the customer. No doubt, she would think of Nordstrom for her next purchase.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What is NaNoWriMo and Why Should I Care?

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Professional and amateur writers from all over the world come together every November to write a designated amount over a 30 day period. “National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.” Anything over 40,000 words is a novel according to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. “Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved,” says the site.

Why do it? If you’re a writer—well, if you’re human—then you know about procrastination. NaNoWriMo is all about the magical power of deadlines, to help writers achieve their goal of completing a work. Their rationale for participating in this whirlwind month-long marathon is sound:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Somerset Collection: Toulouse Gets Lost in Detroit

“Toulouse lost? EEK!” you say. What happened? Some of you might also recall that this isn't the first time I "lost" Toulouse. There was the other liquor store incident in Louisville, Kentucky... Oh, and when I lost him in New York only to find him in the safe hands--er, parked comfortably on the gun holster of Officer Montalvo. Well, as some of you know I am on the road again, marketing my fiction writing guide The Fiction Writer: Get Published, Write Now! to schools, colleges and universities (know of one that could use my book?) across North America. My travels took me through several universities like Guelph University, York University, University of Toronto, University of Chicago, Purdue University, Notre Dame and the University of Wisconsin, to name a few. Then Toulouse and I drove to Detroit for a high-brow marketing meeting that my publisher set up for us.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

You’re Less Likely to Get Sick If You Actively Socialize

Isn’t that an oxymoron? More sociable people are more exposed to germs, after all. Yet a study by Sheldon Cohen and his colleagues published in Psychological Science (2003) showed that less sociable people caught colds more often than those who socialized. While that doesn’t follow the straight logic of exposure, it sheds light on the concept of mind-body dualism and the link between physical and mental health. People who socialize have a social identity, possibly multiple social identities, which seems to make them more resilient.

“Belonging to social groups and networks appears to be an important predictor of health—just as important as diet and exercise,” says a September/October 2009 article in Scientific American Mind by Jetten Socializing makes us healthier and more resilient. A 2005 study by Bernadette Boden-Albala at Columbia University found that socially isolated patients were twice as likely to have another stroke within five years as were those with meaningful social relationships. In fact, being cut off from others put people at far greater risk of another stroke than traditional factors like having coronary artery disease or being physically inactive, said the report.

Karen Ertel and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health, who tracked a large group of elderly Americans over six years, found “significantly less memory loss in those who were more socially integrated and active.” (American Journal of Public Health).

Does virtual socializing (e.g., social networking through Facebook, MySpace, blogging and chat-lines) contribute to better health like the examples above? That’s what researchers are still asking and some speculate that social networking provides a good socializing venue, particularly for those of us who are less mobile or otherwise more isolated from loved ones and close friends (through travel, for instance). But, researchers also suggest that this venue does not provide a totally satisfying substitute for face-to-face real-world engagement. It comes down to a healthy balance based on circumstance. Now more than ever, we have options for meeting new people, joining groups of like-minds (whether virtual or real) where we can safely be challenged and excited by life, associations that provide us with fulfilling activities and good mental health. I am an active blogger and online communicator (I travel a lot and find online chatting a wonderful way to keep in touch with family, friends and colleagues). I have also formed many associations through this venue, several of whom I have since met face-to-face and forged close friendships with.

That is, in the final analysis, the point: good mental health. You create your reality. Now, go socialize!

Photo 1: I think this was some kind of cat-tormenting gang of the suburbs...
Photo 2: socializing at Times Square in New York City
Photo 3: The Witches of SF Canada

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.