Adventures in Online Shopping: Banana Republic Operates Like a Banana Republic

Banana Republic: …a country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture (e.g. bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt clique. (Wikipedia)

Okay, so maybe they’re not that bad, but they did upset me this weekend…

In my post last Friday, I mentioned a Banana Republic 40% off sale for card holders, and linked to the two items I had my eye on, and planned to buy with the discount code. I was going to be so proactive, I even set an alarm on my cell phone to remind me of the official start of the sale, promptly at 9:01pm PT, so I could snag the sizes I wanted. 9:01pm came, and I happily sat with my laptop, wallet by my side, to get a good discount on the items I wanted.

I clicked….and….nothing. I tried the other link…nothing. The two items I wanted were completely gone from the website!


First, I panicked thinking all the sizes, in both petite and regular sizes had already completely sold out. I even thought for a second, that maybe my post had been linked somewhere, and hoards of shoppers, agreeing I had good taste, had bought all the merchandise I had suggested at exactly 9:01pm, leaving none for me. Of course, this is ridiculous, because I certainly don’t have that kind of influence, so I did the next best thing and called customer service.

Customer service, apparently only has access to the active website, because without an item number, they couldn’t tell me anything. Surely, if I had known BR would eradicate my lovely items from the website, I would have jotted down the item numbers. But alas! I had nothing but a product name, and an empty product page that had been completely wiped clean of any helpful information.

When I asked if it is common policy for BR to take items off a website because they don’t want it be part of a sale, the customer service employee told me that she had heard of BR doing that, but didn’t think it was the case, especially considering such expensive items such as suiting were included in the sale. She also mentioned that maybe there was an issue with the products, or those webpages, which may be a reason as to why they had been taken down.

Hmm…I wasn’t convinced.

The next day, I woke up, checked my email, and thought that perhaps I should check the Banana Republic website to see if my items had magically reappeared. Sure enough, there they were! Conveniently back on the website, the day after a great promo code expired.

My next thought was, maybe there is fine print on the marketing email I received, warning that certain items were to be excluded. Maybe I just didn’t take the time to read the exclusions. So I found the email sent by BR and read the fine print:

*Purchase subject to credit approval. Offer valid on full-priced Banana Republic merchandise only on 6/19/2010 at 12:01 AM ET through 11:59 PM ET in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico) at Banana Republic stores and online. Offer not valid at Banana Republic Factory Stores or Edition by Banana Republic. A Banana Republic, Gap or Old Navy card must be used as pay type. Qualifying amount applies to merchandise only, not to Giftcards purchased, packaging, applicable taxes or shipping and handling charges. No adjustments on previous purchases. Not valid for cash or cash equivalent. Offer can be combined with Reward Cards but cannot be combined with Gap Inc. employee discount or any other offers or discounts. Not responsible for lost or stolen coupons. (original email)

Nope, no mention of item exclusions, or removing items off the website to avoid selling them.
So I called customer service again, explained what happened, and asked if BR typically removes items from the website during promotions. The customer service employee said that, yes, they do often do that because it’s easier to just remove items, than it is to compile a list of exclusions. Then I asked if the stores abide by the same exclusions, and remove certain items from store shelves. Customer service responded saying she wasn’t sure, as she had never worked in a store, but did not think they did because stores have to move merchandise faster than the online website did.
Now, here’s why this bothers me:
First of all, I feel tricked by these practices. Banana Republic advertised 40% off regular priced items to card holders (their most valued customers) and then quietly removed certain items from the sale without any kind of disclaimer or warning. If a company is going to exclude items, fine. Just gather all the promotional items and link them on a “sale” page. This happens all the time. Then I can see my desired item is not part of the sale, be disappointed for exactly one second, and move on with my day. Removing the entire item from the website only successfully drove me insane. This just seems dishonest to me.
Second, there are groups of people that have been forced to shop online because they wear a special size that a company has decided to not offer in stores. In my case, the local Banana Republic store I had available to me has a small, poorly stocked petite section. I tried to find the pencil skirt in store, but it was not available. The cardigan size I wanted (size petite xxs) is not even carried in stores anyway, so my only hope for that garment was shopping online. 
If the stores do not remove these items during promotions, but the online store does, and I have no choice but to shop online, then I’m missing out on purchasing items that my “regular” sized counterparts are able to partake in. Frustrating right?

Or maybe I’m just bitter because I couldn’t get the items I was really excited to buy…

Does this sound weird to you too?

35 Comments

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    PetiteAsianGirl

    This is very irksome. I didn't have anything on my "buy list" for this sale but I can see myself being outraged if I were in your situation. When I saw your tweet I assumed that the items were removed because they didn't want them to be part of the sale, which means they practiced false advertising. When stores have a general sale like that, I am always keen to look out for the exclusions list and even call the store to ask what brands/items are excluded, so I don't get my hopes up or take time out of my precious day to save those items. The email from BR stated that all regular price items were on sale for cardmembers with no mention of exclusion – complete bogus!

    I also second your point about how it's quite unfair for shoppers who require special sizing. I popped into a BR to check for the items you posted about, but the petite selection was so sad and small and I didn't feel like venturing into adults to hunt down those items. Even if those items WERE on sale at the regular brick and mortar stores, I would be even more irritated – that would mean direct discrimination against shoppers like us who can only get our sizes online.

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    Anonymous

    I work for Banana Republic and recommend that you go to the store the Tuesday or Wednesday before to do a pre-sale where you can still get the 40% off and pick it up on Saturday instead of dealing with the online mess. I've had problems with the Banana Republic website even though I work for Banana Republic so I suggest that you do everything by store. Most people do not know that the pre-sale starts in store Wednesday through Friday before the actual pre-sale on Saturday, so just keep in touch with the managers or sales associates to get the latest info on what is going on. Try to get on the sales associates clienteling list. I have a list of people that I call up for upcoming sales. I believe there will be another pre-sale come in December where everything will be 40% off. I'll let you know. Don't forget that there is also the "After 5" event in various locations, which is done quarterly, where they bring in a DJ and offer free cocktails and free champagne as you shop!

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    prosephina

    I was going crazy looking for that skirt as well! I saw the skirt on Thursday, since I had a gift card I was going to get it, but I hesitated, and then I saw your post on Friday, and thought oh good 40% off is even nicer, maybe I'll wait. But when I checked it to see if it's available on Friday, that particular skirt page said "Due to the overwhelming demand, this item can only be purchased in stores", but it was still in my cart. However, at the end of the day, around 5pm PST, it was removed from my cart noting that it was out of stock.

    Very strange practice indeed!

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    Anonymous

    Thankfully, I work for the largest Banana Republic in the Dallas metropolitan area, which is five times the size of the shoebox stores I do see lurking around the Dallas area (since it was formally a Saks Fifth Ave). I'd recommend that if you do like any item, have them do a search locator to see if it's in a different location so that they can hold it or have it sent to your house. Ordinarily, only Luxe members receive free shipping. But because this was a special event, our manager offered free shipping to anyone with a regular Banana Republic card.

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    PetiteAsianGirl

    Regarding the anonymous comments about stopping into stores and doing store searches … unfortunately I've almost never seen an XXSP in-store. Since BR chooses to not offer this size in brick and mortar stores, these suggestions are not a viable option for us. Extra petite ladies have no choice but resort to online shopping or wait for a lucky return to pop up at local stores.

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    Anonymous

    As a Banana Republic employee, I'd definitely recommend going to the store rather than shopping online. A lot of times, there are better deals and markdowns in-store than there are online. It's weird because we're in competition with our online store where they offer promotions when we don't or we offer promotions that they don't. More often than not, the store deals offer a better deal to the promotions online since they want to attract more foot traffic to offset many of the competitors in the mall. Just a little tip I've learned while working at Banana Republic :)

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    Anonymous

    We have a lot of 00P sizes in our location. Those are usually the only ones we have left (but not so much after the pre-sale). The 00P I believe is equivalent to the XXSP.

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    Alterations Needed

    PAG – Yeah, I was in San Diego, and the only BR that has any kind of petite section is Fashion Valley, and it's a pretty sad sight. I looked for the items, but of course there was nothing good there. I probably would have been more proactive (calling the LA stores) if I wasn't so confused by the situation. Oh well. I guess I'll wait for the next promo code.

    prosephina – LOL, I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking I had gone crazy. I also had both items in my shopping cart on Wednesday, and almost bought them, but then found a mailer for the sale on Saturday and thought, "Oh good! I'll get them for 40% off on Saturday!" Well, that didn't work out as planned…

    BR employees – Thanks for your suggestions! Don't mean to be too harsh on your place of employment, as I really do like shopping BR. BR just really irked me this weekend!

    Do any of you know if BR stores can order things for customers off the website and ship them in store, or to a customer's home? For example, if I want to pre-sale a pxxs item that is not carried in store, can a store get that pxxs item for me at the pre-sale price, even though it's only offered online?

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    Alterations Needed

    Anonymous (9:15am) – Unfortunately P00 and PXXS are not the same size. P00 is equivalent to a PXS, both of which are offered in store. PXXS is an online only size that is offered in tops that come in non-numerical sizing, which would be equivalent to size P000. Size P000 is shown on the "Petite Fit Guide", and to the best of my knowledge was offered for a very short time last year, but discontinued.

    I need size PXXS, which I can only get online. =(

    PS…if size P000 could make a come back, I'd be greatly appreciative. BR pants in size P00 just don't do it for me.

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    Taj

    Hi all-

    Just wanted to chime in and say that I too have had issues with BR online. A month or two ago I had received a sheet of 40% off coupons after purchasing something at my local BR. These codes are only good on Wednesdays and only good 'in store'. I popped into two different BRs on two different Wednesdays hoping to find an elusive PXXS or P00 lurking around, but no luck. I did ask about whether they could order an item for me from the website and send it to the store, where I would be able to purchase it with my 40% off code the following Wednesday. The manager at my particular store said she could try doing that, though it's not a regular practice. However, as soon as we had the item in the cart and went to checkout with the code, it was suddenly out of stock. The item was back online again in PXXS the next day when I could no longer use the code… and of course, I can never find the item in my tiny size on a Wednesday in a brick and mortar BR. Essentially, these coupons which are supposed to be a reward for loyal shoppers are useless to me since they do not carry my size in store and that's the only place they're valid. I still love shopping there, but have been completely frustrated both by this practice and the malfunctionings of the website lately…sigh :)

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    Anonymous

    What what I understand, if products don't sell well enough, they take them off the store shelves. I know that's what happened to men's swim trunks. Not enough men were buying them, so they discontinued them from the store altogether. If you want to make any suggestions, you can try writing to corporate in San Francisco. But little is usually done to make change there unless you're a general manager of a store, which I am not.

    As far as ordering things online to be shipped to the home, I don't believe I've ever done that. I've only done store-to-store pickups or store to home pickups.

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    Alterations Needed

    Taj – I've received those exact same "in store only" coupons! How frustrating! I end up giving them to my taller friends who aren't stuck shopping online. I completely know how you feel!

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    sophia

    I agree with PAG and Alt. Needed – to the person above who keeps saying to go in store ~ THE PETITE SIZES AREN'T OFFERED IN STORE! I think people who are large sized just CAN'T comprehend that fact. Or they need to learn to read *shrugs*

    Alt Needed – I completely understand your frustration. It sucks to have to order stuff in 00, and sometimes they even request you pay for it beforehand. So shopping online seems like the best alternative.. until you realize stores pull stunts like this.

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    daisy351

    I had this problem last christmas time where there was a shirt I want to buy for my boyfriend and I had a 40% off coupon. On the day the coupon was good, the shirt was not available. grrr

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    Anonymous

    I had the same experience!!! I was trying to buy these pants for my hubbie that I had scoped out a few days before, but couldn't find them to save my life. Thank goodness I had them saved in my cart I was able to order them. We'll see if they actually ship them….

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    Anonymous

    I work at Banana Republic and there's a large petite section that spans an entire three sections. I guess it depends on which store location you go to. But one of the reasons I work there is to snag all the 00P sizes. I guess there's also a large population of Asian people where I live here in Dallas, TX so they carry a lot of 00P.

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    CynthiaC

    There may be 00Ps in stores, but XXSP is still not available. I echo the thought that people who're not XXS understand the need for clothing that tiny.

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    Erin

    Ugh. I would be mad too, AN. I'm glad I didn't really have anything on my list at BR.

    As for the in-store options… I am lucky to be a PXS, so there is *sometimes* an item or two available. But even though I am slightly bigger, I have to agree that this situation is unfair. Also, besides the limited options for petites, a lot of the time, there is no plus sized section at all. (This is definitely the case at Old Navy – a friend of mine has sworn them off forever because of this.) It seems to me that if you're "too big" or "too small" you're at a serious disadvantage. I understand supply and demand and it does make business sense for brick and mortar stores, but there should be some way to meet in the middle for non-standard sizes (excellent online customer service, free shipping, and return shipping would be a great place to start).

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    hugstiem

    Lol Banana. What a ridiculously vanity-sized establishment. Last time I was in a BR store's petite section I was like, oh my God, this petite-sized mannequin is like exactly my size, I'll have what she's having! Of course like 30% of the fabric in the mannequin's 00P outfit was pinned in the back to actually fit. Banana has forsaken skinny people.

  • Reply June 21, 2010

    PetiteXXS

    Wow that is sneaky indeed! I had no idea BR does something like this. I would be really mad too if there was an item I wanted and had waited to buy. They do email out those occasional 40% one item coupons, and I wonder if they remove certain items then too.

    I do wish they would carry PXXS in store and bring back P000 (or stop vanity sizing so the size doesn't sound so ridiculous). Even the selection of PXS or P00 is slim to non-existent in most stores I've been to, which is one of the reasons why I mainly shop online.

  • Reply July 1, 2010

    Ms. Shopportunity

    It's really disappointing to me that BR does this! What about starting a petition about it?

  • Reply July 3, 2010

    Anonymous

    Yes, the exact same thing has happened to me before. I tried calling customer service at BR throughout the sale day, and they told me that they were experiencing "technical difficulties" with their classic wool suit separates.

  • Reply July 23, 2010

    Anonymous

    I'm also a petite asian.

    I knew I wasn't being crazy when I had this same theory about how retailers promote their "sales". I am such a shopaholic that for a while I was so obsessed with Jcrew that I had to check the website a few times everyday. There were multiple instances where the items I wanted to buy, during the "20% off or 30%off and free shipping" promotion period, just disappeared online. And as soon as the sales is over, those items are back again with many different sizes available. So that means they weren't just "sold out". For instance, this item (#17400 J.crew Silk pleated galette dress)has gone through at least 3 "extra 20% of 30% off sales" cycles that it magically disappeared during extra discount sales and re-appeared right after. I finally gave up and bought it at the sales prices withough the extra 30% off(would have saved me $70)….

  • Reply April 14, 2011

    Anonymous

    I did notice a few years back that their online prices aren't as good as their in-store prices. Being a busy mom, I really can't get out to the stores very often between working and home-life. I've shopped a lot less at BR these days. It's really unfair that BR doesn't carry a full selection of petites in their stores. I live in the California's Bay area and there are many petite Asian women so it just doesn't make much sense. Fortunate for me, I'm not a desperate shopper so I'm more than happy to boycott BR.

  • Reply April 27, 2011

    Anonymous

    LOFT is guilty of the practice of removing items from their website during sales as well. During their most recent 40% off "everything" sale, about half of their shoes were mysteriously missing from the site. There could have been other items as well, but I had been looking for some specific shoes.

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    Anonymous

    I did notice a few years back that their online prices aren't as good as their in-store prices. Being a busy mom, I really can't get out to the stores very often between working and home-life. I've shopped a lot less at BR these days. It's really unfair that BR doesn't carry a full selection of petites in their stores. I live in the California's Bay area and there are many petite Asian women so it just doesn't make much sense. Fortunate for me, I'm not a desperate shopper so I'm more than happy to boycott BR.

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    Anonymous

    Yes, the exact same thing has happened to me before. I tried calling customer service at BR throughout the sale day, and they told me that they were experiencing "technical difficulties" with their classic wool suit separates.

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    Erin

    Ugh. I would be mad too, AN. I'm glad I didn't really have anything on my list at BR.

    As for the in-store options… I am lucky to be a PXS, so there is *sometimes* an item or two available. But even though I am slightly bigger, I have to agree that this situation is unfair. Also, besides the limited options for petites, a lot of the time, there is no plus sized section at all. (This is definitely the case at Old Navy – a friend of mine has sworn them off forever because of this.) It seems to me that if you're "too big" or "too small" you're at a serious disadvantage. I understand supply and demand and it does make business sense for brick and mortar stores, but there should be some way to meet in the middle for non-standard sizes (excellent online customer service, free shipping, and return shipping would be a great place to start).

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    Taj

    Hi all-

    Just wanted to chime in and say that I too have had issues with BR online. A month or two ago I had received a sheet of 40% off coupons after purchasing something at my local BR. These codes are only good on Wednesdays and only good 'in store'. I popped into two different BRs on two different Wednesdays hoping to find an elusive PXXS or P00 lurking around, but no luck. I did ask about whether they could order an item for me from the website and send it to the store, where I would be able to purchase it with my 40% off code the following Wednesday. The manager at my particular store said she could try doing that, though it's not a regular practice. However, as soon as we had the item in the cart and went to checkout with the code, it was suddenly out of stock. The item was back online again in PXXS the next day when I could no longer use the code… and of course, I can never find the item in my tiny size on a Wednesday in a brick and mortar BR. Essentially, these coupons which are supposed to be a reward for loyal shoppers are useless to me since they do not carry my size in store and that's the only place they're valid. I still love shopping there, but have been completely frustrated both by this practice and the malfunctionings of the website lately…sigh :)

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    Alterations Needed

    PAG – Yeah, I was in San Diego, and the only BR that has any kind of petite section is Fashion Valley, and it's a pretty sad sight. I looked for the items, but of course there was nothing good there. I probably would have been more proactive (calling the LA stores) if I wasn't so confused by the situation. Oh well. I guess I'll wait for the next promo code.

    prosephina – LOL, I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking I had gone crazy. I also had both items in my shopping cart on Wednesday, and almost bought them, but then found a mailer for the sale on Saturday and thought, "Oh good! I'll get them for 40% off on Saturday!" Well, that didn't work out as planned…

    BR employees – Thanks for your suggestions! Don't mean to be too harsh on your place of employment, as I really do like shopping BR. BR just really irked me this weekend!

    Do any of you know if BR stores can order things for customers off the website and ship them in store, or to a customer's home? For example, if I want to pre-sale a pxxs item that is not carried in store, can a store get that pxxs item for me at the pre-sale price, even though it's only offered online?

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    PetiteAsianGirl

    This is very irksome. I didn't have anything on my "buy list" for this sale but I can see myself being outraged if I were in your situation. When I saw your tweet I assumed that the items were removed because they didn't want them to be part of the sale, which means they practiced false advertising. When stores have a general sale like that, I am always keen to look out for the exclusions list and even call the store to ask what brands/items are excluded, so I don't get my hopes up or take time out of my precious day to save those items. The email from BR stated that all regular price items were on sale for cardmembers with no mention of exclusion – complete bogus!

    I also second your point about how it's quite unfair for shoppers who require special sizing. I popped into a BR to check for the items you posted about, but the petite selection was so sad and small and I didn't feel like venturing into adults to hunt down those items. Even if those items WERE on sale at the regular brick and mortar stores, I would be even more irritated – that would mean direct discrimination against shoppers like us who can only get our sizes online.

  • Reply May 25, 2011

    prosephina

    I was going crazy looking for that skirt as well! I saw the skirt on Thursday, since I had a gift card I was going to get it, but I hesitated, and then I saw your post on Friday, and thought oh good 40% off is even nicer, maybe I'll wait. But when I checked it to see if it's available on Friday, that particular skirt page said "Due to the overwhelming demand, this item can only be purchased in stores", but it was still in my cart. However, at the end of the day, around 5pm PST, it was removed from my cart noting that it was out of stock.

    Very strange practice indeed!

  • Reply July 28, 2011

    Aqua76239

    I live in Honolulu, HI and there are lot of  sizes XXS and 00 available in stores. Probably because 70 -80 percent of women are Asian here. When I lived on mainland US, it was always a struggle to find size 00 or XS

    • Reply July 29, 2011

      Alterations Needed

      That sounds like heaven! Wish I knew that when I was in Honolulu a few years ago. I would have spent less time on the beach and more time in the shops. :)

  • Reply December 1, 2011

    Guest

    I think they pull items off when they have a sale. I checked online around 11PM night before sale, then got up around 8AM to buy items that were conveniently out of stock all of a sudden. I am sure they were in stock the night previous and I doubt there was a rush of orders throughout the night while everyone is sleeping.

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