Tommy Bahama Can Teach the Airlines a Thing or Two.

People dress pretty informally here in Hawaii. Normal business attire for men is a colorful short-sleeved shirt with a tropical motif—we call them “aloha shirts”—and they’re worn with dress slacks and casual shoes. Women often wear muumuus to work — dressy for those in executive positions, more colorful and more informal for others.

When I travel, I usually switch to slacks and comfortable polo shirts which I now get almost exclusively from Tommy Bahama. I also have a half dozen of their very elegant aloha shirts. Their stuff is a bit pricey, but it’s all good looking and well made. And their polo shirts are really good for traveling; folded carefully, they hardly wrinkle at all.

About 18 months ago, I bought a light-weight sweatshirt from Tommy Bahama and it was perfect—warm, but not heavy or bulky, and it even looked good worn under my only sport jacket. It became essential part of my traveling wardrobe along with the polo shirts … and—dammit!—I left it in a hotel room on my way back from France last October. 2803446-p-4xWith another trip into cold weather coming up in February, I again went to the Tommy Bahama web site hoping to find an identical replacement. It wasn’t clear which was the right one—they offer more than 40 styles of sweatshirts—so I emailed their Customer Service and asked if they still stocked “my” sweatshirt. (There it is on a male model.)

The next day, came an email from Tommy Bahama. They had found my original order, but—alas—that particular item is no longer in stock. However, the email continued, they checked with all their mainland stores and the Tommy Bahama outlet in San Diego has just one of those items left, and it’s my size. Furthermore, continued my anonymous friend in Tommy Bahama’s Customer Service Department, a person named Elizabeth had set the item aside in case I should wish to order it. I did … and I did … and my replacement sweatshirt should be here before the end of next week.

Finally, concluded the amazing email, they were pleased they could be of service and they thanked me for being a loyal customer of Tommy Bahama. Now that is great customer service!

OK, but what if Tommy Bahama took the same marketing approach as Delta Airlines (See yesterday’s post). What if that email had said the sweatshirt I want is in stock, that it still costs $118, but it no longer comes with a zipper. However, if I want to, I can upgrade to a shirt with the zipper for an additional fee of ten bucks.

There’s just no way they could get away with that, right? Not unless ALL the shirt manufacturers did it. But wouldn’t that be illegal?