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Nordstrom Secrets Revealed

10 Nordstrom Shopping Secrets, Straight From a Former Employee

Even before I started working at Nordstrom, it was one of my favorite stores to shop. And after working there for nearly two years in my late college years, I loved and respected the company even more. Employees go above and beyond to provide the customer with an experience rather than just a shopping trip, and I got to see it from both sides. There's a number of fascinating facts behind the scenes at the beloved department store, but I'm zeroing in on the ones that will help you get the most out of your visit. Without further ado: 10 secrets that will practically make you a professional Nordstrom shopper.

1. Nordstrom's liberal return policy is truly unbeatable.

The well-known tale about Nordstrom accepting a customer's Good Year tires is totally a myth. You are, however, able to get away with a lot. Their computer systems will recognize some form of receipt (tag, physical or electronic receipt, credit card) for up to five years from the purchase date. Even if it's clearly worn with stains, we have to accept the return, no questions asked other than "Was there anything wrong with the product?" Even if you say that you changed your mind (four years later), they can't press any further.

You don't even need a form of receipt, either. Though it makes the process easier for the employee, they can find a similar item to refund you if you really make a fuss. Many customers do take advantage of this, which has made Nordstrom's return policy stricter recently. Now all returns must be refunded to the original form of payment, whereas before, customers were able to cash out on goods that were even clearly stolen.

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2. New products arrive almost daily.

You'll want to check back regularly because many departments get shipments every day. That also means that the floor layout is constantly changing, but there's a way to beat feeling overwhelmed. The floor is typically organized into distinct looks like casual, department staples, dressy, and "going out," for example. It makes it instinctive for employees when returning their "dump" (or go-backs) and hopefully easier for customers to shop if the manager did a good job.

3. You're allowed to take hangers home.

Some customers want to keep their clothes hung so that they can easily add them to their closet when they get home. Ask to keep your hangers and they'll throw them in your bag or wrap your items in a garment bag, no problem. Limit your request to the plastic hangers, though, because the wooden ones are more limited. I've had customers even ask for a bag full of them before.

4. Utilize your sales associate.

Don't be afraid to form a working relationship with a salesperson you really hit it off with. They make commission so I promise they won't mind any requests. Some of my customers became regular clients who would personally call me for items they wanted. I would text them pictures of newly arrived products that suit their style and ship it directly home to them. They never even had to step foot in store. You can also ask him or her to bring you items from other departments like shoes or accessories to complete the look all at once. Just be mindful that they're the ones putting everything back when you leave.

5. Take advantage of (free!) personal stylist appointments.

Most customers assume that there's an extra fee to work with a personal stylist, but it's completely free! Whether you have a special occasion you need help shopping for or just need to refresh your wardrobe, they're there for you and they know what they're doing. You can also do the same with any of your favorite salespeople. They're often just as qualified and love taking time off the floor to personalize a dressing room just for you.

6. The Nordstrom debit card is definitely worth the perks.

When checking out, the cashier will probably ask if you're part of the Nordstrom Rewards program. We're all forced to get as many customers as possible to apply for a debit or credit card, and though I felt uncomfortable soliciting when I first started, I learned once getting one myself that you're only missing out if you refuse. I understand when people don't want another credit card, but the debit card links to your existing account and is completely free. Not only do you earn $20 back in Nordstrom Notes (basically a gift card) for every 2,000 points, but it also comes with alterations, early access to the Anniversary Sale, and more. If you're a regular Nordstrom shopper already, you might as well get rewarded for every dollar you spend.

7. Check out the Anniversary Sale on the first day.

If you don't know already, Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale is around every July or so and debuts brand-new Fall products at incredible discounts. It's the store's biggest sale of the year, and for good reason. Designer goods are marked off by hundreds of dollars and other items are discounted around 25 to 40 percent off. This is the best time to stock up for the new season because prices go back up once the sale ends. Because stores get products in limited quantities, most of the best stuff disappears after the first day. Make sure you have a Nordstrom Rewards card to gain early access to the sale one week before the general public gets to purchase.

8. Ask an employee to take an item to alterations if it's stained or wrinkled.

You know when you've found the last top in your size but it's covered in deodorant stains or makeup? Let an employee know and they'll gladly take it back to alterations and have them steam and spot-treat your item on the spot. They use a special, gentle lavender soap (that's available for purchase in the lingerie department) that can seriously get anything out.

9. There's not much a salesperson will say "no" to.

Nordstrom is best known for its incredible customer service, and the company does not take that lightly. I've done everything for customers, from running iced waters to their dressing rooms from the espresso bar downstairs to carrying their bags to their car across the mall. But if you truly are an All-Star employee (an actual company recognition for outstanding customer service), you'll have offered those things before the customer even thought to ask. Though Nordstrom employees have the freedom to do what it takes to make the customer leave with a memorable experience, don't take advantage of them if you're not planning on recognizing their services.

10. Everything eventually goes on sale.

All items reduce significantly over the course of a few months. If you have an item on your wish list you simply can't justify purchasing, wait it out. Although there is a risk that it will be sold out by the time you're ready, an employee will most likely be able to track one down in the store-wide system. I've been able to find the last top in the entire company for a customer before. When the price marks down over time to end in .97, it means it's time to be sent to Nordstrom Rack. Occasionally, customers will find missed .97 sale items on the floor and score a great deal, and more rarely, we've had to honor items that literally devalued to $0.01.

Last-Minute Quickies to Note:

  • Save all your Nordstrom Notes onto a gift card! Unused Notes expire after a year while gift cards never lose value.
  • Your Nordstrom perks (points, triple point days, Notes) can all be used at any Nordstrom store, Nordstrom Rack, or Hautelook.com.
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