Wednesday, December 26, 2007

...thirty-seven butter knives...

Ho ho ho! I hope you all had a wonderful, warm and blessed Christmas. In honor of bargain-shopping (and gift-returning) season, I bring you the next installment in my registry series. Time to talk about Macy's!

As I mentioned before, I like to be left alone when I shop. But in most wedding-related service industries, leaving people alone to make their own decisions is unheard of. After all, the whole point of being a bride is having a fuss made over you. So it is with setting up a wedding-gift registry -- and if you enjoy having lots of attention and advice from store employees, or from their internet representations, you will love the registry process. After we amused ourselves with the scanner gun at Bed, Bath & Beyond, the fiance and I refrained from presenting ourselves in person elsewhere and did all our registering online. But the stores still clog up the process with "helpful" hints and tips and guides, all of which boil down to two basic directives: 1. Register for lots of stuff. 2. Register for more expensive stuff.

In this regard, Macy's is the most obnoxious of any I've encountered. When you sign up, they make you tell them how many guests you expect to invite, so they can let you know how many gifts to register for. (Hint: a lot.) And when you sign in, they ask, "Does your registry offer guests enough options?" (Hint: no.) A saleswoman even called my cell phone and left a long voice-mail message about how I hadn't yet linked the registry to my Macy's charge card, or some such nonsense (I don't have a Macy's charge card, but I'm sure she was prepared to offer one to me). Worst of all, they require you to be a member of, one of the more odious online "communities" where brides-to-be can gather to feed their wedding-related insecurities. I signed up at Wedding Channel and when I was first plotting my attempt to scale Mount Wedding. It seemed like a good place to start. But I quickly decided there was nothing but downside to having the details of our wedding available on these sites, so I canceled my accounts, and I really don't appreciate having to sign back up just to have a registry at Macy's. Being a member of Wedding Channel makes me uncomfortable; I don't like the decisions they want to make on my behalf. Case in point: at this moment, typing "" into my navigation bar reroutes me to, so I can edit my registry. Even if I sign out. Even if I close the browser and restart it. I feel like my computer has a virus.

Macy's was not originally in our core group of stores, but one day, just before gift-buying season began in earnest, I noticed the china pattern we'd picked out at Bed, Bath & Beyond in a Macy's advertising circular. And it was on sale! Some investigation revealed that they have a few pieces BB&B doesn't carry, so I decided it was worth having an account there, Wedding Channel tie-in and all, to score some extra serving dishes and save our guests some cash. Which brings me to my first pro: the prices at Macy's are very good when the pattern is on sale, and it goes on sale every few weeks. Unfortunately, the regular prices are significantly higher than Bed, Bath & Beyond's, so I've spent the last several weeks transferring items back and forth, depending on what's available from which store at what price. I don't want anyone to have to pay $36 for a plate they could get at $31 or $22.

All that work has given me a chance to get acquainted with some of the site's other quirks. Macy's, like BB&B, is a physical store first and an online store second, and it shows on their website. Searching for a specific item is tricky, and the nesting of related items (like individual dishes from the same pattern) is unpredictable and not very helpful. Since searching for what I want is such a pain, I think I should be able to click on an item from my registry and go from there back to a list of related items, but the website doesn't work that way; clicking on something I've already registered for is a dead end. To make matters worse, several of the images don't match the items -- they have a picture of a rice bowl in place of a soup bowl, and the soup bowl instead of the serving bowl, and so on.

If you register at multiple stores, you'll find they have different methods of displaying what items you want and what you've already received. Some sites show how many you asked for and how many you've received; others show how many you "still need." This is particularly important when the couple registers for multiples of a single item (six dinner plates, for example), and they don't all get purchased at once. For some reason, I find Macy's system particularly confusing, whether I'm looking at it as a customer or updating it as the registrant. I'm always doing mental math. Shouldn't it be easier to tell what's still available for purchase?

In the pro column: they have enough locations to be convenient for many of our guests who prefer to shop in person. And their service seems to be good. One of my shower guests bought us a set of pasta bowls, but the store had only four of the six in stock, so they added a note letting me know that the other two were on the way (and indicating very clearly whom they were from). Unlike most computer generated "gift cards," this note was practically suitable for framing, and the bowls arrived very soon thereafter. I'm not blown away by their online selection, though -- I've done some searching in hopes of adding other stuff, but our registry hasn't expanded much beyond dishes. And I'm unhappy that those who visit our registry list are invited to "Check out the couple's website!" I can't get rid of that note, nor the link that takes you to a page with a hideous border of red roses. It lists only our wedding date, and a link back to the Macy's registry, so I don't think any intelligent person would confuse it with our actual wedding website (hosted with far more class by But I am still rankled. As if.

Tune in tomorrow(ish) for my thoughts on Crate & Barrel!

(To read all my wedding-registry reviews, click here.)

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