Yesterday the internet and news outlets were abuzz with a video and story about one (closed) Priscilla of Boston store in Minnesota. Headlines on the internet, viral videos and rumors were flying around social networks and the comment sections were quickly filled with negativity. If you didn’t see the it, here is a re-cap: Priscilla of Boston was purchased by David’s Bridal and early fall announced all stores would be closed by the end of the year. As planned, on December 30,2011 the stores were emptied of inventory and closed. This one particular store apparently took all of the gowns to the alley in back of the store and destroyed or partially destroyed the gowns, rendering them unusable, un-donatable and un-wearable with the help of some red spray paint. The video clearly shows several large men painting large red marks on gowns draped over dumpsters and the back of what appears to be a dump truck. Then a nearby bridal salon owner was interviewed about how she could have put the gowns to good use, naming various charities that could have used them. The article even made a point to mention that a $6,000 Vera Wang gown was found among the couture carcasses. The outrage came in waves. It seemed the story was too salacious to be true, but there were the images as plain as day. Almost as if they were trying to spark a media frenzy among brides. Almost? Try exactly.
At first I was among the outraged, I kept thinking that it was some sort of corporate coup, seeing David’s Bridals apology in writing did nothing to assuage my anger. Later in the day it started to sink in that something was just not right with this story. Don’t get me wrong, I think the whole thing could have been handled better but, it left me with several burning questions. Who made the video? Who leaked the story? Why was this being done out in the open for everyone to see? And how did a local competitor know what business was being conducted by another business almost as soon as it happened? At the end of the day it occurred to me that David’s Bridal may not have given the execution order for the store inventory and I need to take them at their word. Maybe the corporate office did not know business was being handled in such a hap-hazard way. Perhaps a disgruntled employee had a beef with the corporate office and staged the whole thing to make David’s Bridal look bad, videotaping and leaking it to the media to ensure a public outcry. I am not pointing fingers, I am just giving you one scenario of what could have happened, there are many. After all, it was only one store, not every store that seemed to have this problem. You see, none of this made sense to me, because I am a skeptic and not a conspiracy-theorist.
Merchandise is disposed of all the time at retailers. Look in the dumpster behind any retail store and you will be amazed at what is dumped versus donated. This is why there is often a padlock on the dumpster – this is to keep their stuff in, not your stuff out. If a gown is unwearable, why donate it? If it is already damaged beyond repair – why donate it? Racks are lined up during sample sales of slightly soiled gowns, gowns with a broken zipper, gowns with one piece of lace dangling and these gowns are hard to sell no matter how low the price. Why? Because not all brides are comfortable wearing an even slightly damaged, dirty, broken gown no matter how inexpensive it is. On the one day when you are supposed to feel beautiful and glamorous and perfect, why are you expected to want a gown that is damaged beyond repair? Furthermore, it is well within the rights of any company to decide what is irreparably damaged and what is not. So, if all of this is true, why was this front page news?
Everyone loves to make big businesses out to be the bad guy and many times they are but, not always. For me this is just one more reason to do some research before you buy, shopping for value doesn’t always mean shopping for price. Shopping with smaller, family owned salons can almost guarantee that you will at some point speak to or see the owner, the person who is ultimately responsible for all of the decision making, inventory selection and the point at which the buck stops if you have a problem.
It will be interesting to see over the course of the next few days and weeks if there is a follow up to this story. I would like to know who was really involved and what role they played. There seems to be a lot of finger pointing and a lot of outrage but, no clear answers. In the end, I don’t entirely blame David’s Bridal; I blame the media for not giving any concrete answers, just images of gowns sprayed with red paint, leaving me with more questions. My current outrage is with the reporter(s) of this story for not providing answers. After all, you aren’t entitled to be outraged if you don’t know the entire story.
-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago