Undercover Shopper: Williams-Sonoma Wins

Share the dirt on your own holiday shopping adventures.

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Did you hit the stores this weekend to get an early start on holiday shopping? I did, and for the most part, I was not impressed. Long lines and messy merchandize do not bode well for the start of the season.

Here’s my review of the six stores I visited in the Washington, DC area:

  • Pottery Barn, B: When I first walked in, I was so taken by the color scheme that I had visions of replicating the store’s décor in my apartment. But confusing price tags on throw pillows that were mistakenly placed in the “on sale” section threw me off. I did walk away with a lovely candle, though.
    • TJ Maxx, C-minus: The prices were impressive, but long lines at the registers along with used coffee cups mixed among the merchandize turned me off.
      • Linens-N-Things, D: This chain -- once my favorite place for sheets and shower curtains -- is going out of business. As a result, its products are marked down heavily, but they’ve also been picked over, so there isn’t a lot of selection. The store I visited was out of shower curtains, and the disorganized line was about 20 people deep.
        • Crate & Barrel, B-minus: The selection was plentiful and colorful, but most products were being sold at full-price -- don’t they know consumers are cutting back? Also, chaos around the check-out lines caused some tempers to flare.
          • JCrew, C-plus: This store was pristine, well-organized, and virtually empty. There was no wait for the dressing room, but also nothing quite tempting enough to justify pulling out my credit card for the (relatively) steep prices.
            • Williams-Sonoma, A-plus: This upscale kitchen goods-store impressed me across the board. As soon as I walked in, a clerk explained to me how the new All-Clad Roaster works, and as I meandered further into the store, I received a free lesson (and tasting) of five different olive oils. Then, as my husband was sidetracked by free apple pie samples, I tested an espresso maker and received a free cappuccino. Does it get any better than that?
            • To help others save time and energy, grade your own favorite (and not so favorite) store below. What do you like and not like?