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Stuart Apologizes for ‘Rather Crass’ Flier

October 11, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ At least a few buttoned-down, tight-collared patrons of elite Madison Avenue haberdasher Paul Stuart were aghast last month when they received, along with their statement, a - how to describe it - a flier.

″Come on down and shop around 3/8″ the thing blared, and went on to offer, if you can imagine this, something called a ″skip-a-month″ payment option for - and at this point you simply must suspend disbelief altogether - people strapped by back-to-school expenses.

Paul Stuart Inc. spokeswoman Julie Oddy says the flier was printed on ″cheap stock,″ with large block letters, and there were exclamation points in the text.

Even the color was wrong: ″It was green and white, the color of money,″ complained Ms. Oddy. ″The whole thing was inappropriate considering who our customers are and what our image is.″

The flier’s inclusion in the August statement (that is, the bill) came to Paul Stuart’s attention when a customer told a member of the Grodd family, which owns the store, the easy credit flier seemed out of character. Three or four other customers also telephoned in their complaints.

The fault rested not with Paul Stuart, but with the General Electric Credit Corp., which provides billing, mailing and marketing services to Stuart and many other stores, including Caldor’s and Zayre’s.

GE Credit spokeswoman Lisa Van Orden said the flier was designed for other client stores in an attempt to boost September sales by allowing shoppers to skip a minimum payment in September. Customers would, however, be charged interest on their unpaid balance.

The flier was stuffed in with Paul Stuart bills without the store’s knowledge. When Stuart found out, it fired off a letter to patrons apologizing for what it termed the ″rather crass flier.″

The letter blamed the flier’s inclusion on a mistake by its mailing house, and assured patrons: ″We would never consider addressing you in such a manner.″

GE Credit admits the mistake, but says the ″skip-a-month″ plan is popular with some shoppers. Executives at Paul Stuart ″just don’t want to bother their high clientele with those kinds of marketing tools,″ Ms. Van Orden said.

In an interview several years ago, Patricia Grodd, daughter of Stuart owner Clifford Grodd, described that clientele as ″a cross section of people who have achieved in all areas, most of the top people in every field.″

And punctual billpayers, too. Although Stuart stood by its inadvertent skip-a-month offer, Ms. Oddy says no one took advantage of it.