Best: Recently I went to Bed Bath & Beyond on Sixth Avenue in Chelsea. Apparently, the staff there is trained to personally say hi to each customer. Every employee I walked past – whether stocking the shelves or moving carts around – looked up, made eye contact, said “Hi,” and then went back to work. It wasn’t creepy, it wasn’t annoying, it was just friendly. There are other signs this is a well-managed store. It’s enormous and very busy, yet somehow always clean and orderly. I shop there because it has a whole section of inexpensive pharmacy products, including the best price around on razor blades (which are free to grab off the shelf, not locked in a glass case like at CVS, et al). It even has a section of reasonably priced organic groceries. This store has no right to be good, and is anyway. It overturns the conventional wisdom that big box stores fail in Manhattan.
Worst: Years ago, during my first-ever visit to New York City, my friends and I walked to Macy’s Herald Square, rode about 11 flights of escalators, and rode them back down. “The World’s Largest Store” functions adequately as a tourist attraction, but as a place to buy stuff, it’s a debacle. Its floorplan is chaotic, its pricing is erratic, and its salespeople are surly. Macy’s is constantly mailing me 25%-off coupons that seem like good deals, but have fine print so complicated you need the help of an accountant to understand all the exclusions. Twice now I’ve walked out of the store in mid-purchase because a coupon wouldn’t scan, and a sales-clerk blamed it on my failure to be functionally literate. (Am I the first person to think “Menswear” means “men’s clothes”?) And no, I don’t want to save ten percent with a Macy’s card! Macy’s? Over! Happily, in this city I have lots of other options.