Cute Stuff, If You Can Find It...
Jul 9, 2003
I love the tri-fold, grippy-bottomed socks we get from our local The Children's Place store. When my son was going up a shoe size and outgrowing his current sock supply, and our local Children's Place store was out of the colors we needed in his size, I decided to turn to The Children's Place Online Store for my sock-buying needs. Who would have thought that something as simple as purchasing socks would be such an ordeal...
What is The Children's Place?
The Children's Place stores sell good-quality children's clothes and accessories at a decent price. They cater to young children, carrying sizes from newborn to kids' 14 (up to about 12 years of age). As of 2003, they have 670 stores in the U.S. and Canada.
The site (http://www.childrensplace.com) is fairly attractive, but I think they tried to get a bit too fancy. Some of the moving sale banners and "mouseover" images do not work equally well in every browser (more on that in the "Our Experiences" section below).
The site's layout is decent. Products are broken down by age group (Newborn, boys sizes 6mos - 4T, girls sizes 6mos - 4T, boys sized 4-14, girls sizes 4-14), each of which are further broken down by sub-categories (such as Tops, Bottoms, Swimwear, Sleepwear, Accessories, Novelty, etc). You can also use their search facility (more on how well that works below). There is also a section devoted to clearance items.
When you find an area to browse, you are presented with thumbnail images of the items in that category, displaying the price and some limited information, as well as options to view more items that are similar. More detailed information is available when an item is selected, including additional color options and sizes.
How to Order/Shipping:
The Children's Place Online Store is a fairly typical shopping-cart application. You add items to your virtual cart, then checkout when you are done shopping. There is nothing uncommon about their checkout procedure.
Payment options: they accept all major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover/Novus, and their own PLACE Credit Card). They do not accept payment for online purchases by check, money order, cash, or gift card.
* Standard Service (up to 7 days deliver time) - $6 for orders under $74.99, free for > $75.
* 2nd Day Service (up to 5 days) - $8 for orders < $74.99, $2 for > $75
* Next Day Service (up to 3 days) - $10 for orders < $74.99, $4 for > $75
* Priority Mail (up to 2 days) - $15 for orders < $74.99, $9 for > $75
Customer Service & Extra Details:
I did not have any problems with my order, so I have not needed to deal directly with their customer service. If you have a problem with your order, you can return it to any of their retail locations (be sure to take your packing slip with you), or you can use the labels from your packing slip to send the merchandise back via mail. You may return or exchange your purchase within 90 days of your order and receive a full refund (credited back to the credit card you used to purchase it).
You can place orders without registering at Children's Place Online, however if you do not register then you will not be able to track your order history or order status.
You will be charged appropriate sales tax if the order is shipped to a state where they operate a store (and they have stores in 47 states, so chances are you will be paying sales tax).
They offer various levels of "gift" services (for if you are ordering the items as a gift). For an additional $2.00 they will include gift boxes with your order (however you still need to put the items in the gift boxes). For an additional $5.00 they will remove price tags, place the items in gift boxes, and include your message on a gift card.
They do include a handy-dandy size chart, so you can be assured of a good fit:
I do not know how long the Children's Place Online Store has been online, but I'm guessing not very long because there are quite a few noticeable bugs. For example, at the top of the page is a menu graphic -- when you move your mouse to point at a heading the graphic changes to display the range of sizes for that category. It's a good idea, but when I use Netscape (version 6.2), the graphics do not re-display properly for all menu items. Depending upon the browser I use, the nifty moving graphics for sales and specials behave differently. I am a programmer for a company that has a public website, and we always make sure the site works well regardless of what browser your client might use (within reason), even if that means we have to leave off the fancier moving graphics and interactive menus, because not all browsers support them and we want to be accessible to anyone who visits our site. The Children's Place site would do well to take that into consideration.
Other sections of the site do not work at all -- such as their "Create-A-Look" section, which is supposed to let you mix and match outfits. Whenever I try to visit certain areas for boy's clothes, regardless of browser, I get a "not published" error (although when I tried the girls' sections they worked okay).
The Socks Saga...
As I mentioned above, I mainly went to Children's Place Online in search of socks. Fairly simple, right?
First I went into the "Baby Boys" section, and clicked on "accessories". From there it displayed 6 pairs of socks in different colors -- which is fine except that I knew there were many more colors to choose from in the stores, so I tried digging a bit deeper.
I then tried using the search utility, where I typed the word "socks" and let it rip. The results displayed 20 pairs of socks, but only 8 of them were the tri-fold socks I was looking for, and still not in the right colors. A message at the top said that only 20 products matching the search criteria could be displayed, and there is no way to get past that first 20 to see the next 20 results. So I tried refining my search. I tried "triple roll", exactly as it is written in the product's name at the site -- 0 results were returned. I then tried simply "roll", and finally got the results I was looking for -- triple-roll socks in 17(!) different colors.
Now, would the average shopper know to type in "roll" when looking for socks? Shouldn't I have been able to just go to the "Accessories" section and see all of the socks? Neither their search utility nor their menu-selections are up to the standards I would expect from a respectable online retailer.
Still, I ordered my son some socks as well as a shirt. I had no trouble with my order -- it arrived in a timely manner. I've seen better packaging -- it came in an envelope. I guess I'm fine with kid's clothing being shipping in an envelope (it's not like it is breakable or anything), however I had to cut into the envelope with scissors to get it open, and was afraid I was going to cut into the clothes too (fortunately the clothes were unscathed by my clumsy envelope-opening methodology).
I still really like The Children's Place as a store with good clothes for my kid. I'm pleased with the quality of the clothing I received in my order from the online store, however I do think that the website needs some work. There are probably some really great bargains buried on the site with no good way to navigate to them!
Overall the merchandise is good, but the site needs some work. I'll still recommend them, but with reservations, and hope that they make some big site improvements in the near future.
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