My advice to retailers

Monday, 24 June 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I appreciate that retail is a tough business. And with today’s economy and leasing costs, it’s even worse. But it’s tough times for the customer too and I think retailers need to make a few changes if they want to obtain my shopping dollar.

Tone down the greetings.

I want sales clerks to be friendly, of course, but greetings have gone overboard.  I don’t want to say hi 10 times, talk about the weather, discuss whether or not I’m working that day, or reveal my plans for the afternoon.  Call me a grouch, but it doesn’t make me feel welcome, it makes me feel hounded.  At one store I frequent regularly, the sales rep said, “You come here a lot, do you live around here?”  If you’re monitoring how often I’m coming into your store, that doesn’t make me feel like coming back.

Get more mirrors.

Ladies clothiers that don’t have three-way mirrors, or even a smaller mirror that I can hold up, astound me.  I am not buying shorts, pants, a clingier skirt or dress, let alone a bathing suit, without one.  I usually carry a makeup mirror with me but sometimes I forget. If you can’t show me my back view, you’ll be seeing my backside when I walk out the door, empty handed. 

Stay competitive.  

I will go look in store, but I often buy online. Increasingly, that’s where I’m finding better prices.  A pair of shoes: $235 in store. Online at the retailer’s Canadian website: $198.  A dress: $265 in store.  Online: on sale for $134!  Even when I add in shipping, handling, duties and taxes, I often save money.  When I tell sales clerks this, I get an “Oh, really?” Yes. Really.

I know it can cost more to run a brick and mortar store, but I need to watch my pocketbook too.  So yes, I’m turning into a show-roomer.  One Australian store is charging $5 for people who “just want to look.”  If that’s the wave of the future, so be it. I’m still saving money. 

Make it easy for me to give you my money.  

I’m a flesh and blood customer standing before you.  Salesperson, if you’re on the phone, take a message and call them back.  If the phone rings, let the machine pick up. Deal with me first.  One in the hand is better than two in the bush. 

Got a retail beef? Let’s hear it!



Top photo: JapanDave/Flickr


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  • Bobbi

    I agree with you on the greeting bit.You either get what you’ve described or you get nothing!!! Let’s find a happy medium…..please.Also why is it if you go into a bit of a higher end store (in all mall) with kids, it feels like they assume you can’t afford (or shouldn’t) be there, so they barely acknowledge you?
    Retailers must up their game for sure cause I totally agree it’s much easier to order online.
    Love you guys and you’re always my first stop before any type
    of shopping!!

  • Erin

    I find it REALLY frustrating when I hear about a promotion from every salesperson in the store! I get that they get a commission, but come on, I can’t believe they didn’t see the other 3 people already ask me and give me the same information!

  • Elaine

    I love this post and I so agree with the greeting comment. I feel jumped on when I walk into a store. Enough so that I have actually walked out on a store because of it. On the other hand a store that has sales people that ignore you is just as bad. As someone who works in retail. My greeting is a smile. 🙂 I work behind the scene making fruit & vege items. But I am always happy to help people if they ask me. I cannot believe the Australian store that charges people just to look around?? Thats crazy. Do you get the $5 back if you actually bought anything?? Strange.

  • Kerry Sauriol

    Yep tone it down and don’t fake it.The robot greetings people like the grocery clerks are forced to dole out drives me nut. If you don’t feel like talking..don’t…say hi ask if I need bags and carry on. Same..LOOK AT ME. If I look like I feel like engaging..go ahead…otherwise zip it please. Clothing stores also need to practice keeping someone working just the changing room….if no one is there to help me with a size or colour, then I will just get back into my clothes and leave.

  • QueenBee29

    My pet peeve is when, after handing over my hard earned money (or credit card), the sales associate passes it back to me or hands me my bag and I automatically say “Thank you” and they respond “You’re welcome.” Part of i is my fault – that I am saying Thank you but it always irks me that they just say “You’re welcome.”
    When I was in my teens, I worked at WH Smith bookstore and our manager trained us that when a customer thanked us (for helping or anything else), we were to respond “No, thank you!”

    • http://www.annaandkristina.com/ Kristina

      QueenBee29, I like that!

  • AmandaR

    I used to work in retail (currently a stay at home Mom), and I had to greet a customer, offer them a basket and also tell them about promotions, etc. We weren’t comission based but if I got secret shopped I would get a corrective for not doing those things and them some. Same with everyone I worked with. We HAD to be that way, not because we wanted to. When the big boss arrived, we basically had to harass our customers.

    Sometimes, we’re just doing our job because we need that job like others do things they don’t like.

    But, I know what your getting at. Write corporate offices and tell them the customer service you expect, maybe that will change things in at least some places you shop.

  • http://www.annaandkristina.com/ Kristina

    Kerry, I couldn’t agree more. If I’m not making eye contact, I probably don’t want to talk. If I’m looking around, trying to catch your eye, I NEED SOMETHING. Elaine, I too have walked out.

  • Nicole Kranjc

    I work in retail. We go to class after class on how to greet people and make sure we make eye contact and try to ‘engage’ our customers. However, I’m also an avid shopper and I know what I hate so I personally keep it to “I’ll leave you to it, if you need any help, just ask” if I get the death stare or no eye contact. Unfortunately, some of those same people write ‘couldn’t find anyone to help me’ on customer surveys. We get reprimanded if we don’t engage and customers hate it when we do, it sucks.

    I do hate the hounding and would never do that to my customers. I was once chased around a Bath and Body Works by a clerk who demanded I take a basket to put my two things in. I put them down and left and probably won’t ever go back.

  • Vanessa Taylor

    In cosmetic “beauty boutiques” when you want to play and browse and test things and the sales lady stands there watching your every move!! I despise this and in fact have called the lady on it, I will not buy things if someone is breathing down my neck!

  • Mr. B

    Since most of the comments are targeting the greeting aspect, I’ll give my two cents on the matter. I am actually a retail manager in a NON-COMMISSION company, and like Nicole mentioned, the sales clerks are pretty much pawns in “over-greeting and engaging” customers.

    Ask anyone who works in retail (especially in corporate or chain stores) and they can tell you, we KNOW how much we are talking to you and how annoying it can be. In fact, retail employees are usually the ones when shopping, want to be left alone by other employees. But, we are consistently monitored by customer surveys, secret shoppers, head office visits that bound us to do more than the bare minimum of just saying, “Hi”. And while us retail employees do not necessarily want to bombard the consumers with “quality service”, we are thoroughly trained to describe promotions, hand out sales flyers, initiate conversation, suggestive sell at any given chance, from the sales floor to the till.

    A good example of such “training” would be the Graff Retail Training System, made by Canadian Kevin Graff. His 12-step program is the epitome of “too much customer service”. And unfortunately, corporations eat this up, thinking that smothering the customer with attention would equal to more $$ for the company. However, it is us at the store level who have to endure the very cheesy DVD program, roleplaying activities, and worksheet (yes, written worksheets and quizzes) of Mr. Graff’s “selling techniques”, and then the ire of the customers because of following Mr. Graff’s “selling techniques”.

    So, before blaming the store staff in providing too much attention that draws you away from shopping at a certain store, please note that store employees are usually stuck in the middle. We fear getting written up (or losing our jobs, I’ve seen it happen) for not providing enough floor service from the company’s end, or the death stares, verbal complaints, and anger from the customers for providing too much. Perhaps, if enough customers suggest to retail head offices that “enough customer service” is actually “too much”, then maybe they will lay the heat off us, and in turn, we won’t bombard you with “Have you checked out our sale items?” every 2 minutes.

  • Jennifer Findlay

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I have worked in retail, and I have owned my own online retail boutique (don’t kid yourself about it being less expensive to run an online business: warehousing, shipping, return shipping). I feel sorry for the clerks, who are made to give a shpiel whenever someone comes into the store–they really have no choice. However, I have a choice not to shop there, and perhaps the owners will get the message if we all do that. I NEVER answered the phone when a customer was in front of me, but I am blown away by fools, who do. I have actually walked out when this happens. And I am a friendly person, but I don’t take kindly to sales clerks get too personal or chatty–I’m busy, I’m there to shop, not to talk.

  • Suzanne

    Agree on the greetings – the bookstore I frequent is so bad that I literally have to slink around hoping no one sees me. I was telling someone that they needed to have stickers so you could identify yourself as someone who didn’t need assistance