Buyer Be-Aware Monday: Behind Closed Doors in the Retail World

I’ve frequently mentioned the store on this blog. I absolutely, completely LOVE working retail.

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Several factors work in my favour: I get to talk about one of my favourite hobbies…and get paid for it, so it’s not really “work” to my mind; our clientele is 98% “nice people” – I do think it would be challenging to work in a retail environment that caters to all walks of life; I’ve been at my store for 5.5 years so I’m competely comfortable with our inventory, policies and practices.

Every so often, though, I get a customer who does NOT make my day. Happily, these retail transactions are the exception, but a negative customer experience can really put a damper on your shift.

For today’s info session, I’ll take you over to the OTHER side of the retail counter and give you an insider’s look at a few of the whys and wherefores of retail practices.

GOOOOOOD EVENING!!!

Do you cringe every time you have to walk past the Walmart Greeter?

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This has got to be the worst example of getting a welcome to a store! I know I duck my head and skulk to the side of the entrance in order to avoid an overly-enthusiastic “Hello, and welcome to Walmart!”

However, I do give a cheery “Hello!” to every customer who enters my store. Most people will respond with a friendly hello back (good). Some people just mumble and walk to the back of the store (ok), while others completely ignore my greeting (bad!). So why do we greet you? Two purposes: 1) I genuinely want to make you feel welcome in the store, and hope you feel comfortable; 2) I want any “shady characters” to know that I know they’re in the store (got that?!) – the risk of shoplifting is decreased if your presence is noticed. If you’re the type that does not really appreciate having to say hello, sorry! I’m not trying to offend you, just genuinely want to make you feel like “you’re important to us!”

I AM NOT YOUR MAID

At home, you may be accustomed to leaving your clothes on the floor, inside out, dangling off hangers. Your room may be a hodge-podge of mashed wearables. When you shop, however, please note: you are not at home! 

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Suggestions for how to best help (me) your sales associate: give back the “no thanks” items, along with all hangers. You don’t need to attempt to rehang/refold/repackage merchandise yourself – we have a practised touch, with our methods down pat. We’ll end up redo-ing your kindhearted yet feeble attempts, anyway. Please do thank the associate who takes your “nos” on your way to pay for any “yeses.” And please don’t just leave a jumble on the change room floor! Hate that!

COULD I GET YOUR AGE, BIRTH WEIGHT, AND ASTROLOGICAL SIGN, PLEASE!

When you make your purchase at my store, we ask you for your phone number. No, we’re not trying to see which of us can pick up the most chics/guys during our shift! And no, we’re not collecting this info so we can coldcall you, or pass you name on to some agency or another.

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So why should you divulge this personal information? There is reason to our inquiry. First: if you need to return your purchase but don’t have the receipt, we need to be able to track your purchase and have a record that you did indeed pay for x object. If we can’t recall the purchase, how can we be sure that you aren’t holding stolen merchandise? Second: let’s say you know that you adored the last pair of shoes you bought, but you can’t place the model or the size. Well, we can look up your purchase history and quickly get you the shoe you want, or at least know what type of shoe we should direct you towards. The purchase log really benefits you, the customer. If you do have doubts about the retailer’s intentions, do feel free to politely inquire as to why this information is necessary. A reputable store will be able to give you a reasonable explanation.

GIVE ME BACK MY MONEY, NOW!!!

Returns are a fact of life in the retail world.

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This process does not have to be a negative experience, though! Here’s how to return an item and leave as a satisfied customer:

~ if you think you may need to return an item, check with the sales associate about the store’s return policy as you are paying for your purchase. You may have only 14 days to return an item for a full refund, or you may need to contact the manufacturer (say, of an electronic product) after 30 days. When you are clear on the rules, you can avoid requesting an “exemption” to the store’s rules.

~ leave hang tags on clothing, keep shoe boxes, SAVE YOUR RECEIPT! If you’re returning an item, the store will wish to resell it, so return it in resale condition. Would you want to buy something that has damaged packaging? I didn’t think so!

~ if you have a return that is out of the ordinary, phone the store ahead of time and speak with the manager. Explain your situation and ask what the store can do for you. If you show up, unannounced, and happen to catch a part-time sales associate off-guard, you ARE going to get poorer service or an unsatisfactory resolution than if you go directly to the manager.

~ admit if YOU made an error. There are times when, really and truly, we as customers are in the wrong. I think we all have a pair of shoes that ended up as *expensive* gardening or grocery shopping shoes, or a kitchen utensil that lasted three egg scramblings. If you made a poor purchase, chalk it up to experience, and get on with life!

OH, WHO ARE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD?

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To be honest, you ARE likely to receive better service at your neighbourhood specialty store than at a big-box monstrosity. I love when my regulars, or “favourite customers” come in – it’s genuinely a pleasure to help people who I know (and like)! When the retailer knows your style, or your size, you’ll be in and out in no time, purchase complete. If you need help choosing a gift, we’re happy to give you our time, chat, and assist you in finding what you’re looking for. Plus, as a regular, you may quickly rack up “bonus dollars” or “frequent shopper rewards;” – if you’re not aware of such a program, ask if one is available.

Whether you’re a shopping diva or the dash-with-cash type, you should receive polite, helpful customer service wherever you go. Shopping is a two-way street, and should be a positive experience for both retailer and customer.

Since I love both retail shopping and retail selling, maybe my next career should be personal shopper! …Either that or I’ll open my own store???…well, maybe I’ll save that for my next life!

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