Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I’m a really good shopper although I don’t see it as a recreational sport, as many women are accused of. I’d rather stay home and bake cookies than fight the crowds at the stores. The bad thing about shopping this time of year is I see things for myself. And buy them. Some of them. Yesterday saw a book I wanted at Half Price Books, and since it was used and, well, half-price, I bought it. Merry Christmas to me. “Thanks! It’s just what I wanted,” I said to myself after I got in the car.

I think the years of working retail have irreversibly influenced my shopping. First of all, I rarely buy anything that’s not on sale because I know the markup and that it will eventually get marked down. I found myself straightening the racks yesterday at a children’s clothing store. How do they expect people to buy things if they can’t find them? Force of habit.

The level of customer service really gets to me. I used to train sales people and I also hired secret shoppers to review my mall stores. So when I approach a glassy-eyed salesperson and ask them a question, I expect a well-trained response which doesn’t include, “I don’t know. I just started working here.” I want to say, “Then ask someone to train you better.”

Probably worse than being clueless and admitting it, is the assistant manager who “helped” me buy Christmas lights at Walgreens this year. She was clueless but presented herself as knowledgeable. I asked her how many strands of lights it took to light a 7-foot tree. I was thinking two or three but since they were buy-one-get-one-for-a-penny, I had to buy them in pairs, so I had four boxes in my hands. She looked down at my stash and without a moment’s hesitation said, “Oh, it’ll take at least that many.” I bought the four boxes and by the time I had three strands on the tree it was sufficiently glowing. If I had listened to her, I would have bought more than four. I’d rather her say, “I have no idea. Just buy a lot and bring back what you don’t need.”

A few weeks ago I found an item I needed online and then called my local branch of that store to see if they had it. They did but couldn’t find the box or the cables needed to work it. So I called the second closest store. They didn’t have it either but offered to call around for me and find it. By the end of this shopping adventure I had talked to four different people who all work for the same retailer in different locations. The level of service ranged from extremely helpful to the guy who told me he had never heard of the item. Hmmm.

It just makes me wonder how much good sales-training really does. Or does personality play into what makes a good salesperson. The guy who helped me at Half Price Books yesterday was super nice. He even let me tell him the price of the book my daughter had in her hands and didn’t want to hand over to him to scan. But how hard is it to love working at a book store? I know I would if I could find the time…

1 comment:

Joan Mora said...

Wouldn't that be great fun?! Just to be around all of the books, even if we couldn't stop to read them.

I may have mentioned my new favorite retail hot button: Many salespeople are instructed to ask, "Did you find everything you were looking for?" When you respond, "No, I couldn't find such and such," they are either speechless or say, "That's nice."