Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Has Oprah's experience taught you nothing? Or, lessons for retail staff

I've been tripping around the lower half of the North Island recently,visiting, shopping, eating, you know, as you do.  I've bought clothes for the coming season, and I've been prepared to buy others, but well, the fit wasn't right, the colour wasn't me, or the assistant sneered silently or made no attempt to assist.

So to help all those people in retail who hate their job and are wishing no one would ever come into the shop or want their attention, I have helpfully complied a list of helpful hints.  I call it "Helpful Hints for Shop Assistants".  I make the presumption that none of the people who are so careless about customers spending money could possibly be part owners or have any investment in the business other than their expectation of regular wages.

1.  Smile.  Because being dour and looking as if your haemorrhoids are really giving you gyp just isn't working.  Customers are likely to go elsewhere if you look at them as if you wish they would Just Go Away.  And if it IS difficult to smile with your haemorrhoids the way they are, take the day off and go seek medical help.
2.  Make eye contact as you smile.  I know, multi-tasking.  Tricky.  Acknowledging potential customers can make the difference between them spending money with you and going elsewhere to do it.  But once you master 1. above, I promise you this isn't as hard as it sounds.  And this way the customer will know your smile is actually a smile of welcome for them.  If it's more about the dreadful shoes/clothes they're wearing, they'll be able to tell, in which case, move on to 3.  below.
3.  Try not to make judgements based on what they're wearing.  So I've come into your posh shop wearing my $30 (some years ago) jeans and $15 top, and you're standing guard over a rack of $300 skirts, waiting for the cream of society to honour you with their presence and MasterCards.  So you sigh (inwardly of course), think "she's going to try these Far-Too-Gorgeous/Expensive-For-Her clothes on and there's no WAY she'll buy anything!"  You smile weakly, sneer inwardly and hope I'll leave soon and go to K-Mart where I obviously belong.  But what you don't know, Chicky, is what I do for a living, how I dress when I do what I do, how much disposable income I have and that I never dress up to go clothes shopping.  And if you treat me as if I don't belong in your posh shop, then take note of what I do if I find something I like.  I leave empty-handed, thus allowing you to nod in satisfaction at how accurate your instincts about people are.  And I go online to find out the other places between Wellington and Hastings that have Paula Ryan labels or Vamp or whatever it was that caught my fancy, and I will whip out my MasterCard at a shop where I'm treated with respect.  If I dressed up to go shopping, Chicky, you may well decide I was worthy of your attention.  But I want to be treated well whatever I'm wearing.  I may not be Oprah (well, no, I'm actually not) but learn from her experience in Russia and apply it to your little world.  That way your "intuition" won't become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
4.  Know your stock.  If I ask if you have a short sleeved, white, thin top for layering, and you say you don't, and on looking round your store I see racks of them in different colours, including white, I'm actually going to see if the shop next door has them before I'll spend my money with you.
5.  Keep checking out those Positions Vacant ads.  Maybe you'd be more at home standing guard at a Courthouse? 

And now I'd like to show you where I got excellent attention and where I spent my money.


I'm not going to name the shops where the service was inadequate or inappropriate, but my awards for the best service go to those three in the front -
Hilary Pointon, Hastings - pleasant, appropriate assistance
Black and Co (belts and bags made on the premises) Otaki, where I bought a really cool hip-riding curved belt with excellent service
Pagani Lower Hutt, AND Pagani Otaki.  This is not a chain I fit the target demographic of, nor one I normally shop at, but I had a specific layering garment in mind and I found it in their Lower Hutt shop, where I  was treated with enthusiastic and pleasant service which was a delight.  In Otaki as I was about to pass Pagani I noticed a scarf the colour of my new outfit and inside the shop another, and again the pleasant and helpful assistant made the choice easy.  Pagani, I suggest you could run courses for some of the posh shops on the knack of choosing the right staff, and making them love their job!