August 22, 2004

The Retail discussion. ctd.

(Sorry about the lull there, I kinda had to "crash".) I'll pick up right where I left off.

He stated that there is a difference in how he prioritizes the different "requests". I made the argument that Eric's users were his customer's, and he gives them varying degree's of service based on the request. Pretty much the same scenario that I had laid out with my "Aren't you supposed to be helping me?" example. He got what I was trying to say, when we made that comparison.

Retail is what it is. As a Sales associate, my entire job is to make sure that the consumer's that walk through the door are able to find what they're looking for, and to ensure that they have a safe and pleasant environment in which to shop. I'm there to "serve" my customer's, but "service" has its limits.

As I was talking about this subject with my roommate, he reminded me of the concept of firing customers. Mr. Brodsky really does a good job of saying what I wanted to drive home. There are times when your customer actually hurts your business, and you've got to do something about them. This is much easier to do when you are in a contract-type business, as opposed to a retail sales environment. If you are contracted to do something for an abusive customer, you have the ability to cancel the contract. In retail, you don't have this luxury, but it doesn't mean that you have to just stand there and take it.

If someone is being completely unreasonable, or abusive to me, I can try to pass them up the food chain, by calling a Manager in to consult, but sometimes I just can't get one to come all the way out to the Garden Center in a timely enough fashion to keep the customer from disrupting all the other customer's and my fellow associates. When that happens, I will step up and do what I can to get this customer out of my store. The only way for me to do this is to ensure that they have a "bad experience". If they're being abusive, then I'll just get abusive right back. I'll make sure that they don't get the item that they wanted (even if I've got it) from me. They'll have to wait for a Manager to come and take care of it, or just give up and go somewhere else to find thier item.

I'd like to clarify that the "abusive customer" in these scenario's is someone really special. Sure, we've all had a "hard day" before, and taken out our frustration's on a complete stranger, by being a little rude to a sales associate who obviously doesn't have thier "Shit together". That's fine. Goes with the territory. The customer's that I'm talking about are Assholes in the extreme, even after you've already bent over backwards to get them what they need. These types of people (thank the Lowered) are few and far between. In six months of working retail, I've only had two.

I deliberately give these types of people bad service, because I don't want them to come back. If you find that you can't get any good service anywhere you go, you just might be one of the customer's I'm talking about.

Posted by Johnny - Oh at August 22, 2004 11:08 AM

"There are times when your customer actually hurts your business, and you've got to do something about them"


Like you say, they're scarce, but they definitely exist.

Posted by: Harvey at August 22, 2004 02:52 PM

My husband owns his own business. He has actually thrown a customer out and said, "Don't come back. I don't do business with people like you." Do you know what has happened next? More times than not, they are begging to come back. All their friends do business with my husband and they sure as hell don't want to tell anyone they were 'fired'. He stands firm. He even mails them a letter telling them they are no longer welcome to conduct business with his company.

Of course he isn't doing the type of retail you are speaking of, but he is providing a service which allows for much greater leeway. I love it when he fires an asshole. I always want to cheer. Mainly because my husband is so damn laid back, if you've gotten him to that point, you have been the complete asshole of the universe.

Posted by: Boudicca at August 22, 2004 04:09 PM

I firmly believe if you have an asshole customer or a disruptive customer you owe it to the other consumers, your employer and YOURSELF to get rid of them. However, I have to disagree with the bad service way. I've had to do it several times and what I advise my RSA's is to simply cut them off midstream, firmly but controled tell them they have to leave. They are not welcome. Walk away and call managemet or security. If they follow, repeat yourself and walk away. It sucks. I know it does, but giving bad service is seen by other customers, they hear what's going on and read their own story into it. It may very well end up costing you their business too. But by staying polite but strong, they will read that the other person is the problem and actually you will gain sympathy and support.

There is nothing nicer than being able to tell an asshole to FOAD. BUT, in retail you just can't do that. Not in front of other customers. Don't give anyone the ammunition to turn this on you. Your employer should back you and you will actually score huge points.

How wierd, I had this very discussion this week. Well, kinda sorta.

Just my take.

Posted by: Tammi at August 22, 2004 05:19 PM

I worked at a "Local Helpful Hardware" store for 4 years, and i have to agree with both posts entirely. There were at least 3 occasions where my Boss yelled at customers to get the hell out of his store and stop pissing off his employees. My Boss was The Man.
And i'm sure you can guess some of the questions asked, e.g. "Do you have any of thse things I need to do something to my sink?"
Grrrrrr, but I love it and go back to it every summer.

Posted by: tommy at August 22, 2004 05:20 PM

Thanks for all the input folks! I didn't expect to "hit a nerve" with this subject, but I'm happy that I did. :^)

One thing to keep in mind, in my situation, is that I work for a MAJOR retail chain. The policies that are in place in regards to customer service/retention are put in place by a committee in the home office, that rarely ever see's the sales floor. I am actually not allowed to ask a customer to leave. I have extreme difficulties getting a manager to come back and support me, and if I do, He or She is not allowed to ask a customer to leave. It sucks, but there it is.

Therefore, I take matters into my own hands, and do what I can to ensure that these people don't come back to my store. I pick my battles carefully, but I still do what I can. I believe that when I'm doing my "Bad Service" Schtick on a customer, I'm actually doing the company as a whole a favor, even though the home office doesn't see it that way.

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at August 22, 2004 10:04 PM

Gosh, in reading your comments I realized it's no wonder I shop. Not because of the sales help, it's because everytime I go into a store I know exactly what I want, I've called ahead so I know its in stock and all I want to do is get directed to where I can find it, pull it off the shelf, walk it to the cashier and pay for it.

Invariably what I've noticed is there's never enough help. Yes, not enough sales associates. Who knows, maybe I got spoiled where I lived in Asia. Not only did they have enough sales staff, there was always someone just at an unobtrusive distance ready and eager to help. Once you made a selection they would take it to a holding area near the cashier, so you wouldn't need a cart or a basket, and instead could shop with your hands free. They even carried it to your car and put it in your trunk for you. Now that's service.

The funny thing is that by the time it was time for me to move back to the US I had finally grown comfortable with that way of shopping.

Posted by: michele at August 22, 2004 11:02 PM

Oh Michele! If only we had the amount of help that it would take to give everyone that "Asian" service. What a wonder that would be. Alas, our current structure would never allow that to happen.

I guess it's the tradeoff that we have to take to maintain a free society. If people won't take the position of Associate Sales Associate, then we will never have that sort of atmosphere.

More's the pity.

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at August 23, 2004 12:48 AM

Another thing to consider regarding michele's comment is that, as a retail manager, I have a limited payroll budget. If I could have 10 employees working for $2.25 an hour, rather than 5 for $5.50 an hour, I would have enough concession clerks to bow and scrape and carry your popcorn into the theater for you. If minimum wage were $10 an hour, y'all would be scooping your own popcorn...

Posted by: Susie at August 23, 2004 05:23 AM

Susie - Silly girl, the minimum wage doesn't destroy jobs, it HELPS the economy by creating a living wage for the children and the spotted owls... or... something.

And I'm the opposite of Michele. When I go shopping, I want the little associates to just leave me the hell alone. I know what I want and I can find it just fine. I *hate* being asked "May I help you". If I need help, I'll ask.

But that's probably just me :-)

Posted by: Harvey at August 23, 2004 02:11 PM

I'm kind of the same, Harv--comes from being an anti-social misanthrope, I think ;)! Although if I DO need help, and narry a service person in sight, I know who to blame.... ;)

Posted by: Susie at August 23, 2004 03:50 PM

That's right Susie! You blame "The Man (tm)"! It cannot be because there is not enough budget to support enough RSA's to actually help the customer, along with doing all the things that the customer's don't see.

No matter! I alway's say to a customer "Can I helpo you find something?" as opposed to the "help you?" line. I try really hard to not condescend to my customer's....until they deserve it. ;^)

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at August 23, 2004 11:20 PM
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