“The customer is always right…..or are they?
Let’s be clear, I am not a writer. At least I do not aspire to this as a career. But as you must now realize being a concierge requires a multitude of skills one of which is establishing great relationships with lots of different people. My go to person for whatever I need is usually one sales associate in a particular store that I frequent. Whether it is the butcher at the local market, the person in housewares at Macy’s or the shoe person at Nordstrom that person knows what I like, what I normally buy and if they don’t have it on hand, they know where I might find it or when it will arrive in their location. I love to window shop or in general to have a great “shopping experience.” Having been in this industry for a while now, I look at retail with a different eye then the average consumer. Meaning, if I find what I am looking for with ease and at a great price, or if I have had a great experience with an associate on duty, that literally makes my day and I go out of my way to make sure that individual is recognized for their efforts. So, because of my expectations of “the experience of shopping”, I could not understand it when several of my clients came to me with the request to perform their shopping task for them because they did not like shopping. Not like shopping; who could not like shopping? But as I went around fulfilling client requests, I came to realize a few things.
How important do you think you are?
I had been out most of the day when I decided to stop by a store that I have been shopping in as a regular customer for over 10 years. Now this store has been opening 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for all the years I have been shopping there and it has not changed, but on this particular day, I even over stayed my welcome. So engrossed in my task of checking off items on my list, that when the store began to make its announcement at 5:45 pm stating that the store would be closing in 15 minutes and requesting that all guest make their final selection and proceed to the front for check out it even startled me. I quickly collected all of my goodies and went to the front to stand in line to await my turn leave. 6 pm quickly approach and with a couple of people left in line, the associates proceeded to lock the door then straighten the store for the final time that evening. Suddenly there was a sharp tap on the door. We all turned, to see a woman standing at the door demanding that she be let in. The associate standing at the door informed the woman the store was now closed for the evening and would reopen at 10 a.m. the following morning. What followed was a full-blown temper tantrum of epic proportions; prompting me to wonder who was this woman and why could she not follow rules like the rest of us. She insisted that since we, the last two customers at the register, were still in the store she should be allowed in and wanted to speak with a manager. The manager proceeded to the door and eventually let her in 15 minutes after the store had officially closed. I didn’t stay around to see the remainder of what happened, but I wondered is this a case is the customer is always right?
To outlet shop or not, that is the question.
I like to find a deal just as much as the next person; but also I remember the days when shopping was dignified, refined, an event or somewhat of an art. The consumer appreciated the sales clerks ability to answer specific questions, marveling at their knowledge and expertise about their specific line or product area. Somehow, I feel the respect for this profession has been lost. Let me explain. An outlet store by definition is a retail location that sells merchandise that does not typically meet regular store standards; these items may consist of over runs, meaning the store has on hand more inventory than expected and needs to eliminate the back log thus marking it down for quick sale, or some of the items might have slight imperfections – such as a buckle that might have tarnish spots. I personally would not recommend shopping at an outlet if you are expecting merchandise that is perfect and is worthy of the $2000 price tag attached to said merchandise. Not all of the merchandise will have imperfections, but if the blemish, mark or scratch is something that you know will not sit well with your perfect nature, I would not purchase it no matter how much of a deal it is, because you will never be happy. However if you have the time there are deals galore to be had. But this is not my point for stressing the word “outlet.” What I have witness on my last few visits to an outlet shopping mall has me baffled beyond belief. On one occasion I witness customers literally opening packages of merchandise “to see what it look like” then after inspecting it, tossed it aside and grabbed an unopened package of the same content to purchase. Am I confused….have the standards changed in “you break it, your buy it.” The same should apply “if you open it, you should buy it.” I have stood in amazement as I watched consumers completely destroyed an area in an outlet store, opening packages, pulling merchandise from the shelving, and hiding said merchandise in different locations in the store for purchase on another visit. But I think the one event that completely left me speechless was the day that I heard a customer exclaim as they threw merchandise on the floor and kicked it out-of-the-way, that it was the sales associate’s job to put the merchandise back. WHAT?!!! No! No! Do I have it wrong? I thought the sales associate was in the store to help me, the consumer, make an educated decision through questions and discussion in selecting and purchasing merchandise from the establishment of which they work. When did the sales associate become the cleaning crew and the shopping maids for irate shoppers? I was stunned! Is this customer right or is this what the shopping experience has come to?
I generally prefer to shop at off times, off-season, and off the radar. This is the time that you find the best deals, but sometimes it is not possible have the store all to yourself. Meaning….I would rather bang head against a wall rather than go to a big boxed retailer at 3 pm in the afternoon in my neighborhood. I will do my grocery shopping at 7 am while everyone else is on his or her way to work just so that I can enjoy the experience in peace. On this occasion, I walked into a store that had just opened and I begin to walk to the back when I hear a lot of commotion that included yelling and clapping. It sounded like so much fun that I almost wanted to participate, but I am cautious. As I made my way to the direction of the noise I found a group of women gathered around a bin piled high with straw bags that had been marked down to a ridiculously low price because they contained monogram mistakes. All I could see from my vantage point were bowed heads, arms flying and collective moans of “oh no or Yes! I will take that one.” With the announcement of “I found one, it’s a Joyce” as an arm rose triumphantly in the air holding a lavender straw bag with the name embroidered in a pretty white scroll. When the crowd finally dispersed, merchandise was no longer in the large bin of which they were once contained. It was on every surface other than the bin. I saw one of the women from the group make a jester as if to clean or straighten the mess that was made only to over hear the group leader state “It is their job, they want to get rid of them anyway.” Would this happen in a regular retailer? Am I that naive to think shopping should not be search and destroy?
You probably wonder why I have spent so much time describing these scenarios. It is because I have for some time heard a multitude of complaints about customer service or even lack of service that cause me to wonder – Is it really the lack of service or that customers lack of respect for the profession? I am interested to know if anyone has had similar experiences.