Posts Tagged ‘salespeople’

Socratic Retail Method

July 11, 2010

Introduction
Mentor: Tell me, when you work in retail, where do your paychecks come from?
Pupil: Your employer?
Mentor: Yes, but where do they get the money to pay you?
Pupil: Hmm. They get money from money they make?
Mentor: Very good. How do they make this money?
Pupil: By selling the product they carry.
Mentor: What if they do not make money selling goods?
Pupil: Then they have no money to pay their employees. But if they make a lot of money, where does that go?
Mentor: Ah, you are getting ahead of yourself, my pupil. It is true, if they make more money, one thing they can do is hire more workers.
Pupil: Why?
Mentor: The more money they make generally means they need more help to produce–more people to unpack and replenish clothing, more salespeople to sell, and more cashiers to take the money.
Pupil: Oh, I see.
Mentor: Although each aspect is important, what part do you think is more critical? The replenishment, the salespeople, or the cashiers?

Cashiers
Pupil: The cashiers.
Mentor: Truly?
Pupil: No?
Mentor: What do cashiers do?
Pupil: They take money from the customers, and this money is used to pay the workers.
Mentor: What influence do cashiers have upon the customers?
Pupil: They take the money.
Mentor: Do they help customers find products or fill their needs? Do they help build the sales?
Pupil: No, I do not think so.
Mentor: Although there are very skilled cashiers who can add-on to sales, and generally, they do not directly interact with more than one customer at a time. They cannot multitask multiple customers at once.
Pupil: This is true. Do they not also offer discounts and coupons which also decrease the amount of money made?
Mentor: Very good, you have kept up with your studies. Cashiers have the duty and responsibility to lower the amount customers spend, thus lowering the total profits. This done multiple times, through many transactions can have an overwhelming effect on total profits–imagine if they gave 15% off all transactions. Cashiers have an important role at the end of the process, because without them, we could not complete transactions, but they are not most critical to the success of selling.

Stock
Pupil: What of the stock-people, they are the beginning of the story, without them the product cannot even be found.
Mentor: Yes, they are important. They unpack the clothing, preparing it for the floor. They replenish the clothing when it gets low. Without them, supplies run low. But how do they directly influence the customers?
Pupil: I do not know.
Mentor: Even with a fully stocked table, that does not directly entice a customer to buy anything. It is like a piece of art in a museum to look at, but you need someone there to guide you through the painting, to understand what you are looking at.

Salespeople
Pupil: So the salespeople are important?
Mentor: In retail, which people often receive commission as a part of their job: the salespeople, the stock-people or the cashiers?
Pupil: The salespeople.
Mentor: Why?
Pupil: Because they directly interact with the customers, helping them to find product they are interested in, building outfits and adding-on product before the customer gets to the cashier. And many salespeople are skilled at multitasking multiple customers at one time.
Mentor: Very good. Customers have already made a majority of their buying decisions before they even reach the cashiers. And with discounts, coupons, and other additions, which subtract from the total sale, cashiers have less impact on increasing sales compared to salespeople.
Pupil: And salespeople can ask stock-people to help find product that is missing on the sales floor.
Mentor: Yes.
Pupil: Do salespeople receive credit for these actions?
Mentor: In some businesses, they do receive commission. Or they receive acknowledgment for their sales above and beyond the normal. The salespeople work hard get to know customers, to add-on sales, to bring profits directly into the store so the cashiers, the stock people and other salespeople can be paid for their labor. They can directly influence a customer that is ‘just looking’ into someone who ‘spent more than they expected’. They directly help customers that don’t know what they are looking for. They help customers find the perfect gift for a loved one, and something extra for the customer, too. They bring additional value to each customer that makes a purchase.

Query 1
Pupil: But is there not businesses that only recognize cashiers for giving discounts to customers? They receive acknowledgment for lowering the store’s profits. Why don’t the salespeople get acknowledgment for building the sale which got the customer to the cashier?
Mentor: If you were a salesperson who worked hard, building up a sale, getting to know a customer and making sure they left happy, how would you feel if you were dismissed and forgotten, and a cashier is recognized for signing someone up for a credit card and giving them a discount off of your hard work?
Pupil: I would be saddened and demoralized. I would feel like my work isn’t worth anything. Why do cashiers get recognition for every credit card they get, but salespeople do not get recognized for every single sale they make? They are the ones helping fill people’s paychecks and keeping them employed!
Mentor: Calm yourself, my pupil.
Pupil: I am calm. It just doesn’t make sense. It is illogical.

Query 2
Mentor: What happens when a cashier is processing a card or giving additional discounts that take a long time to process?
Pupil: Salespeople are asked to cashier? They must back-up the registers.
Mentor: Yes, and what happens to the customers that are ‘still looking’ or need help finding products?
Pupil: They are left ignored and forgotten? So the sales floor is left empty, while everyone is at the cash registers, customers are left with no one to help them…
Mentor: Yes, go on. What happens?
Pupil: So the remaining customers will buy less?
Mentor: And many may leave because they did not receive ‘customer service’, all the while this happens, all the additional manpower is taken to the cash registers for the sake of giving an additional discount.
Pupil: And the ripple of one discount means less money for the store… And by the time the line of buying customers is gone, there are no customers left in the store who need help, because they are not going to wait for a salesperson that isn’t there when they needed help.
Mentor: Yes. But if people are only given credit and recognition for giving discounts, and signing up credit cards, and no recognition is given for making sales, would not all the effort go towards the cashiers? And effort towards selling would diminish.
Pupil: Why would any business do this? They would be choking the life out of their own sales. It would be like Ouroboros, the dragon who swallows his own tail. A business like that cannot hope to be successful.
Mentor: What business would be successful?
Pupil: One that prioritizes selling. One that emphasizes and recognizes salespeople as critical and crucial to the life of the store. A business that knows and understands selling and the skill of adding to sales is more important than giving discounts.
Mentor: Very good. That is why we went through this exercise. Hopefully you understand a little more about selling now.

Mentor:
Pupil:
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Beijing with Love

June 23, 2010

In another incidence of cultural clash, I was trying hard to help two women who spoke very little English. Basically, they held a sweater, saying, “Size,” then point at another sweater in a different color–saying they wanted one color in the other color’s size. Got it? Good. So far, so good. Except, they kept asking me for help and became decidedly more and more confusing. Speaking to each other, I detected accents of Korean, so I called a co-worker who could speak Korean.

As she approached, they suddenly saw her and started to call out to her, waving her over. I thought it was over, and sighed happily as I walked away. Less than a minute later, the girl says on the walkie-talkie, “They aren’t speaking Korean, I don’t know what language it is, maybe Chinese?”

Okay, so I call over another coworker who speaks Chinese. Yet another exchange ensues, and yet again a failure. She comes up to me saying that she’s never heard their version of Chinese before. They say they’re from Beijing, but their dialect is totally different.

So I looked it up, and I found Beijing’s national language, which is only the dominant language, of course. Mandarin pops up as the first, primary answer. Yet, I also see something called Mandolin. Interestingly, there is also the Guangzhou dialect of Cantonese. Well, we definitely got no where with them.

Although they attempted to buy something, they had no understanding of our sales tax, which amounted to about 4%. After a long exchange of misunderstanding and defensiveness, acting like we’re cheating them, I don’t think they bought their $20 sale sweater, because of the added tax of about $0.80. Yes, eighty-cents. I have something to say, but it would be misconstrued.

Customer Types: The Dumb, Learn the Language

Shoplifter: Too Good To Be A Shoplifter

June 10, 2010

There is one guy who always comes in, no one suspects him to be a shoplifter. He actually dresses nicely, is clean-cut, and acts politely–if you consider ‘ignoring salespeople who trying to help you’ as polite. Yet, he has many of the traits of a shoplifter.

He comes in with a large, empty shopping bag from other prominent retail stores–I walk by and glance inside just after he passes me. I also use mirrors to my advantage, never underestimate mirrors–shoplifters watch you and you can watch them. As much as he tries not to, he pays too much attention to the salespeople. Simple glances say too much, when glances usually mean you need help–as I said, he ignores people who try to help him; so obviously he isn’t looking to us for help. Then, he goes to corners where no one can see him, and stands there. He never shops out in the open. Everyone says he doesn’t look like a shoplifter, but once you know how they act–you know he acts like a shoplifter.

One day, I was watching him casually grabbing clothes making a pretty large stack. I usually look away as he turns toward me, because if you are a good shoplifter you don’t get caught watching salespeople–that’s a freebie for you shoplifters! If he ever caught me watching, he wouldn’t try to steal–and that’s half the fun, right? He casually places the clothes at the base of a mannequin, which no one notices. I even ask a coworker to get the clothes, and they walk right by it. Eventually, I point it out to her when he isn’t looking, and she grabs it, asking loudly, “Is this anyone’s clothes? Anyone? If it is, I’m putting it at the cash register for you on hold, okay?” He’s standing right there, walking in a circle around the mannequin, but he says nothing. He just puts down the clothes he’s holding, and casually walks out.

From that point on, I have never taken my eyes off of him. I am disappointed whenever he comes in wearing our clothes like a trophy, because I have never seen him buy anything, nor has anyone else in my store. Of course, I can’t work 24/7. He never, ever leaves with clothing when I’m at work. What worries me more is the fact I see him sitting with other guys at a coffee shop in the mall. Are they part of a shoplifter’s guild?

Shoplifter: How to Spot Them

June 1, 2010

Recently, some have challenged me, questioning how I can point out shoplifters–especially professionals. There are certain things you need to be a good shoplifter, partly I get this from observation, understanding, and my background in Psychology.

One of the most important things you need is a bag. You cannot steal unless you have a bag. I often give these people the opportunity to take off the clothes, mentioning it isn’t in the fitting room anymore, so I’ll save the room for them to finish changing. (Although there are some who will put on clothes and then walk out, but if you are aware in a fitting room, even on the sales floor, it isn’t hard to notice something isn’t right. I have also seen shoplifters walk out with entire piles of clothing. Once, a District Manager found her staff being lazy, so she actually moved an entire table out of the store, hiding it, then asked them, “What’s going on here? Why is there a table missing?”) I do not say people steal only with bags, but regardless, it is far easier to walk out of a store with stolen merchandise in a bag–unless it is a holiday or the salespeople are lazy, ignorant, or partially blind. I actually would think it’s disgraceful to steal from a blind person, but that’s my personal feelings.

As for bag-people, if they ask for a bag, you have zero-obligation to give them a bag unless they’ve made a purchase. Yes, I’ve made a shoplifter buy a pair of socks for a bag, just ensuring that he use his bag to steal from other stores than my own. A majority are left with the bags they have, which are generally easy to access with wide openings. Backpacks, yes, are left unzipped. Yet, others use shopping bags which are used and recycled far more than they should be. Others purchase special purses and bags for this purpose. Regardless, they should have a wide opening for easy access.

Secondly, a shoplifter has to know where you are. This is more crucial. If a salesperson is standing right next to a shoplifter, they can’t steal–and they can’t steal if they don’t know where all the salespeople are. (Once more we do have the blindness aspect, but that’s just crude.) This is one reason I move so quickly and randomly on the sales floor–you never know where I am or where I’ll appear. As some have told me, “You think there are people who generally don’t steal, but when they see no one is around, they are tempted to steal?” If no one is around, it’s our fault–or the fault of the staff on hand.

Shoplifters must pay as much attention to the salespeople as they do to the clothes, most often, they’ll spend more time finding out who works here and where they are located, before they can start stealing. Most customers don’t even see me coming, since I approach them from behind, surprising them with a greeting. Even shoplifters who are professionals, and know only to look for salespeople right before they steal something already catch the attention of a good salesperson–because that look almost always means, “I need help, where is a salesperson?” Giving the ‘look’, and then saying, “Oh, I’m just looking,” is already a warning-sign. If they are just looking, but not just looking at clothes, they have issues.

There are others who distract you by making you look away or get something for them. In this situation, it isn’t hard to ask someone else to get the item, while you wait with the shoplifter. I don’t know about everyone else, but I use my peripheral vision more than my center of gaze when looking at anything. One time shoplifters have distracted a coworker in order to walk out with a pile of clothing–literally, an entire pile walked right out of the store.

Shoplifters cannot help but act in a very particular fashion, even if they try to hide it. There are essential, basic needs they have in order to function, once you understand this, you understand the shoplifter. In the end, I still believe in the main idea–Treat Everyone Like Shoplifter. Give them good service, pay attention to them, watch them shop and help them by seeing what they look at, what interests them. Shoplifters can’t steal easily if you’re helping them the entire time.

Memorial Day, Yay?

May 31, 2010

I don’t know what Memorial Day or any other holiday is to customers, but it is one of those special days where people come out acting more rude, demanding, and disgraceful as human beings. Or maybe holidays are the few times those lower-end humans come out of their caves and interact with society, defining their severe lack of social skills as they decide to go shopping, and act like total assholes while there. Then they hobble back to their caves, and go back where they belong, away from other human beings. Yay for Holidays meant to honor humanity, pride, and respect! We give great honor for things people fought for by acting like pricks. Congratulations.

The Art of War in Retail: Subterfuge

May 31, 2010

Chapter 7
Both side of the equation have their own sort of commandos, or ninjas, or assassins, who are specially trained to turn the tides effectively toward one side. These are often tricks of the trade, sometimes–with the Opposition–going into the real of illegal acts of war.

Opposition: Shoplifters- Some Champions are experts at waging war and devastation playing the “I want to speak to your manager!” games and “Well, they let me do it last time!”. Beyond these people are Shoplifters who are the assassins of the Opposition. Some Champions bend rules and break them thinking ‘The Customer is Always Right’, but Shoplifters always break rules and never in a way they can truly defend their actions. They can wipe out entire battalions without harming their army at the least–stealing entire tables of clothing if you don’t catch them in time. Although, a good General can generally distract and defend their armies from these assassins–most Shoplifters cannot act when facing a General, and a majority of them are powerless when they are not hidden. Weak Generals need training to be able to deal with these deadly warriors who don’t use traditional warfare in battle. Shoplifters have the ability to sneak in, under cover of anonymity, and slip out slaughtering numberless troops.

Salespeople: Jedi Techniques- The greatest Generals become Champions themselves using advanced techniques and tactics to ensure victory, even controlling the tide of battle. Some just use a force of will or coercion, sounding like Used Car Salesmen. Those of the female-gender seem to have an advantage against most genders–as females will trust the advice of other females, and males obviously prefer the attention of a female. Whereas females don’t trust the opinion of other males, and other men would rather have a female helping them. The worst of these men can take heavy, heavy losses from females trained in the Jedi arts–a movement, a glance, or a comment can force a man into a ravine, losing possibly hundreds of troops. I have trained females to use the weakness of men to their advantage–for if men wish to use women as eye-candy, ogling their bodies, then women should make men pay back. Even a prolonged look, or a look back while walking away can open a man’s pockets. Just grazing his shoulder while you help him, can leave him off-guard. I have had men tell them, “Whatever you want me to buy, I’ll get it.” That is a truly skilled warrior. Never underestimate a General with Jedi techniques, they know and understand the Art of War.

Shoplifter- Caution, Keep Clear

May 13, 2010

I’m walking near the front of the store and I see two women who look like shoplifters–and coworkers have said previously, “Don’t judge people like that!” and right after this a manager of another store said, “Did you see those two women, they just stole from my store!” I eventually found the stolen shorts thrown under a rack. I don’t know what’s worse–that I can spot a shoplifter or that they make themselves so obvious.

Okay, so, the shoplifters outside walk into a store right across from us, and I notice how they have this big, colorful shopping bag. When they leave, they aren’t carrying it anymore. Soon, I see another man leaving carrying that colorful bag–they’re tag-teaming! (Tag-team is when one shoplifter goes in to distract everyone, and then another less obvious shoplifter–who generally doesn’t dress the same–enters and steals while everyone else is distracted.) I watch the two women enter the next store as all the employees converge on them–I assume the women are loud and obnoxious. Either way, the man proceeds to enter the store and starts to throw things into his bag, and me and my coworkers are standing there watching, since I don’t know what to do really. Customers outside that store are just standing and watching as he leaves with his bags full of clothes.

Later, my manager says, “And all the customers in our store didn’t have anyone to help them.” As I think to myself, “Seriously?” If that were in our store, and has previously happened, she drags me out and tells me to follow them around and not let them out of my sight–what happens to the customers there?

I get off work soon after this debacle. I know the direction the shoplifters went, and I think about which stores would be the best to hit, considering the type of stores they visit. So I walk up, and lo-and-behold, there they are in a kitchen store ‘browsing’. Nearby is another clothing store where a previous coworker is managing, so I go in, and tell him about the women as they walk by. And I’m standing there pointing at them as they look at us, and they walk away.

I tell the same manager this story, and I get the reply, “I knew someone who was trying to be brave like that and he got stabbed.” Thanks? All I could really reply was, “I’m also packing.” Just don’t tell anyone.

Returns: a jacket with deep pockets.

February 24, 2010

One of my co-workers was attaching tags on items that were returned. I pat the jacket, because it’s a padded, puffer vest. Then, I notice there’s a lump in it. Obviously, I can’t resist knowing what it is. Maybe someone left money, or the original tags, or something else interesting or special on accident. So I shove my hands inside, and I pull out a random assortment–a plastic spork, some salt, and some pepper. This is definitely a reason why you can’t accept all returns, and you need to really check if this item was worn or not. Although I would not be smelling this item, if they keep food articles in their pockets. The spork would have given the whole ‘worn’ aspect away.

We’re actually quite grossed out by this find. Yet I’m intrigued, I have to put my hand in the other pocket. I feel a small lump and I pull it out. Opening my hand, I want to barf a little and I run by my co-worker almost knocking her over. I need to wash my hands, dropping the old, dirty, used napkin on the ground.

At least make it look like you didn’t wear it! Come on people, how disgusting are you? We don’t sell you clothes with used items in the pockets.

Remembering a return.

February 24, 2010

Several years ago, I was still definitely against returns or exchanges. I don’t really know why, perhaps due to some kind of misunderstanding. Several years ago, my ex asked me to buy something for a function (at this point, my ex was already an ex, but I’m not a mean person, or perhaps I’m too kind at times). I buy it. It’s worn to the function, and the next day I’m asked to return it. I wail and bemoan this act, knowing you cannot return something that’s been worn. In reply, I get, “They won’t know, plus I’m never going to wear this again.” I sign with contempt, and enter the store.

When I go to return the item, the man at the counter grabs it, shoves it in his face and inhales deeply. “This has been worn.” Firstly, I’m disgusting and grossed out that people do that in front of customers. At best, I’ll check after its returned–I note the feel and texture of washed clothes, then the smell of the detergent. It’s generally a game for us to guess the brand of detergent they use. Now, that’s funny. This situation is not so funny.

“What,” I reply, gasping, “They told me it wasn’t worn! Damn liars.” I take the item back and march out, and throw the package at my ex, “They smelled it, they said it was worn, they aren’t taking it back. It’s yours now, forever.” And I walk away. Definitely one reason an ex is an ex.

Why I don’t exchange things.

February 24, 2010

I consider returning and exchanging parallel because of their repercussions, which is basically embarrassment and a form of harassment, and definitely the seemingly legitimate chance for salespeople to get back at customers by being insulting, degrading and rude. For all intents and purposes, I don’t mind that, as long as there is some form of customer rudeness and stupidity included. This does not count when I’m the one returning or exchanging. In general, I am not stupid nor am I rude.

I bought a product I thought would be reasonable for my purposes, but it turns out, I needed the deluxe version which cost a lot more, but definitely made a difference. So I go to the return window, and I show them my return with my receipt and the item I want to exchange it for. She looks at me, then the receipt, then the items, then me, then the items, and puts the receipt down.

“No, you don’t do it like this! You bring the item you want to exchange to me first! You don’t go and get the item you want to exchange! We will get the item for you! You don’t do it like this! We will take your item for you, and get the item you want.”

I’m standing there, initially thinking I did her a favor, since these two items aren’t even in the same area of the store. I usually appreciate my customers bringing the item they want to exchange, rather than them coming to the register saying they want to exchange, and I have to run around looking for the item, while the line of customers grows longer and longer. I appreciate people who find the item they want to exchange. I am already taken aback.

So I stand there and do my best to apologize. Again, I want to scream that I work retail as well, but it’s never worth my time. This was her time, her time for empowerment, to belittle the customer–I just pray for her never to walk into my store and act dumb or rude, because it will be my turn. Considering the fact I was returning an item worth one-fifth of the item I was buying ($4 versus $20), she was still acting like I was stealing–I understand when people return something that costs a lot to exchange for something worthless. So even here, I was quite in awe. Yet, this reaffirms my vow not to return or exchange items–I just have someone else do it for me. Because no matter how well you plan, and how intelligently you do it, someone else ends up being stupid.