The Odd Question

“Did anyone help you with the vest?”

The question was met with a confused look from the customer. So the cashier did what many Americans do when they are met with an uncomfortable silence, he repeated the question again but slower as if to encourage comprehension. “Did   anyone   help  you  with   the   vest   today?” Looking around to see if there was someone else the cashier may have been talking to and continuing to look confused, the customer finally offered “No, I don’t think so.”

Let me backup a bit. I had stopped in this specialty shop run by a well-known brand to check out their new line up.  Along with checking out the product, I had spent 30 minutes observing what was going on through out the shop and being the observant customer. The store was quiet on this weekday afternoon and the four employees were chatting with one another or standing with a thousand-yard stare on their face.

Ten minutes after my arrival, the vest shopper came in; immediately doubling the number of customers in the store. Like myself, no employees ever greeted him when he entered, approached him in the racks or offered him assistance. He eventually found the vests after a bit of wandering. The customer was now at a rack no more than 15 feet from the cash wrap and in plain view of the cashier. The customer spent several minutes checking out the vests, trying some on and struggling to get them back on the hangers.

During this time, the cashier made no effort to approach or greet the customer. He never asked another employee to assist the struggling customer.  I never even saw them make eye contact.

Having made his selection. he headed to the cash wrap to pay for the vest.  There he was greeted with “Did anyone help you with the vest?”

I can only imagine what the customer was thinking during those first few confused moments.

  • Are you blind? You could see that no one helped me.
  • Why are you asking me this question?
  • Will someone be in trouble if I don’t answer?
  • If you were so concerned with who helped me perhaps you could have walked over and offered me some yourself?
  • Wouldn’t “Did you find everything that you needed today?” be a better question.
  • What about saying hello?

After the customer offered his “No, I don’t think so”,  the cashier simply shrugged, scanned the bar code and ran the credit card the customer placed on the counter. This was followed with the cashier stuffing the vest into a bag. The interaction was completed when the clerk handed the bag to the customer adding a “There you go.”

The clerk never engaged the customer in sort of conversation. Never told him what the total was on the purchase. He never took the opportunity to reinforce the choice of the vest or offer care instructions. Certainly, there was no up sell or add-ons offered.

No pleasantries were offered such as “Thanks for coming in”, “Have a great afternoon” or “I hope you enjoy the vest.”

The vest buyer may not recall that he was never greeted in the store.  He will likely forget the two employees too busy with their own conversation to offer assistance.  The customer may not have even noticed the numerous other service failures that I witnessed that afternoon.

What the customer will likely remember was the odd question asked by the cashier.

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