“Here, let me do that”

Version 2Hearing “Here, let me do that” on the sales floor always sets off alarms for me.  I quickly want to know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

If it is to relieve a customer of some irksome or tedious task such as filling out a long form or lifting a heavy object, then that is good customer  service. But if it is to do for the customer something they can and would like to do for themselves, it is simply well-intentioned yet poor  customer service.  Here is a recent example.

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Poler – Making the outdoors fun again

Poler gained a following for its unpretentious and inclusive approach to high-quality gear and outerwear

There was a time in our lives when “the great outdoors” meant our backyard, the neighborhood park or the woodlands and wetlands that we could walk/bike/skateboard to without getting into too much trouble from our parents. Then, slowly, things began to change.

Now, if an adventure is not epic or extreme, it’s not viewed as worthy. It seems that adventures need to involve exotic locations like Papua or Lapland or an esoteric endeavor such as wing suiting or canyoneering for any credibility. Gone are the days of the simple pleasures of being outside and enjoying life with friends.

Or are they?

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Reliable gas stoves

Looking for some exercise and fresh air, I grabbed my phone and ear buds and headed out for a walk yesterday afternoon. Rain was threatening so I planned my route to take me past my neighborhood shopping mall.  That way if it rains, I could duck inside and still stretch my legs.

As light rain began, I headed towards the mall. As usual, my stroll included my favorite stops at a sporting goods store, a book store, a computer store and an electronics and appliance store.  The first three are locally owned and the last is a nation-wide chain.  And as always I took the opportunity to watch the retail customer service.  I did not have to look hard for today’s post.

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Parade rest at Finn’s Camera

Olympus OM-1 Image 2012 Olympus Corporation

Olympus OM-1
Image 2012 Olympus Corporation

Yes, I was in my high school photography club.  Of course, this was back when being a photographer meant using film cameras and processing and enlarging their own prints.  Early on in high school I recognized the power of the camera.  The power was not so much in the camera’s ability to record a moment in time but rather in its ability to get me out of class and serve as a universal hall pass under the guise of “getting pictures for the yearbook.” I successfully used this ruse for four full years.

I was introduced to the photo club by Steve D, a class mate that I met at new student orientation. He was already an avid photographer and had recently become a member of the photo club.  More importantly, he was the one that taught me about the power of the camera.  With Steve’s guidance, I was soon in the good graces of the faculty advisor for the photo club which gave me access to the school’s aging Rolleicord TLRs and Asahi cameras and the photo darkroom during my study hall.

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Recommended reading – Why We Buy

Note: This is one of the many books that shaped my experience in retail. From time to time, I will recommend other titles that influenced me.


In 1999, I had just left eleven years on the retail floor behind and entered the corporate world of retailing when I took a position as a Training & Development Specialist for a major retailer.

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Great serve at the soft serve

Dairy Queen sign

(Taking the time to read this post will renew your faith in customer service.)

With six hours of driving and at least one lengthy stop ahead of us, we were on the road at 5 am.  That meant we were out of bed and moving at 3:45 am. While I am a morning person, 3:45 a.m. is early by anyones standards. In the rush to get on the road, I sometimes forget things and today was no different.

About an hour into the drive and well clear of Portland, we realized we forgot something. Going back would mean losing at least an extra two hours and include the likelihood of getting stuck in the Portland morning rush hour.

The item would be replaced in route.

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An innings worth of strikes

Version 2

My wife and I went to our local bike shop to do some browsing. (Yes, some customers do just want to look around.) Entering the shop, we walked right into the middle of a very excited conversation with one voice louder than all others. Looking around, I discovered the voice belonged to an overly friendly employee that had obviously trapped a helpless customer. With his purchases clasped tightly in his hand and his bike lights already blazing and flashing, the customer was trying to inch towards the door while the employee continued to regale him with wild tales of his own recent bicycling adventures. The employee was talking so loudly; it appeared he missed the day in kindergarten when they teach about the difference between your indoor and outdoor voice as his carried clearly throughout the relatively small store.

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Leon Leonwood got it right


I received a mail-order catalog yesterday, a common occurrence in my home.  Like most homes,  catalogs make their way quickly to the recycling bin.  Some unopened, others just skimmed and a select few actually read.

The third page of L. L. Bean’s “The Spring Collection” catalog caught my attention and reminded me why I admire them as a retailer.  The page contained a quotation from L. L..

“L. L. himself always said that he didn’t consider a sale complete ‘until goods are worn out and the customer is still satisfied.'”

He got it right.

In retail history

Barbie logo

March 9th, 1959, the Barbie doll makes her debut at the American International Toy Fair.  Barbie was developed by Ruth Handler, the wife of the co-founder of Mattel Toys, Elliot Handler.

Ruth noticed that her daughter, Barbara, enjoyed giving her dolls adult roles when she was playing and came up with the idea of an adult bodied doll.

While Elliot and the directors of Mattel were unenthusiastic about Barbie, over 350,000 were sold in the first year of production. Mattel is unsure how may Barbie dolls have been produced over the years but they report a Barbie doll is sold somewhere in the world every 3 seconds.