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.
I enjoyed the first three stops along the way. The stores were relatively quiet and I was able to browse the merchandise undisturbed. Most store staffs saw my ear buds and pretty much left me alone.
Entering the last store, the electronics and appliance store, my headphones were still on. Wandering the aisles, several staff members made eye contact, saw the headphones and simply nodded and smiled. I returned the gestures being unbothered all the way through the stores until my arrival at the appliances department, more specifically the gas ranges.
Now, you should know that I have a dream that I share it with my wife. The dream is of owning a gas range with a five burner top and a double oven from a decent brand, perhaps LG or Frigidaire. The catch is that we rarely use the single oven or more than two burners on the gas range we own and that range is less than 3 years old. But we can dream can’t we?
Spotting an LG that met the dream criterium, I wondered if either of its two ovens would accommodate a twenty pound turkey. As I was peering in the larger of the two ovens, convinced that any turkey that I would ever produce would fit with room to spare, I heard a voice behind me.
Turning around with my ear buds still in place, a smiling face asked, “Are you looking for anything in particular today?”
“Just wandering today,” I responded making no effort to remove my ear buds hoping he would get the verbal and non-verbal message that I wanted to be left alone. I even turned away from him to look at the stove. He didn’t get any of the messages.
“Just so we know, we price match. If you are looking at something you cannot live without, we will price match. I am sure we can beat anyones prices in this area.”
I just looked at him and said, “Okay.”
“Just thought you should know. Most people wonder if we do. Also, you should know we don’t work on commission. So you can talk with anyone, but I would be glad to help.”
Now, I was just getting annoyed. I did not want to talk with anyone. I certainly did not encourage him to talk and the stores policy on price matching and commission never even entered my mind. The weather, my day or even the gas range I was looking at would have been better topics, if I was in the mood to talk. But I wasn’t.
“Like I said, I am just wandering. Okay?”
“Sure it is okay to look around. If you have any questions or want me to check on price matching, feel free to ask me or anyone else. Like I said, we don’t work on commission. I will check back with you.”
“That’s not necessary, I am just wandering.”
With a cheery, “Well, okay then,” he turned and wandered off as I continued my wandering through the department. Less than a minute later, I was checking out a refrigerator when I spotted the clerk walking my way.
“Still doing okay?” he asked.
“Really, I am just fine,” I replied wondering if this was some sort of joke. Checking back with a reluctant customer in less than a minute was just too much. Figuring that I would not be allowed to wander in peace, I made a b-line for the door and stepped out into the rain to make my escape.
I realize that salespeople are trained and coached to be persistent when it comes to dealing with a “just looking’ customer. But when the person makes it clear that they do not want to talk by saying so, by wearing their ear buds or by turning or walking away, leave them alone.
For a moment, I thought he might think I was a shoplifter. But my jacket was too small to hold a range. It was just misplaced customer service. While I appreciated the well-intentioned service, the salesman acted inappropriately.
What bothered me most about this interaction was the pounding on the issues of price-matching and commission. He made assumptions that these were the important issues; so important that he needed to discuss them openly. He seemed to think that addressing these two issues repeatedly would remove any barriers to the sale.
I know the store has great prices on the stove I had no intentions on buying. I would not begrudge someone earning a commission if they act in a friendly and professional manner.
But this was just too much information, when I did not want any information.