“Is that a return?”


return keyMaking a return is not something that most people look forward to at a retail store. Making a return means that you failed at your earlier attempt to successfully buy something.  Maybe it didn’t meet your needs, it was the wrong size or color, it did not fit or you just didn’t like it.  Making the return is usually inconvenient and certainly takes time and effort.  So, why do stores make it worse than it has to be?

Yesterday, my wife had to make a return at a major department store.  It was my fault.  I did not like the robe she bought me as a birthday present and so she was nice enough to make the return for me over her lunch hour.  No problem, simple return on a brand-new item.  A simple credit of the charge card and she would be done.

As she approached the customer service desk, my wife saw an employee standing behind the counter with a bunch of hangers in one hand and product in the other.  My wife arrived at the counter and dutifully waited to be greeted by the employee who was in the middle of something.

Looking up and uttering a sigh, the employee asked, “Is that a return?”

When my wife got home that night she was telling me her story.  She said that she already felt bad about having to make a return and being unsuccessful at the birthday gift.  She also felt bad that she appeared to be bothering the employee mid-task.  She was made to feel even more guilty when the first utterance from the employee was interrogating her about a return.

Other then the employee seeming to be put out by having to make a return and not offering a friendly greeting in the first place, my wife reported the return was quick and painless.

But then came the kicker as my wife added “I never really liked shopping at that store. I guess  I will stop shopping there.”


Teachable moment

Sometimes it is the smallest things that can make a difference.  As a coach, I would remind the employee to greet everyone in a friendly and helpful manner.  Instead of the accusatory “Is that a return?,” a simple, “Hello, how may I help you?” (without the sigh) would have made all the difference in the world in this example.

I made no excuses for the employee and simply told my wife, “There are plenty of other places that will take your business.”

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