Here I am back on my soapbox because Canadian retailers do not seem to be listening to me – at their peril. Their strange and blindfolded attitude toward the customer is responsible for so many of their problems and they seem oblivious. The solution is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Let me give you a few recent examples that demonstrate my point.
Yesterday I went into Tiffany’s in Yorkdale in Toronto. I knew exactly what I wanted to see – a necklace that comes in three sizes, in both gold and silver and I wanted to compare the sizes and prices to determine what my husband is getting me for Christmas. I’m an informed shopper.
I was met by a “greeter” like in a car dealership. That alone annoyed me because she couldn’t help me and had to go and interrupt two chatting sales associates to get one to come and assist me. Unnecessary delay number one. The sale associate came over and I pointed out the silver necklaces in the display case but said none of the sizes on display were what I wanted. I had to tell him that it came in different sizes and variations – could he please show me more. I had to tell him there was a larger size available which required him to go to the computer to verify my information. Unnecessary delay number two. Then he had to dig in a locked drawer for it. Finally he unwrapped the medium and large size. I indicated that ideally I would like the medium size but with the longer chain that comes with the large size. No comment from the sales person. So I asked the question, “Can I get the medium size with the longer chain?” Then he volunteered that I could but at an extra cost per inch of silver chain. Why did he not tell me this helpful information when I was comparing the two, to satisfy my requirement and clinch the sale? Phew! It seemed like a lot of work on my part – the customer – to inform the sales person. Which brings me to my first suggestion for retailers:
1. Share product knowledge with customer. If you don’t have this knowledge, it’s your job to get it. Oh, and ditch the greeters. What’s the point.
During a visit to J. Crew & Co. I spotted some gorgeous faux pearls on a mannequin. The string of pearls was extremely long and looped very fashionably over a denim shirt. I asked a sales person to show me the long string of pearls. She couldn’t find them. Looked everywhere but the washroom. Finally, I brought to her attention that it looked like the display was actually two strings of pearls clipped together for that particular look. Again, why did I have to provide the product knowledge. Not only could she not find the short string of pearls, but she couldn’t see that it was actually two sets linked together.
2. Know your inventory and where it is. Again, this is not the job of the customer.
And thanks to Hudson’s Bay’s chronic and severe lack of sales staff, I nearly witnessed a riot in the women’s section of the Mississauga Square One store during “Bay Day” sales. There are only three cash desks in the very busy women’s department of a very busy store. I spotted some jeans on sale but not in my size. Naturally there are no sales associates walking the floor to assist me, so I hiked across the floor and lined up with 8 others to ask a cashier. When I finally worked my way to the second position in the line, the woman in front of me had a customer service issue that required calling a manager and debating store policy in great detail. Meanwhile the rest of us were waiting, fuming.
Finally a second clerk appeared who was slower than I ever thought possible at processing sales. I got her. Naturally she informed me that “if the size I wanted isn’t out, then they don’t have it.” I had waited 15 minutes for that bit of obvious information. So I asked her to check the computer to see if perhaps they did in fact have my size buried somewhere else in the store. More minutes passed and no, they did not. So, then I asked if they had them in another store and could they get them for me. Fully another 20 minutes passed while at my insistence she searched, found the jeans and processed the sale. Hallelujah. By now, the women behind me were forming a lynch mob. Many were on their lunch hour and simply left. I actually felt sorry for the sales ladies who were hopelessly overworked and understaffed.
3. Can retailers not scratch up a few pennies to hire adequate sales people to actually work the floor and help customers. Maybe add a few extra cash registers while you’re at it.
My experiences shopping in the United States, the U.K. and Europe have been very different and positive. Sales staff are well-trained, genuinely helpful, capable of actually thinking and are wonderfully plentiful. It’s not that complicated. I guarantee if Canadian retailers would listen to me they’d see sales increase. Isn’t that what they’re in business for? And with Christmas coming, it’s only going to get worse. Now that I’ve vented, I feel a bit better, but not much.