In the lead up to Christmas, I had to do something I always dread. And what happened next, reinforced my frustrations, my annoyance with retail, and reminded my why I do what I do.
Today, was the 21st of December. Ok, so it’s not the 21st of December when you’re hearing this, but as I typed away, you can appreciate that in the Monday before Christmas, a lot of stuff needs to be done. I was feeling pretty organised. The last thing I needed was to do an emergency dash to the shopping Mall.
It was 8am and it seemed my daughter needed shoes.
Somehow, she'd managed to get holes in her sneakers, grown out of her sandals, left the pair of shoes she wears most often at school (she'll have grown out of them by the time school goes back, in 6 weeks) and it was too hot for her boots. Oh and that other pair givers her blisters.
Skirting the rules of “covered in shoes”, I dropped her at vacation care in crocs (albeit only just fitting ones).
This was my one last day to catch up on all the work I needed to get done before Xmas, now I was heading to the Death Star (aka, The Mall).
Ugh, shoot me now.
Hoping that the fact I was there BEFORE the shops opened would work in my favour (it didn't) I traversed several department stores to no avail, finally ending up at a specialty (read expensive) kids shoe store.
There was one other customer, so I had hope that I could be in and out in 15 minutes or so. I found two pairs of shoes that would suffice, and waited. And waited. And waited.
The server helped the lady in front of me, but seemed hell bent on avoiding eye contact with me, even though she was virtually pushing past me to get to the shoe boxes.
I had my wallet in one hand and the shoes in the other. Clearly, I was a purchaser. 15 minutes passed, and at no stage, did the server acknowledge my presence. All I needed was a simple, “hey there, I’ll be over as soon as I finish up here”. Even a smile and nod would have appeased the anger that was boiling up inside of me. All I could think of was who the hell takes 2 kids shoe shopping the week before Christmas? You’ve got 6 more weeks to do this.
I would have walked out. Unfortunately, I had exhausted every other store and found nothing, so I had to wait. But 15 minutes is a LONG time, when you’re waiting to pay for something. All I wanted was for someone to acknowledge me. What made it worse, was that I could see another staff member walking around in back. Now you and I both know as retailers, that there was a good chance the person out the back had something that needed to be done and wasn’t necessarily in a position to drop everything and walk out. Trying to remember this, and breathe, I have to admit that I was seething by the time I was finally served.
Now if this episode just sounds like an excuse for me to have a big ranty pants about retail in general, it’s not. What I want to point out, was that if the server had simply smiled at me and made a passing comment, rather than pushing past me but not even saying hello, I probably would have just been mildly frustrated at how long it was taking.
This episode would have been completely different. It would have been focused on how, even when it was a busy time, staff were working long hours and probably getting cranky customers left right and center, how with just a simple hello, I’ll be with you shortly” meant that I was happy to wait.
I won’t be hurrying back to that store and if anyone asks me where I got Lana’s shoes, the story will probably revolve around how painful the experience was, rather than the great quality of shoes, because at the end of the day, I’m a consumer too. Just like you. Yes, we have the insight of what happens behind closed doors in a retail store. But at the end of the day, we’re still mums and dads, that are trying to fit everything in, and all we want is a little bit of courtesy.
One of the things that was always instilled in my staff was that you always acknowledge a customer. If you happen to be on the phone or with someone else when they walk in, smile and wave, or nod, or do something to acknowledge their presence. That simple little trick can make the difference between a sale and no sale.
It’s up to you, the owner, to instill this sense of courtesy into your staff, into your stores values and into your brand. Your customers will thank you for it, and it’s likely your cash register will too.
Until next week