Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Can I help you?

The good thing about having weekdays off is that you aren't competing with hoards of people when you go shopping. On Saturdays between the hours of 10 am and 10 pm, you are guaranteed to end up standing at the end of a line of half a dozen teenage girls, each one purchasing one item, and the items cumulatively standing at a value of fifteen dollars. The first one will step up to the cashier, and in order to make it clear to everyone in the store, who she believes must be paying attention to her, that she is "with them" behind her and certainly not uncool to the point of shopping alone, she will toss in the occasional comment in on the conversation inevitably going on behind her and in front of you. As they each make their purchases, they will gather to the side of the counter as one at a time join them, and before too long, you'll have an assembled mob there, making more noise collectively than all of the people in the food court nearby put together. By the time you get up there, you'll be adding a trip to the nearby CVS for ibuprofen and bottled water to your shopping trip.

The drawback to weekday shopping is that you will walk into a lot of nearly deserted stores with a lot of very bored sales clerks restocking already well-stocked racks of shirts and slacks, checking through empty changing rooms for articles to rehang, and just generally standing in packs in varying corners of the store. As soon as you walk in, they take notice. By the time you wander to the first rack of attractive looking potential buys, a lucky representative is already on his or her way over to you. You pick up one shirt to give it a once over. By then, you're being greeted in a warmer fashion than you would greet your mother if you hadn't seen her in ten years, with a lengthy announcement following about the latest sale. Sometimes, the pitch is short and you can get on with your shopping. You must assume that in those cases, the salesperson is either not very enthusiastic about making the same announcement over and over or perhaps that he or she has done the unthinkable insofar as to put himself/herself into your shoes for a minute to realize you just want to get on with your errands. Other times, it goes on for a while even if you have made the polite acknowledgements that should signal your desire to be let alone.

Perhaps it is over enthusiasm for the job. Perhaps it is just that person being completely dense.

Today, I went into an Old Navy to look at the summer sale. The crowd wasn't large, but unlike most of the mall stores, there were more than two people in there. I was looking through a table of pullovers when a store clerk, a guy, approached me.

He greeted me, as I expected, and told me the shirts I was looking through were half off. I had observed the sign, but I thanked him for the information.

He asked me "are you planning on purchasing this on your Old Navy charge today?"

I had to admit that I didn't have one. I knew what was coming.

"Well, if you open one today.....(insert shopping benefits here)."

"Thank you, I'll think about it," was my reply, and I turned a few degrees in the direction of the table, prepared to go back to my previous activity.

"I could start one for you right now if you like. I just need a driver's licence and a debit card."

Sigh. Obviously my less-than-straight answer and body language were not enough.

"No, thank you. I need to think about it. I don't often shop in this store," I stated, hoping this additional information would indicate that I wasn't entirely interested.

Then, he gave me a list of the other stores that are affiliated with Old Navy. I thanked him for letting me know, and I again tried to return to leafing through the tops.

"We don't get commission for this, you know," was his next statement. He had sensed my indifference finally, and as opposed to considering the idea that maybe I just didn't want an Old Navy charge card littering my already overstuffed wallet, he thought I just didn't want a hard working store clerk to reap the benefits of my business.

I insisted that I already knew they didn't get commission, which was the only way I could think on the spot to combat the indirect accusation. Finally, he rounded out the conversation with a generic closing statement and I could return to what I was doing--if by then, ten minutes later, I still remembered what I had been doing in the first place.

In comparison, when I went to the Clinique counter in the Macy's on the other side of the mall, after I asked the clerk for her card in reply to her offer of a makeover, she immediately closed the appointment book she had strategically pulled out, took out her card, circled her name and the phone number on it, smiled, and handed it to me with a "I hope to hear from you, thank you for your purchase" without a hitch. She probably figured that I wasn't willing to commit, but since she treated me so politely, I wasn't going to go home and rule the option out because of anything she had done. On the other hand, I would consider it an insult to my personal pride to ever sign up for an Old Navy card at this point, given I put up so much of a fight so that I didn't have to do so.

At present I am Old Navy charge card free, and I probably will call for that makeover.


"Angeldust" said...

Hello Missy

Thank you for all your patience and visits with comments - a lot of "blogger friends" abandoned me (boo-hoo) when I became so radically busy.

-------- >*

One must always avoid these overly zealous clerks and sales people - nothing good ever comes out of it...
"What don't you understand about NO, thank you?" is a good one I have been forced to use occasionally.

The Clinique clerk must have figured you were not going to spend - she is on salary plus commission - most likely than not.
She will invest more time into "biting" fish.

Take good care
Big hug

"Angeldust" said...

your sunsets aren't bad either

Stacey said...

Old Navy is the absolute worst when it comes to putting the pressure on customers to apply for a charge card. I've literally been asked to apply for their card by 5 different employees in one trip to the store. I hate it, but sadly I like their clothes, so I subject myself to their pressure tactics about once a month. And I must say, I'm shocked that they don't make commission. Those poor clerks must be threatened with their lives if they don't hound customers to apply. Very interesting.

Emily said...

Hello, you've commented on my blog a few times and I'm just curious how you found me and what exactly is a professional pilgrim?

ellesappelle said...

It's amazing that we live in different countries but the same phenomenon seems to exist everywhere. If I actually meet a sales assistant who is helpful, not overbearing and just nice, I usually end up buying something from them, so you would think they would try and behave like that more often, would you not?

Mike said...

I was unfortunately suprised at a Barnes & Noble "cafe" over the weekend. I wanted a cup of joe, Nancy wanted to browse the store.

Mike: Hi, just a grande coffee please
Cafe Clerk: Do you have a Barnes & Noble Readers Advantage Card ?
Mike: No I don't
Cafe Clerk: You could save 10% on this purchase today. Would like you to apply for one ?
Mike: (in my mind: "10% off of a $1.60 cuppa joe ??")From my mouth: No thank you
Cafe Clerk: For just .10 more you can get a Venti.
Mike: No thank you
Cafe Clerk: How about a muffin or a slice of pumpkin spice bread ?
Mike: No thank you

I expect an overzealous sales staff at two places...a car dealership and a furniture store.
No where else. End of story people....end of story !

Thanks for stopping by my place Slskenyon...appreciate your words.

Kat said...

I've found a polite "no thank you" doesn't seem to work anymore. So then I get creative:
"My husband doesn't let me get more cards..." (With furtive, fearful glancing around, as if he could appear at any moment.)
"No...the credit bureau doesn't let me carry anymore."
"Lo siento mucho, pero no hablo ingles."
But what works better than these lies? Touting around a screaming kid.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Talk about pushy. I'm glad Old Navy isn't in England. A really good post here, which I'll put in my Quality List.

booda baby said...

I'm SO glad you reviewed that and so well. Excellent observations.

Somewhere, someone's teaching classes on how to manage your customers in order to actually create loyalty, not send it screaming. I think they'd love to read this.

Not that you care so much about the shopping experience, but I never tire of recommending Paco Underhill's 'Why We Shop.' It's a little mis-titled. It's not really about WHY we shop, but why we buy what we buy.

the superstar said...

Ugh. I worked at Old Navy. I HATED those cards.

The store has a goal, how many new cards they want a day. I generally only got one or two if I was even trying very hard because I'm not into the whole talking to somebody until they give into you thing. Because they either A) give in to you when you know they don't even want the card and then you get to feel guilty for being a good salespersonor B)they get really pissy-face. Ugh. I will never work retail again, just so I don't have to deal with stupid store charge cards.

Anonymous said...

That's really weird and disturbing. British stores are working hard to push those cards these days, but a lot of the stuff grumble about it behind the scenes and know when to give up with the hard sell. We do usually get commission, but it's negligible. I hate the things, personally, and I'd *definitely* boycott Old Navy, if I were in your position.

Anonymous said...

'a lot of the STAFF', even...my typing could use improvement ;).

anonymous jones said...

I hate shopping centres because of all the hideous germs of other people that I am breathing into my lungs WHY can't so-called civilized people learn to cough and sneeze into a tissue or something?!!!!!

Eddie said...

I once ate a kid at the mall. He was trying to sell me a Fidel Castro hat. He tasted like black pepper Jelly Belly.

M@ said...

"We don't get commission for this, you know,"

I'm just a volunteer faggot.

M@ said...

It's amazing the indignities you must tolerate, Stephanie. Always surrounded by idiots. :)

M@ said...

'Course you reside in Massachusetts.