#864: The gentle salesperson, Part 1–Success for the right reasons

The Girl wanted to sell things at a neighbourhood sale last week. Her offerings of handmade hairclips, cookie pops, and Lemonade-sicles were part of her fundraising efforts for the local humane society. The only minor problem was, she’s too nice of a salesperson.

Here’s the first sign of someone who’s too nice to be selling:

1) She doesn’t want to be successful for the wrong reasons.

The “wrong reasons” include customers buying her products/service because she’s “cute” or because she’s “just a kid”. As the Girl told us a few days before her sale, “I want people to buy from me because they like what I’m selling; I don’t want people to buy from me just because they know me, or because they think it’s so ‘cute’ what I’m doing. Just like on America’s Got Talent: I wish people would vote for a performer because they’re a great singer or dancer, not just because they’re such a cute kid.”

We tried to explain to her that as she goes through life, people will buy from her for any number of reasons—some of which she may not like. I think she was finally convinced that sometimes it’s okay to be raising money for the little kittens even when people don’t really need another cookie or hairclip.

A salesperson who wants her customers to be sold on her merit and the quality of the goods. Not a success in the traditional sense, but one anyway.

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Boxed In

Savings of 73%—now that's worth the trouble

Is it a point of pride or embarrassment that my whole life, I’ve never shopped on Boxing Day, and likely never will? The closest I ever came was on the day after Boxing Day (as I recall, stores weren’t allowed to open on Boxing Day in Halifax back then) when I was about 16. Sure, the crowds were dense enough for a medium-sized mall in a medium-sized city. But I’ve never done the ultimate—go out on the busiest shopping day of the year, in any of Canada’s largest cities.

So yesterday, while I was staying with a dear friend in Montreal, we ventured into the downtown core for some Boxing Week shopping. And it being two full days after Boxing Day, the madness had died down significantly. We could very calmly browse through Simons, Les Ailes de la Mode, and all along Ste. Catherine street, without fearing about being trampled on, or lifetime-shortening line-ups at the cash register. Here are a few things that these two Boxing Week shopping virgins discovered:

1- We both are the type of people who mostly enjoy shopping alone, mainly for two reasons: we don’t like the idea that we’re dragging a friend along unwillingly from shop to shop, and we like to shop quickly and without the idea that someone might be slowing us down.

2- That being said, the good thing about shopping with a friend is taking advantage of 3-for-1 sales. These are rare even during Boxing Week, but exciting to spot.

3- My friend made the most obvious observation of the year: Sales clerks during Boxing Week are not so friendly. Go figure.

4- Not all stores offer huge savings. A $200 item with only $40 knocked off is not worth standing in line for. Come on, Simons, you can do better than that.

5- Restaurant employees are friendlier than retail store clerks during Boxing Week.

Look, Ma: No crowds!

So, our shopping adventure turned out pretty well, considering our general lack of experience. We had fun, we weren’t crushed or mobbed, and we enjoyed the relative calm of the stores and the streets, which allowed for some chit-chatting during our adventure.

 

And would I do it again? As long as it’s not on the Dreaded Day itself—absolutely.

#923: Resisting the hard sell

I can’t stand a hard sell in any kind of store, even less in a clothing store, and especially in a children’s clothing store. This past weekend, that’s exactly what I went through. And while I left that store internally fuming, I was glad to have made the discovery that I have a daughter who is a smart and nice shopper.

I don’t know if all Please Mum stores are operated like this (and I hope to find out, if they respond to my “feedback” letter), but the one near us was absolutely appalling in its level of excessive attention to customers. And by “excessive”, I mean a high-pressure sales tactic. It started with both employees approaching us to tell us of the store promotions—not a big deal in itself, but I did note with amusement the look of annoyance that Employee #2 shot Employee #1 when I told her, “Yes, we know. Your co-worker just told us all that.” (“Oh, she did, did she?”) Employee #2 then proceeded to tag along behind us in the store, in the hopes of getting us interested in much more than the long-sleeve t-shirt for the Boy, which was all that I intended to purchase.

“Would you like to look at pants? We also have matching short-sleeve tees. How about raincoats? Hats? Socks? No one needs winter coats?”

No matter how much I declined, she kept at it. But the thing that bothered me most was that she talked directly to the Boy and asked him if he wouldn’t like to try on a nice t-shirt with a picture of a moose, or a bear, or something about grandpa on it. In my opinion, it’s not an acceptable sales tactic to turn to a child—after you’ve already attempted, and failed, with the parent—and entice him into trying on a product.

The only thing we wanted. Not matching pants, raincoats, hats, or socks . . .

When we left the store, with a lone boy’s long-sleeve t-shirt purchased, I remarked to the Girl, “Did you notice what a hard sell they were doing on us in there?”

“I know,” she replied. “That’s why I had that denim jacket on. The lady kept pushing it towards me, and told me to try it on, and I didn’t want to sound arrogant and say, ‘No, I don’t need that.’ So I tried it on to make her happy.”

Ah, now it made sense. I had thought that it was out of character for my girl to ask for a mirror to see how the jacket looked, she not being the type to walk into a store and ask for things, let alone grab something off the rack and preen in front of a mirror with it. She had done it to be polite to the pushy saleswoman, and in the end, had simply returned the item with a sweet, “No, thank you.” (She had certainly been more polite than I, who after two firm statements of not wanting to provide my e-mail address and not wanting to receive promotional mail, had to finally end the salesclerk’s entreaties by supplying a fake address.)

While I know that I certainly will not be walking into that store again, I did gain something positivie out of that experience. I learned that my girl can walk into a hard sell and not be sucked into buying something that she didn’t want. I liked how she was polite about it, and at the heart of it, had a notion of sparing the feelings of someone who was trying to do her job. Most of all, I loved how she could fake the whole thing, by looking in the mirror and saying what was required of her, but then confounding the pushy salesperson by not being the whiny, materialistic, gimme-gimme-gimme child that I’m sure that salesperson was depending on. I hope that my baby continues to be a responsible and smart shopper like she has shown herself to be on this occasion.