When I was 11, my godmother took me to Miami for our annual back-to-school shopping trip. Her daughter and I were the same age, so I often tagged along to keep her company and in the process, benefitted from free school supplies.
During our escapades, we ended up inside a somewhat musty clothing store on Hialeah run by several Asian women. From the moment we entered the store my godmother spotted an overzealous salesgirl rapidly approaching and quickly yelled out, ‘just looking.’ That bit of information did nothing to stop the young lady as she immediately started pulling faded jeans off of racks and shoving them in my godmother’s face for her to buy. She refused and told her once again that she was just looking.
For 10 minutes that woman followed my godmother up and down the aisles shoving faded clothes at her. She wouldn’t stop. My godmother finally had enough. With the salesgirl standing just inches away she let out the loudest and longest fart ever heard this side of the western hemisphere. The store fell silent. Seconds later as the odor diffused through the area the salesgirl’s face contorted and she retreated to a backroom never to be seen or heard from again. I was mortified. I shouted at my godmother, ‘Why did you do that!’ I mean the girl was annoying, but jeez! Unfazed and continuing to thumb through racks of clothing she replied, “Roggie, when ya don’t listen, ya ga smell.’
Now, I can’t say that that salesgirl deserved to have her eyebrows blown off, but I certainly understand the frustration my godmother felt. I find many salespeople use the phrase, ‘just looking’ as an invitation to haggle customers. I think they view it as some sort of foreplay – like the customer is playing hard to get and wants to be coaxed into a sale.
It’s not a clever tactic. In fact, it can have the opposite effect and force annoyed customers right out the door. That’s just one of the reasons so many people skip the stores and shop online. No hagglers.
I don’t like being pressured to buy, which is why I always go into stores when they’re about to close or when they’re crowded and no one is available to help me. I also pretend to be on my cell phone a lot. Most times that’s enough to keep them away.
However, every once in a while you’ll stumble across a crafty salesperson that manages to get you to try on something.
I was in a shoe store recently and really had no intention of buying anything. I made the mistake of making eye contact with a wedge sandal. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a salesgirl approaching me. She eventually finagled me into trying it on.
I asked the salesgirl if she had a 9.5. She said yes. Moments later, she returned with an 8. Confused, I asked her if the shoe ran big. She said no it ran true to size. I asked her to explain how I was supposed to fit my big feet inside the smaller shoe. She told me I needed to train my feet to fit into a smaller shoe. Train my feet? Now, I’ve heard of waist trainers, but foot trainers? Now, that’s a woman determined to make a sale. I asked her again if she had a 9.5. She said yes. She returned with an 11. I left the store. She clearly wasn’t good with numbers.
I used to go into a store that was one of my favorite places. I spent so much money in there the owner should have known me by name. But, she didn’t. Week after week I would plunk down my card to buy trinkets for family members and friends. And week after week she would act like she had never seen me before. It was the retail version of 50 First Dates.
One Saturday afternoon, my niece and I were browsing inside the store when Madam Forgetful approached us to ask if she could help. I told her we were just looking and for the next 15 minutes I realized she was just looking – at us. With every inch we moved around the store, she would walk up behind us to ask if she could help. After the fourth ‘May I help you’ it became clear that she had no intention of assisting us. That was code for ‘buy something or get out of my store.’
Needless to say, it’s not one of my favorite places anymore.
The sales business is tough. I get it. But, you know what’s tougher? Having to pay bills with no customers walking through the door. This is precisely why it’s important that salespeople figure out ways to make a sale without imposing on their customers. Learn to read the client’s body language. If they’re on the phone, (even if they’re pretending like me), you’re not going to win their business by trying to give your sales pitch. Some people are truly just looking.
I was in Macy’s recently. A salesman on the floor said, “My name is Mark, let me know if you need help. I’m right over here.” Perfect. I knew his name. He could help me. He was right over there. When I decided to buy, I went over there to Mark so he could help me.
What doesn’t work? Following me around the store and telling me that a shoe would look good on my feet or that I should buy now because the item won’t be here tomorrow. Peeking into my dressing room while I’m in my underwear will also send me running for the door. And ladies, please don’t tell me we have “the same thing” so it’s no big deal.
In the meantime, I will continue to have fake conversations on my cell phone while browsing and I advise the salespeople not to run through the aisles shoving faded jeans at me. Because, as my goddie once famously said, when ya don’t listen, ya ga smell.