First, if you want a specific item, call ahead to see if it’s in the store. How many times have you read an ad that shows the exact item in which you are interested only to find out when you reach the shop that it is sold out? A phone call can prevent this problem.
Suppose you have trouble reaching anyone in the department where the item is located. Ask for the manager. If the manager is uncooperative, shop elsewhere. Usually the manager will get the answer you need; after all, that’s why this person who gives better service was promoted!
What if you are in a crowded store and the department in which you want to buy a gift has a long line? Take it to another department where the line is shorter. With computerized scanning of each item, you should be able to buy the item anywhere in the store.
If you are buying heavy items and need help carrying it to the car, ask for assistance. Most store owners are so eager for higher profits that they will accommodate you with package carryout. If the sales associates seem hesitant to help you with your heavy package(s), just say you’ll have to return certain items because you can’t lift them. That may bring you some help in the twinkling of an eye.
If the store in which you are shopping does not carry an item you want, ask the sales associate for suggestions for where you might find it. Many sales associates keep up with items that their competitors sell as well as those in the store in which they work. Smart sales personnel know that you will remember their helpfulness and will return to shop with them.
If you get a surly answer from the sales associate, mention it to the manager on your way out and let it be known that you were not pleased with your shopping experience. Managers can’t solve problems about which they are unaware. In the current economy, a sales associate who insults customers is an expense no store can afford. Many stores will offer you an extra incentive to return to their location if they learn that you had a bad experience.
Suppose you are thinking that management doesn’t want to be bothered with you. Think again. If you are a customer in a store, management needs to consider you as the most important person in the room—especially if you are having a problem and are considering never shopping there again.
Remember: a clerk cannot change policy. Only management can see beyond what standard procedure is and can bend rules if necessary in order to accommodate a good customer.
I once bought a coat at Dillard’s in Clarksville. I knew the sleeves would be too long and would need to be hemmed. I actually had to have the sales associate call the store in Cool Springs to have the coat in my size delivered to my home.
When I returned to Clarksville to have the sleeves hemmed (because I had been told the store would hem them free), I was told by the sales associate that their seamstress said it was impossible to do the work on their equipment. When the manager was called, he sent the coat to an outside tailor and put the cost of the alteration on his own credit card.
I later wrote about this incident in a newspaper article. The owner of Dillard’s (who lives in another state) read about the incident and called the manager personally to compliment him on his superb customer service.
Wherever you shop, make sure if you are to receive a discount that the price rings up reflecting the lower price. Don’t hesitate to tell the sales associate that a mistake has occurred—and then wait until the mistake has been corrected. This is especially important if a coupon is involved or if the computer has had the wrong price programmed for the item. Check your receipt and insist politely that the error be corrected.
Remember: in some stores an incorrect price means that the item is free. In a few stores, the refund is doubled if the price was due to a computer error. Some stores will not refund cash but give you a store credit card or voucher.
Whatever the policy, be as gracious as you can in case of an error. At Christmastime and in other busy seasons, mistakes are going to be made. Getting angry or loud in your criticisms is not productive. People who work in retail are trying to complete sales as quickly as possible. They have to deal with all types of situations and people from all walks of life. Your pleasantness may be the only time that day that someone has been considerate.
Recently, I was in a store that had a policy of giving any extra pennies that would bring the cost of your item up to the next dollar to the Salvation Army. When the sales associate asked if I wanted to contribute the extra few cents, I replied, “Certainly!” She replied, “You just made my day. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who would have to add only a penny to make the cost an even dollar and they rudely refuse!”
Good manners show at all times. Don’t forget that you may want to shop at that store again. Keep a smile on your face in spite of having to shop in crowded situations and your day will go much better.
Treating others the way you want to be treated is for every day, but it’s especially true at Christmas.