What’s Wrong With Retail (Part Two)

Picking up from last week, this tweet by Christian comedian John Crist leads nicely into this week’s problem area where far too many retailers dwell. Namely, a pathological inability to get out and stay out of their customer’s hair.

Last week I briefly mentioned that I am firmly in the “say hello and let it go” camp of shoppers, meaning I appreciate you noticing I’m there but please leave me alone unless I ask for assistance. I am hardly alone in this philosophy.

The exact opposite of this approach comes from stores who treat each and every person who walks through their doors like the unwilling subject of an overly attached girlfriend’s attention. Rewards club! Email list! Donation request! Survey! Can I have the CEO come by and wash your car! PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE ALONE!!!

While some customers overreaction to said pitches oft brings a response reminding them that this is no invasion of privacy as the NSA has all their information anyway, it can be more than a mite offputting for someone who wants nothing more than to have the store take their money and get on with their life. Worse is the dreaded followup, usually consisting of email bombardments four or more times a day rather than, oh, putting everything in one morning missive and not clogging inboxes across the land.

The dreaded survey requests are the bane of every retail employee as they prostrate themselves before every customer they have said so much as hello to, begging them to pleaseohpleaseohplease give them a five star rating by name as four stars is counted by their corporate lords as … equaling a negative five hundred rating. Good thing this philosophy has not yet been extended to the education system, for if it were every grade below A minus would automatically be tabulated as an F.

It is understandable to a point why a retailer would credit nothing but one hundred percent satisfaction as having any value. Of course you want to satisfy the customer. It’ the job. It’s also a ridiculous goal set by unrealistic desk dwellers who either 1) profoundly exaggerate their own retail work experience to where they could and did simultaneously unload a truck, set a schematic, ring up a customer, and help a little old lady across the street, or 2) have never interacted with another human being, thus fiercely cling to some delusion of how perfection is easily achievable by any and everyone, and of course will be responded to in like manner. In other words, they have never encountered someone like the customer I dealt with many years ago who angrily slammed down a recent purchase on the counter in front of me, loudly declared it ill-suited for its given task, and demanded to know what I was going to do about it. Casting aside all efforts at officially approved responses in such a situation, after a dramatic pause I slowly intoned, “Well, I could slit my wrists and, as my life blood ebbed away, beg you for forgiveness. But would it be okay if I just gave you a refund?”

He took the refund.

Next week, I’ll continue this miniseries by giving credit where credit is due … or not.