Thursday, June 10, 2010

Service With A Smile: The American Way

As friendly as Brits are to Americans (on the whole) in this country, I can't help but be personally offended or annoyed when I see some good old American bashing in Op Ed articles in newspapers and magazines.  Some snooty Mulberry-toting woman commented in a Stylist issue a couple months ago about the "terrible" American imports we get that are "bad influences" (I paraphrase here as I cannot remember the exact words she used) on her precious organic-oats-eating-horse-back-riding pre-teen daughter, such as Hannah Montana.  Okay, fair enough, that show is pretty hideous.

Similarly, an article in The Daily Mail online (not that I read such trash - and surely not on every lunch break, and no, I don't turn around and discuss articles with my boss and every other co-worker who will listen and have read the same article on Katie Price's new nails) today criticized high street stores for using "U.S.-style" hard sell tactics on their customers.  Oh no - gasp - not ... THE HARD SELL?!?!?!?

Let me first explain that I have worked in one such U.S. store, which shall remain nameless - all you need to know is that it was aimed toward 12-20-somethings, sold copious amounts of their own branded-clothing with a massive logo plastered across the chest and played obscenely loud music to the point that when I got back home from work (it was a summer and Christmas holiday job that took me through my MHC years) my mom would ask me if I wanted some food and I'd croak, "No thanks, just a glass of water."  So that narrows it down to about 20 stores in the mall, I think. 

And yes, we were pushed to sell, sell, sell.  We didn't even work on commission.  If you didn't sell, you didn't get hours.  Simple as that.  No hours, no money.  See a customer go into the fitting with one pair of jeans?  Give her 2 other styles in her size and throw in at least 3 graphic tees to go along with that.  Each "team member" had a designated "role" for his/her shift.  The worst role - and I hated this - was that of the "greeter".  The greeter stood at the front table of the store and had to screech out, "HEEEEEYYYYYYY GUYYYYSSSSS ... HOW YA DOIN ... HEYYYYY JUST TO LET YOU KNOW, WE HAVE A 2 FOR $10 DEAL GOING ON FOR ALL GRAPHIC TEEEESSSSS ..."  And if our store manager couldn't hear you from where she was standing at the back of the store?  *throat slitting motion* You were gone.  No hours for you, mate.  So I put on a super affected voice and dutifully did this screeching every time I got the "greeter" role - I especially liked it when teen boys mocked me to my face because that is certainly what I would do if the roles were reversed.

I hated it.  So much.  But apparently, I was really good at it, because I was promoted to lead cashier within a couple of weeks.

But if you work in a store, in my opinion, your job is to sell the product.  You are a salesperson.  As to how far you go in pitching your sale, that's up to your company and store manager.  In the UK, salespeople don't sell.  They stand mutely by as you struggle to find your size, wander around obviously looking for help and generally, ignore you.  Yes, overzealous sales assistants piss me off.  But I'll admit I'm partial to someone who will help me rifle through a rack of jeans to help me find my size than someone who stands by watching idly as I struggle on when it's their job to assist.  Once, (and yes, I will name and shame in this case) I was in John Lewis - a department store chain that is known for its reputation for apparently remarkable customer service, as all the oldies (and twenty-somethings who like to pretend they are pensioners) love it.  So much so that their website boasts:  "Britain's Favourite Retailer". 

There were three people in the bedding department:  me, John and a sales assistant.  After pacing up and down the aisles searching for what I was looking for, I threw my hands up in despair.  "Did you find them?" John asked, also empty-handed.  "No," I said glumly, both of us in earshot of the assistant, who glanced up but made no move to offer any advice.  I sidled up to him and said loudly to John, "Maybe I should FIND someone to ASK."  Only then did this sales person deign to turn his head and mutter, after a pause, "What is it that you're looking for?"

Hard-sell or not, at least we're helpful and (mostly) friendly in the US - unlike you lot.  And I don't know where the hell this woman was shopping or what she was wearing because in all the shops I've been in that she's listed, I've been dutifully ignored.

Photo source


  1. "Welcome to AutoZone! Whatchu workin on today?!?!"

  2. That *is* cringe. Think it might be worse than mine.


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