Friday, September 2, 2011


     There are times when customers can really surprise you and for the better.  It’s rare, to be sure, but it happens.  I’m used to the customer that flips out on me for a problem that isn’t even related to something I’ve done.  I’m used to the customer saying or doing something stupid because they can’t read something or find something that’s easy enough for them to find.  But a customer who actually goes out of their way to do something nice for you?  How many of us has that happened to?
     A few months ago I was assisting a couple that came in looking to buy several products.  In the course of assisting them, we talked and joked around about every random thing under the sun.  A more relaxed couple I have not met.  It was one of those interactions you almost wished wouldn’t end because you knew the type of customers you might have to deal with (assholes) after such a pleasant transaction.  The husband was even showing me several pictures of the house he was redoing and even the people who were helping him.  I thought they were going to adopt me at the end of the interaction – that’s how friendly they seemed.
     And w/ the money they were dropping, I almost wouldn’t have minded another family to celebrate my birthday with.
     But time passed and I eventually put the couple out of my mind.  Not that I wouldn’t have recognized the pair but it’s not like I went around feeling nostalgic about the interaction we had.  It was a sale and they went on their way.  I know our business promotes the friendly salespeople they have and how it’s because of us that they end up buying from our store and not some other store, but it always felt like a lot of bullshit.  I mean, I’ve found people to only care about one thing and one thing only: price.  I can’t blame them, of course.  I’ve had people come back to the store looking specifically for me but that’s generally because they knew my store would bend over and take whatever price the customer wanted to pay for a product.  I was just the salesperson to facilitate the transaction.
     So, it was kind of surprising when the husband came back into the store a few months later and talked to me about what brought them in and other random things.  He wasn’t sure if I remembered him but it was kind of hard to forget this guy if you had seen him.  He said he had to finish up in another part of the store but that he had something for me.  I wasn’t sure if I had heard him correctly and thought he had some sort of issue with his purchase.  I wasn’t in the mood to deal with an issue, even an issue from a customer who had a happy-go-lucky attitude.
     Several minutes go by and he returns carrying a plastic bag that looked pretty heavy.  I thought his wife and him had brought me some fruit that they had picked or something.  That enough was enough to surprise me and want to thank the guy for the touching thought.
     He came up to me and said how it was just a “little something” that they had seen while on vacation and they just had to get it for me.  They even remembered my name!
     I thanked him and shook his hand as he walked away, leaving me to open the bag by myself.  I gently placed the bag on a table and looked inside to find a gift from Europe they picked up that had my name inscribed in it.  My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets as I lifted it up out of the bag.  It was easily the coolest thing I’ve ever gotten while working in retail because it came from a customer who didn’t have to do that at all.  I was just some shmuck who sold them some electronics.  But to remember my name and pay money to get some salesperson a gift while you were on vacation?  I should be so lucky to receive such kindness from relative strangers in the future!
     It was something that won’t be forgotten about any time soon.  It was quite an amazing thing to experience in a life where you’re used to being treated like a servant.  I suppose being nice and helpful really does make a difference for some customers.  A very select few recognize the good you do for a shitty pay.
     I hope all of you out there get to experience something like that with a customer you’ve helped.  Whether it’s something that cost them a dollar or a hundred dollars, a gift is a gift, and we retail employees should appreciate anything we’re given.  I hope those of you who’ve had someone who has gone out of their way to do something nice to make your shopping experience a bit better will remember that.  Sure, there might be an incentive for them to get you back into the store down the line (I mean, how else will we get paid?) but that incentive isn’t that great.  If I could tell 90% of the people I run into at my jobs to bugger off, I would - repeat business be damned!  If I’m nice to you it’s because I was raised to be nice and to treat you with respect.  It’s not because my job did a great job in convincing me that I should be nice because they haven’t.  So show those hard workers some respect and maybe show your gratitude in some way.  Corporations may say it’s not good to accept something from a customer but how can one say no to a personally inscribed gift?
More soon from the frontlines...