Re Tales – Part Seven – The Sale

Every shop has a sale some time. Not the regular sales over the counter of everyday commerce – a SALE that involves vast quantities – of many different things:

a. Time. Even a small impromptu sale that the owner thinks up the last minute before going on holiday involves days and hours of preparation, conduct, and accounting. Fortunately they are on holiday and have left their phone at home. The staff will cope…

b. Advertising. No good trying to get more customers in the door if they do not know where the door is or why they might want to come in. So the retailer spends money with the newspapers, phone book company, on-line IT experts ( the ones that are out of the asylum that week ) and leaflet distributors. The richer retailers use radio and television to blow the trumpet – the more frugal ones just buy trumpets and blow them themselves. 3:00 AM in the car park of the shopping centre is a trying time…

c. Preparation. Re-tagging all the sale stock is a pain. Particularly if you need to re-re-tag it after it hasn’t sold. And you need to be accurate in your pricing. ” Whatever ” is not a price tag that will make a profit for the shop.

Beware of customers who shift full-price stock into the sales bins and then magically ” find ” it and rush to the till. They will then demand to have it for an imaginary price, quoting God and Magna Carta as justification. It is best to have a short club handy.

d. Staff. No-one can stand sales pressure on their own so the wise manager will arrange for extra staff to be present. They may be rostered in on a schedule or just thrown in willy-nilly as the fatalities occur. Warn them that normal meal, break and toilet amenities are suspended for the sale period – if necessary quote Magna Carta. With a bit of luck this regime will seem natural and can be extended to the rest of the year.

e. Old unsalable stock. This is the core of the sale – after all, if it all went out regularly, there would be no need for all the other extra work. Old unsalable stock may be perfectly good, but so far no-one outside of the store’s buyer and the wholesaler have ever thought so. Now is the time to convince others by lowering the price.

Make no mistake about it. People will spend money and buy anything if they think it is a screaming bargain. Discount death and give vouchers for subsequent deaths and people will line up to pay. This is the principle of a great many school holiday motion picture series.

If you have no junk to sell, contact the wholesalers and ask them to take you out to a long lunch and get you drunk. You’ll eventually wake up with loose clothing and a warehouse full of broken cartons of stock from 2003.

f. Accountancy. No matter what you get for the schmatta, you’ll still have to do the paperwork to write it off. A successful sale pays for the accountant’s time – really successful ones are where you trade old stock to the accountant instead of a fee.

Re Tales – Part Two – ” I’ve Changed my Mind “

” And now I’m going to change yours…”

The bane of retail trade is the changer. Whether it is a mind-changer, a shape-changer, or a money-changer, they are trouble as soon as they come over the door sill.

a. Customer buys goods. They are good goods and will do him good. The price he has paid will do the shop good. The money enters the till or bank account by whatever means and starts to make a numerical mark in the accountancy system. All is well, and no further operations need be contemplated.

Until customer comes back next day and tells the shop assistant that they have changed their mind and want to return the goods. From here the trails wind deeper into the bushes:

  • Have the goods been removed from the packaging? Some packages are a one-way affair and will never reassemble.
  • Have the goods been marked? Some changers will insist that they were marked when they got them. Custom factory scratches, missing parts, and loose screws are a special order and you have to indent for them for just months. Most retailers just stock the plain old undamaged goods…Funny how Mr. Changer got the special edition.
  • Can the goods be resold as new? Well, no. They have been in Changer’s hands while he did several things – maul them and then search on the internet for somewhere in China that will sell them cheaper. As much as you might value his money, he could have done that before he walked in the first time…
  • He? Did I write he? Please forgive me. Changing is a gender-neutral game. She will be as keen to screw over the retailer as he will and probably more indignant and entitled as she tries it. They don’t call ’em Karens for nothing…
  • Can the financial trail that the original sale opened be accessed again to clear it? Some accountancy systems require vast amounts of data entry to reverse anything – it can be uneconomic to even try. Which leads us to say to the changer…

No. No, you can’t change the goods for other goods. You can’t get your money back. Not if the goods were in good shape when they left the shop, are working correctly,  and are suitable for the purpose for which they were purchased. Those are the only grounds upon which a legal entitlement to repair, change, or refund exist.

They do exist under a state law, as well as a warranty for a certain period of time. But do not try to quote Magna Carta or lines from The Godfather to try to stretch the law to suit yourself.

You bought something in good faith with the ideas that were riding inside your head yesterday, now go use that mind today to make use of what you bought.

As far as threatening to never shop here again…considering your performance regarding returns…make our day…

Experimenting With The Mind

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I work retail. I work in a photographic retailer – a single-store outlet for a vast variety of photographic gear. We handle expensive as well as cheap goods, and our clientele ranges from working professionals to the veriest amateur. We serve in the shop 5 or 6 days a week – 8:30 to 5:30. it is not an easy job, though it might seem so from the outside.

You see we deal with suppliers on one side and customers on the other, with the added contact to the transport industry to add to the confusion. Our business is in competition with two other pro shops and a dozen or more chain stores and camera departments in major retailers. We also face competition with the internet suppliers, both full and part time.

We also deal with each other – our staff relations are, for the most part, good. The management figures occasionally get their orders out of sequence and pursue staff members with three separate commands where one would do, but we forgive them for this as we understand that they are groping their way through the darkness as much as the employees. Outside advisers occasionally appear but this sort of visiting control only lasts a short period of time and can mostly be ignored.

Every day, however, I have to deal with the customers over the counter and over the telephone. I try to succeed, but sometimes fail – I need to study each week to see where improvements can be made. To help me with my customer relations I have tried various experiments:

1. Plain normal behaviour.

Good as far as it goes but in many cases the customer’s desire for cheap goods or cheap thrills means that they play on this to dominate me and to rob the business of the correct price. Gentle people will react to normal treatment in a kindly fashion but there are many wolves out there.

2. Jeeves the butler.

This is an act, but a good one if I need to keep a distance between myself and an opportunistic customer. ” How may I be of assistance, Sir?” is a very good opening, and if I can keep a dignified demeanour throughout the conversation it sometimes smooths the deal. Orientals of an age and a class react well to this if they are in company with another person, as it forms a basis for their own “face”.

3. Brother Stein.

I attended a meeting house while in the sixth grade that was a place of worship for the Society of Friends. They were the silent type, and it was interesting to see what eventuated when they did stand up and speak. Wonderful dinners in the basement of the meeting house, and I will always remember the meatloaf. Oddly enough I encountered the same meatloaf while visiting an Army base so I wonder who learned from whom…

Anyway, there are times when Quaker plain speech and plain dealing are just what is needed. No bargaining – a fair price asked and if they wish the goods they pay it. Addressing them as Friend, and using the plain speech “thee” is sufficiently different in their experience to short circuit the sort of sly bargaining that is so common nowadays.

This approach means that the price has got to be fixed beforehand and must be fair – in some cases I have had to correct the shop price as excessive.

4. Oy oy oy…

The fact that a number of us are Jews is well known. The community sometimes calls in to our shop as first port of call – they can equally do it to one of our rivals. It is quite common to be told that the customer knows the owner. Call me an old cynic, but I have this unholy desire to ask the customer who is sniffing about for a discount if he knows the names of the owner’s children..being such a friend, you see. I suppose there will always be personal friendships and commercial friendships – but I generally don’t like to be a broker between them.

5. Maaaaaaaate…

If I have just met someone I generally refer to them as Sir, or Madam, or Friend ( see above ). I generally do not require their first name until the end of the transaction when the warranty card is filled out. In most cases they do not require mine, unless I choose to give them my business card to assist them to re-call me at a later date. I am not their best mate, nor are they mine – I am a professional assistant in a technical subject. I can get my own buddies.

6. Doctor Stein.

” WHO AM I TALKING TO? ”

Imagine this in a South African accent when I answer the phone by saying ” Good Morning, XXX firm Sales Department. ” It will be a brusque voice, if not downright aggressive. The caller will force the question into my ear and keep on forcing it into me until I bow to their will. They might have had to run away from their former slaves in Johannesburg but they are safe from them here in Perth and there is nothing to stop them from recalling the good old days by shouting at lesser individuals over the phone. Some of us might be coloured and then they’ll have revenge.

Or they might find they are talking to Doctor Stein. Doctor Stein demands THEIR name and writes it down slowly, then repeats it to make sure it is spelled correctly. And he is careful to never get flustered by the angry voice, which may rise to a fever pitch the longer  the conversation goes on. Doctor Stein insists that they refer to him by his title and his name, and always says both their first and second name whenever he speaks to them. Doctor Stein is hard on the nerves – almost makes them long for the old country.

7. It’s me again.

Indeed it is. I saw you coming through the door and everyone else is serving another customer so today I get the duty. Go ahead – start talking. I will be as kind as I possibly can over the next hour until your next thought matures and you lurch out the door. You have been sent by God to remind me that I have received His grace. Mind the road, it gets busy.

Please note that none of the above is intended to take anything away from the customer. Indeed in some cases I am trying to give them a dignity that they otherwise have cast into the gutter. I cope daily with the sly, the aggressive, and the dishonest – I don’t want to be the same as they are. Admittedly there are times when sales are lost but in honesty is preserved. It is a good choice.