Monday, July 23, 2007

Retail Reflections

I had a few opportunities to be the customer this weekend, and I had three very different encounters that left me with impressions of the establishments I was frequenting...

Saturday Morning
I popped into my local bookstore to pick up our copy of Harry Potter - my ten-year old made SURE we were there when the store opened at 8am! Not too hard to do, since the store is only one house away. We practically rolled into the store in our jammies.

Yay! Harry Potter!

While there, I ran into my neighbor across the street. Just 2 days before, she mentioned that the store gave a "Good Neighbor" discount. How cool is that, right? They HAVE been good neighbors to everyone, so this just furthered that warm-fuzzy feeling of supporting the local INDEPENDENT bookstore. That's why I bought Harry Potter there for about 30 bucks instead of at Costco for about 18 bucks.

So after making sure no other customers except my neighbor was in earshot (what retailer likes to have others hear that you are offering a discount that others might not be able to take advantage of?), I asked the guy behind the counter, who happens to be the manager, if we could sign up for the good neighbor discount.

"NO!" We all jumped.

He then said in what I felt was a very terse tone that they only did that for those directly affected by traffic that their store may have caused. I started to say that we were only a door away, on this side of the street ... he was shaking his head NO, and we were basically cut off at the knee for even asking.

We quickly left, and my neighbor was apologizing, etc.

I believe there are skillful ways of saying NO, and he really dropped the ball. It left us all with a bad feeling, my neighbor felt guilty and I felt like he didn't even care to know that I am a good neighbor to his business.

How did this leave me feeling about the business? Immediately I started to think of all the times that I HAVE been affected by their traffic!

If he had simply said "Gosh, I'm sorry, we no longer offer that discount" or something to that effect, it would have been a totally different experience. Instead I felt embarrassed and pissed at being treated like that. Will I go back? Yes, of course. Will I try to engage him? No, I won't.

A great illustration for us here at Daly's.

Saturday Afternoon
Popped into the local Starbuck's to look for a new tea thermos. Found one that met my needs, and went up to the counter to buy it. It's been a few years, but I remembered that I used to get a free drink when I bought a thermos or mug... That wasn't offered, and when I ordered a tea to be put in the mug, I was rung up for the thermos and the tea.

Not a bid deal, especially considering my drinks costs something like $1.50 or thereabouts... But still, I left bemused and wondering... And after the morning experience I had, I wasn't about to ask for anything special again!

Resultant thoughts: Felt let-down that I didn't get my special treat. Next thought was "Oh well, they are so big, who cares?" Next thought after that was, "Why even worry about a single little drink, I don't mind paying for it..." So why was I feeling a little let-down? Because it was there as a policy and now it's gone. More sad for Starbuck's than for me.

Sunday Afternoon
While shopping at Costco, I overheard an employee complaining to another shopper about how AWFUL this woman and her daughter were in the clothes area. They made messes, didn't treat the folded clothes with any respect; not even when the Costco employee was right there, refolding their mess.

My reaction: I didn't want to hear about her problems! In fact, I wheeled away from her table, so make sure I wasn't going to be engaged in her drama.

I think it's because when you are being the customer, it's all about your own personal experience, not the staffs. It doesn't matter if it's the small business down the street or the large behemoth where cost is the name of the game. It is STILL about the customer's experience.