Retailing Faux Pas
By Bill Bittner, President, BWH Consulting
We all have them – those encounters with a sales person that are permanently embedded in our memories. As I was hiking the other day, thinking about the approaching ski season, I recalled one that is a classic…
Several years ago, as a friend and I were coming off Killington Mountain in Vermont, we saw a “Big Ski Sale” sign posted on one of the shops on the main access road. My friend, Cathy, was a very good skier, probably in her early forties at the time, who spent most of her weekends at Killington in a Ski House she shared with several other hardcore skiers. She had been looking for new skis, so we stopped to see what was available.
As we entered the shop, a young salesman approached us. Cathy told him the brand, model, and length of ski she wanted. The salesman took us over to the ski rack and we looked around, but the proper ski was not available.
His reaction was to suggest a substitute with words to the effect, “I think you would like this pair.”
Cathy asked why he thought she might like the substitute and his response (no kidding) was, “It is the kind of ski my mother would like.”
Managing to keep her cool, Cathy asked, “What makes you think I would like the kind of ski your mother would?”
His response: “It must be the pink jump suit you’re wearing.”
Needless to say we didn’t buy anything.
Moderator’s Comment: Share your favorite recollection of an encounter of the strange kind with a retail salesperson. What will it take for retailers
to improve customer service levels in their stores?
I just can’t imagine what this guy was thinking when he made those remarks. Maybe he figured that, because Cathy obviously knew what she was looking for,
the sale was already lost when the skis were not in stock. I hope that was the reason, because otherwise he was just plain stupid.
I don’t know what kind of training they give sales people in the ski shops, but it seems the first thing they should do is determine what type of skier
they are addressing. It is more important to understand how customers perceive themselves than what kind of skier they might be actually.
A few quick questions, like “How often do you ski?” and “What kind of trails do you ski?” would go a long way to help a salesperson make the appropriate
recommendation. They also have to know their product. Only then might they convince a skier to make a switch. –
Bill Bittner – Moderator