On the way home from the Gift and Home Trade Association conference in New Orleans, I was looking for a magazine in the airport and discovered an article in Reader’s Digest by Michelle Crouch called ‘13 Things Your Salesclerk Won’t Tell You.’  Now chances are good that like me, you are a salesclerk, at least part of the time, so I doubt that many of her points (some of which are rather whiny) will come as news to you. But I do think it’s useful to know what the media is telling consumers about us. 

I should warn you that not all of the information is accurate (where did she get the idea that markup on greeting cards is 200%??). And the fact that consumers are less willing than ever to pay full price is not exactly news — but there are a few good points.

My favorite is Crouch saying that a salesclerk will always ask an open-ended question such as “What can I help you find today?” instead of a yes or no question such as “Can I help you?”.  If only that were true!  I think I’m going to include that as a reminder in my employee newsletter.

I also like the fact that she points out to consumers that retail stores are not garage sales, and that we can’t give customers a lower price just because they try to haggle.  She also encourages customers to call ahead if they need extra attention so that the store can arrange to help them.

Another good point she makes is letting customers know that sales associates do a lot more than just sell — they restock, neaten, clean the bathroom and answer the phone.  It would be nice if we got respect (to say nothing of admiration!) for all we do to make customers’ shopping experience positive.

The Reader’s Digest article is taken in part from a blog called Blame the Clerk, and if you need to feel good about our part of the national economy, take a look at the poster from the 1940s that was posted on October 28.  It shows the supply chain — starting with agriculture, fishery, forestry and mines — going to ships, factories, railroads, wholesalers and truckers and finally down to the sales clerk.  “All depends on the retail sale” is the headline. Amen to that!

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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