Saturday, November 17, 2007

Spend money here.

As a retailer myself, I tend to pay closer attention than the average shopper when visiting area merchants. I see displays, prices, and traffic flow patterns that the normal Saturday afternoon shopper tends to disregard as insignificant. These shoppers find varying aspects of the shopping experience important, but I think we can all agree that the (dreaded?) interaction with the sales staffer offers the most unique aspect of the trip. I invite you to accompany me back in time and relive these three recent shopping experiences.

Trip #1: Best Buy

Perhaps the greatest non-drug store retailer ever, just opened up a brand new store directly across the street from the old townhouse. Having watched the bulldozers clear the forest, the cement trucks lay the foundation, and the lights go on, I was eager to step foot in the new Best Buy. This past Friday it had its grand opening at 10am, and I was inside by 10:05am.

Clearly, the sales team had been instructed to be on their best behavior. Every blue shirt was smiling and happy. The whole team wanted to introduce themselves with a handshake and name presentation. I could care less about Dave in computers, and I took to his inviting me over for dinner as unnecessary (didn't really happen). I was grabbed by no fewer than 5 employees, which while fine and dandy in the customer service department also facilitated the spread of millions of germs after each hand touchage.

Having finally broken away from the pack, I settled into the CD section browsing titles, delightfully finding that the new Goo Goo Dolls greatest hits album includes a reworked version of "Name." Out of nowhere, another blue shirt spots me, and before I knew it, I was making the acquaintance of Christina.

Christina looked incredibly timid. Perhaps it was my physically intimidating presence or perhaps her first 15 minutes of work ever were a little overwhelming. I foolishly felt pity for Christina as she tried some irrelevant small talk. 10 minutes later, I knew that she was a student at St. Thomas, had trained for 5 weeks at other stores for this position, and had a six year old sister (this time, all of this is true). Furthermore, she was so nervous for the opening that she told her boss that she likened it to a first date with butterflies in her stomach. I can't say that I've ever equating Walgreens to dating, but to each their own.

Regardless, I did feel as if I should do my best to be a "good customer" to keep her at ease as after a couple steps backwards, realized I shouldn't just give Christina the brush. She took the opportunity to turn the conversation toward cell phones. I told her that I hated cell phones with a passion and that I only carried one for necessity's sake. Christina promptly counter balanced the universe by professing her undying love for the cell phone, using it to find McDonalds when hungry and wishing she could use it for blow drying her hair if it were only possible. If only.

Before I knew it I was seeing if I qualified for a free cell phone upgrade. I didn't need one or want one, but checking to see if I could get one seemed to be the best conclusion to the whole interaction as Christina could type me through the system as her first ever customer, and the ensuing natural closure would provide me an escape route. Naturally, I did not qualify for the upgrade for a variety of reasons not the least of which being that Verizon and I are mortal enemies who will day fight to the death. Christina, while disappointed, was not thwarted. Those five weeks of training kicked in, and she asked if she could call me when I became available for the upgrade. However, she asked this in such a leading way where the question might as well have been, "Do you think starving, malnourished babies should be saved from the jaws of anguishing, painful death?" To which, I profoundly answered, "Sure."

Christina thanked me for my time, no doubt with the self esteem boost that came with roping in her first ever customer. She assured me that she would call me when it was cell phone upgrade time. When my phone rings with a mysterious number in November 2008, I will once again converse with Christina, and we shall chat about who knows what.

Trip #2: Coach

Becky and I decided to eat at The Macaroni Grill at a local mall. I happen to like this arrangement as there is always a wait, and the mall provides obvious distraction during this down time. Becky loves it because it's an excuse to walk through the world's most over-priced collection of handbags with gaudy "C" logos all over them.

As such, we walked down the stairs and into the Coach store. Coach tends to have about a 2:1 ratio of employees to people actually shopping in the store. I'm fairly confident that the moment someone crosses the threshold into the store, the eight of them play rock, paper, scissors to see who gets to make contact.

Today's winner was Marissa. Marissa kindly inquired if there was anything she could help us find. Becky dropping as much of a hint for me as Marissa, replied, "We're just browsing for ideas."

Marissa offered this gem, "Oh! I know! There's like a million things in here to shop for!"

With a giggle, Marissa vanished, as did 100 of my brain cells. Er, like a million brain cells.

An unidentified employee approached Becky and I approximately 90 seconds later (the maximum amount of time one can shop in Coach without employee interaction) on the other side of the store. Again, Becky declined assistance. This time, the employee decided to interact with me (it must be my always friendly demeanor) when she said, "Well, if there's anything I can do, just let me know. And fortunately, we do have very comfortable sofas!" To which she vaguely pointed at a seating arrangement before prancing back to the desk.

Indeed, I'm sure there are comfortable sofas, but being a well versed shopping companion, know that my opinion is critical on a slew of items that will never be purchased but need confirmation of their cuteness. Sitting down merely delays the process, potentially costing us our place in the Macaroni Grill line. Affirming the aforementioned cuteness of no fewer than six Coach items, we concluded our visit and were sent off with a wave and a good night from Marissa, the unidentified Coach employee, and the legion waiting to serve us behind the desk.

Trip #3: Macaroni Grill

Here we meet Garry, yes spelled with two R's. I know this because he did my favorite thing at any restaurant (outside of bringing the food) when he did that thing where the Macaroni Grill wait staff write their names upside down. Tremendous talent. I couldn't do it and am always fascinated how they manage to do this while carrying six hot plates on a tray with their other hand. I increase my tip for such marvels.

Now Garry I really liked. Why you ask? What sets him apart from Christina and Marissa? Simply: I have no stories. The man efficiently brought us our food and check without pointless conversation. It, much like the name writing, was fantastic. I like Garry.

Photo from Customers Rock!


dani said...

Remind me to write my name upside down at Christmas. Perhaps you'll go get up and grab me that extra cookie as a tip.

JR said...

Did you and Christina fall in love? And does she know Karl with a K from the local Best Buy? The one who wanted to melt my laptop?

lonewolf said...

Perhaps we should invite Christina and Karl with a K to a Best Buy social gathering where they can fall in love and make weird customer service crazy babies. I'm going to talk to Christina again in 12 months, if only you can get a hold of Karl in that time.