Free Admission Everyday

We had another one today; typically we have at least four or five of them a week. They come into the store, are very polite, and the conversation generally goes something like this:

Me: Hello, how are you?

She: Great – I’m just looking, thanks.

(I didn’t ask what she was doing).

After a few minutes,

Me: Are there any questions I can answer for you, or anything in particular I can help you find?

She (again): No thank you, I’m really just looking. Thanks.

(OK, I believe you. You really are JUST looking).

I am not an annoying “hovercraft” (that is what I call salespeople that SMOTHER you as you shop, and are always in your face). I like to offer what I describe as “Silent Assistance” – I am available if needed, and remind shoppers once or twice I am, but I never, ever “push” or “crowd” a shopper.

After a few minutes, she politely approaches and says something like this – this speech varies a little from customer to customer, but pretty much sounds a lot like this:

She: Gosh, your store is so fantastic! It is so (insert “colorful, fun, affordable, cool, chic” – any number of adjectives here). Then there is ALWAYS a line like this:

She: There are LOTS of stores like yours in (insert any major cosmopolitan city here – Toronto, NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, DC, Portland, Miami). I wish we had MORE stores like yours here in Cleveland – you are the only one, right?

Me: Yes ma’am, we are an independent retailer, in business since 2007. Thank you for the compliment!

(And then comes the “summation”):

She: Well, your store is GREAT! I hope you do really, really well. I see LOTS of things in here I want. I’ll be back…

Then she turns, says goodbye and leaves without buying one flippin’ thing. Nothing. NADA.

museum-closed-peter-aielloIt is this woman, and other men and women like her, to whom I want to say the following:

Do you know why there are no other stores like ours in Cleveland? Because they couldn’t afford to stay open; they all CLOSED. We are not a museum, with no admission – everything we have is for sale and, while I appreciate your kind words and generous compliments, I’d rather you drop twenty bucks in our store and spare me all the small talk. I cannot pay my electric bill with your compliments, although they are greatly appreciated.

I hate to sound like some hard ass but retail stores, especially small indie stores like ours, need to generate INCOME to survive. I think it is an unfortunate and very prevalent misconception that if you “own your own business,” you are rich.

SO.NOT.TRUE. In fact, SO.NOT.EVEN.CLOSE.TO.BEING.TRUE.

Please – be it my store or any other independent retailer – share compliments when/if appropriate but, if you really LIKE the store, don’t tell us what you are GONNA’ buy, buy something now. Today. Help us stay in business. We’d appreciate it.

Otherwise, when you “come back,” we may not be there…

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