Earth Minus Jeans Equals Slacks ( the 4th silly bit )
One of the really rewarding aspects of working with the general public is that you never stop learning. You never stop learning how utterly wrong they are about everything ninety-five per cent of the time. However, they are only a pain in the backside ninety-four per cent of the time.
Not all of them of course. Apart from the obvious fact that your company relies on them, some become regular customers whom you build quite a rapport with. But there are others where you find yourself wishing things upon them that you wouldn't even have wished upon Benito Mussolini.
These are usually the ones who behave like Benito Mussolini.
Above all, it is important to remember the old saying " The customer is always right. "
And don't they just bloody well know it.
You will have to get used to the fact that occasionally, people misread the slogan on your clip-on badge. You may think it says " Hello, my name is Vladimir, I am here to help, advise and generally be your fashion guru for the next fifteen minutes ". ( Yes, some of these badges are quite cumbersome ), but sometimes it seems to translate to the customer as " Hello, my name is Vladimir and I am the business your dog did on the driveway this morning that you didn't notice and planted your expensive shoe straight in the middle of. "
There's a case for having this kind of message printed on your badge in the first place. Instead of waiting for the customer to say something to make themselves feel superior, you can save them the time and effort by doing it yourself from the outset.
The initial approach is everything in fashion sales. Get it right and you'll be loading the bags into their car for them. Get it wrong and you'll be writhing on the floor clutching your nose and whimpering " What did I say? What did I say? "
The problem is that you can ask the same question, but there can be many different outcomes depending on how you word it.
Here are some examples and their possible outcomes.
One - " Can I help you? "
This is widely regarded in the profession as a no-no, and yet it is still the most widely used. Why? Because sometimes you don't even realise you're saying it.
Sometimes this phrase possesses you like an evil spirit. " Can I help you? " could be your first step on the slippery slide to begging, particularly if you are on commission.
" Can I help you? "
" No. "
" ....oh.... " You walk off. Then you go back. " Please can I help you? "
" No, you can't. "
" Pleeease. "
" No. "
" Please-please-please-please- "
" I said no! "
" Pretty-pretty please. "
" No. "
" I've got five hungry children to feed you know... "
Sniff. " Your problem mate, not mine. "
" If they starve because you won't even let me sell you a three-pack of socks, could you live with yourself? "
" Aw I should think so, now let go of my trouser leg please. "
Eventually you pull yourself together and scamper after someone else with your tongue almost cleaning the floor.
" Can I help- "
" Piss off Vlad, I'm your manager. "
It's either a scenario like the above, or worse still some friendly old dear completely misconstrues " can I help you? " and before you know it you're mowing her lawn once a week and feeding her cat when she's away with the WI learning how to make plum jam.
Two - " Are you okay there? "
Again, this is generally frowned upon in the profession because it's a bit of a vague question. Rather like the old dear misunderstanding " can I help you? ", somebody who is already at a slightly unstable mental disposition can easily take this question as an invitation to give you a two hour sitting of their life story, at the end of which they reach the conclusion that " No, they are not okay. "
A revelation that seems to lift a huge weight from their shoulders, which is also a relief to yourself because personally, you couldn't give two tics on a dog's arse about it.
With that, they thank you for your time and walk off with a cheery wave. You're so delighted to see them finally go that you've completely forgotten you were meant to sell them something.
Golden Rule Number 4 - Never go up to a customer and say " Do you need help? " We shouldn't even have to explain this one any further. What would you take it to mean if somebody said it to you?
Nor should there be any need to spell out what might happen to you if you say it to a fifteen stone, tattooed bruiser with biceps the size of Belgium who's already in a bit of a touchy mood.
This is unless you were thinking of having some cosmetic surgery done anyway, in which case we take it all back, please disregard this paragraph completely.
Three - " Hello, what size or style are you looking for? "
Yes, this is the standard open-ended question that the profession tends to encourage. A far better approach ' that gets you results. '
Or is it?
The problem with this is that it's a can of worms. By asking a question about specific requirements or measurements, you are giving the customer the green light to display his/her extensive knowledge of various styles on offer.... which is zero.
" Yes, what I'm after is a pair of Jeans that's tight around the thighs but looser around the ankles. "
" No problem sir, so you want a flare-cut or a boot-cut...."
" No no, I want a tapered cut. "
" Well, a tapered cut is looser around the thighs and actually narrows in around the ankles sir. "
" Oh... does it? Oh well I'll have one of those then. "
" Right you are sir. "
" Yes, but remember it must be tight around the thighs and looser around the ankles. "
" Err... "
There you are, see what you've gone and done now. You've managed to un-earth fashion retail's most common phenomena. The customer who knows exactly what he wants, but doesn't know what it is.
And then there's the old chestnut - Waist size. It really does not pay to get tangled up in a polite debate about what size they need. Just act on the premise that they know best, and somehow you'll get through it. You see, the much used cliche about the customer always being right rides tandem with the less well known saying, " The tape measure is always wrong. "
" Yeah, I need these in a thirty-six waist. "
You pull out the thirty-six waist, and the customer tries them on, returning a couple of minutes later to tell you, " Nah, these aren't a thirty-six mate, they're too small. " At which point you offer him a thirty-eight, tactfully informing him that it must be a small thirty-six, maybe the thirty-eight will measure up as a thirty-six.
He shakes his head. " I don't want a thirty-eight, I'm a thirty-six. "
Okay, you think to yourself, so he can't grasp that brain-meltingly simple concept. So it's time to humour him by checking the thirty-six he tried on with your trusty measuring tape. The measure confirms to you what you'd already suspected about forty thousand years ago.
" Er, well actually sir, these do measure up as a thirty-six inch waist. " As a final clincher, you show him the evidence.
" Nah, they're not. " He shakes his head again stubbornly.
" Um, well... according to this tape measure... "
" Nah, the tape measure must be wrong. "
You laugh politely before looking up at him and realising that he's totally serious.
Not much you can say to that really.
Well... there is.
You could say " Listen pal, what part of this don't you understand! These are a thirty-six inch waist - you tried them on and they were too small - you must be a thirty-eight waist - you must have put on weight - you are fatter than you think you are or want to believe you are - if you want a thirty-six waist that fits you, lay off the chips and get some exercise YOU FAT BLUBBERY PIG! "
And then re-acquaint yourself with the Job Centre.
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