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Posts Tagged ‘Sales’

Twelve Shopping Tips From A Mall Insider

In behavior, blogging, books, business, women on November 25, 2011 at 3:54 am
– Say please and thank you to associates and managers. They’re working long hours with fewer breaks and are trying their best.
First 4 digits of a credit card

It's not a license to kill! Image via Wikipedia

– If you can’t find what you need, don’t punish the staff or manager by yelling or being rude. They didn’t choose the store’s inventory nor do they control the amount of goods available.

– If you’re eating and drinking as you shop, please do NOT leave your food and drink bottles or cups on tables, shelves or the floor — where they will spill, make a mess, be dangerous and ruin the merchandise. Ask an associate, nicely, to throw it away for you, which they will (or should) gladly do.

– If an associate helps you, ask their name so you can be sure they are credited with that sale. Each one typically must meet a sales quota per shift; without those sales credits, their managers have less proof they’re productive, (and won’t be inclined to offer them post-holiday jobs.)

– If you don’t see what you want, ask if there’s more in the stockroom — but if the wait is a long one, don’t wander off. During the holidays, the stock room can be pure chaos so even the hardest-working associate can’t help you as fast as they would like.

– When an associate asks you if you want a store credit card, don’t bite their head off. Management insists they do so. It’s not because they want to!

– Don’t assume that an associate is on commission, (most are not) and is trying to sell you something to earn more. Most do have a daily sales goal to meet, and it can reach four figures.

– If an associate tries to sell you more than one item — even if you didn’t ask for it – it’s also because they’re required to by company policy.  Each associate is measured by this standard, called UPTs.

– While you’re shopping, stay hydrated and fed. The more exhausted you, and your kids, are the less pleasant shopping is for everyone. Take breaks! Sit down. Bring a bottle of cold water and some granola bars to keep your energy level up.

PLEASE keep a close eye on your children. Stores are not designed or meant to be a combination of a garbage can and a playground. They’re dirty and full of ways for a child to get hurt, from smashing into a metal pole to grabbing a fistful of dirt while playing peek-a-boo beneath a row of coats. Associates have neither the time nor the energy to play babysitter.

– Don’t assume the store, or associates or managers, have as much access to web-based information, even about their own products, as you do. Even though it’s logical to expect, many retailers are not investing in this.

– When an associate or manager is helping you, on the sales floor or as they are completing your sale at the register, look them in the eye and listen. They need your full attention to make sure they are properly meeting your needs – and the many demands from senior management. If you’re talking on your phone or texting, you’re selfishly slowing business down for everyone else.

Caitlin Kelly is a 27-month veteran of working part-time for The North Face in White Plains, NY and author of “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.”

Read an excerpt at malledthebook.com.

And for those who find the idea of shopping Black Friday horrifying...here’s my op-ed at Reuters.com

Originally published at The Stir at Cafe Mom.

You Can’t Quantify Kindness: Our Statistical Obsession

In behavior, business, domestic life, education, family, Health, journalism, life, Money, women, work on May 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm
Chicago graph clim

Like this....but with feelings! Image via Wikipedia

Great piece in The New York Times by Alina Tugend about our growing — and misguided — obsession with measuring everything in our lives:

Numbers and rankings are everywhere. And I’m not just talking about Twitter followers and Facebook friends. In the journalism world, there’s how many people “like” an article or blog. How many retweeted or e-mailed it? I’ll know, for example, if this column made the “most e-mailed” of the business section. Or of the entire paper. And however briefly, it will matter to me.

Offline, too, we are turning more and more to numbers and rankings. We use standardized test scores to evaluate teachers and students. The polling companies have already begun to tell us who’s up and who’s down in the 2012 presidential election. Companies have credit ratings. We have credit scores.

And although most people acknowledge that there are a million different ways to judge colleges and universities, the annual rankings by U.S. News & World Report of institutions of higher education have gained almost biblical importance.

As the author of a newly released book about working retail I haven’t once (honest!) checked my amazon ranking number.

Seriously, what good can it possibly do?

Will my hips suddenly shrink or my bank balance double? I wish!

My thesis about why retail associates are so horribly paid is linked to this data obsession: you can’t measure kindness!

Think about the very best salesperson you ever met — (or hotel employee or waiter or nurse or teacher).

The EQ — or emotional intelligence — the skills that really left the strongest impression on you, are probably not their technical mastery of that new Mac or their grasp of the essentials of calculus, but how they helped you: with patience, humor, calm, grace.

All of these are essential qualities we simply cannot put on a graph.

And that which we cannot measure, we do not value.

I was in the hospital in March 2007 for three terrifying days, on a IV with pneumonia, from overwork and exhaustion. (Don’t ever get pneumonia — it makes you cough so hard, for hours at a time, you can break a rib.)

I finally begged the nurse to swaddle me tight in a cotton sheet, like an infant, to ease my aching muscles. She never raised an eyebrow at my weird request, but did it at once, with a compassion that I will never forget.

That healing quality of care, invisible, unmeasured and therefore too often undervalued, is not inscribed anywhere in my medical records.

It should be.

“Malled: My Unintentional Career In Retail” — On Sale Today!

In behavior, blogging, books, business, entertainment, journalism, life, Media, Money, women, work on April 14, 2011 at 11:06 am

Finally!

My new memoir, which tells the story of retail work in America, is out today from Portfolio. It’s been getting terrific reviews — Entertainment Weekly calls it “an excellent memoir” and Herb Schaffner, a columnist for Bnet compares it to the best-seller “Nickeled and Dimed”, calling Malled “reality journalism at its best.”

I’m thrilled by the reception it’s gotten, with interviews and reviews, so far, from USA Today, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, the Associated Press and Marie-Claire. I’ll be a guest on NPR’s Diane Rehm show, with two million listeners, on April 19; on Marketplace and on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show on April 20.

I’ve also been invited to write a guest post for the Harvard Business Review blog.

My goal in writing this book is to make retail work — and the 15 million employees who make their living doing it — better understood. We all shop! The American economy, even in a recession, relies heavily on consumer spending, but we rarely talk frankly about what that demands of those workers, many of them part-time, with no benefits, earning low wages with little chance for raises or promotions.

I worked as an associate in a suburban New York mall, with some very wealthy customers, from September 2007 to December 2009, so this is also a portrait of the deepening recession and other workers who are taking low-wage work to make ends meet. I interviewed many others, from Costco CFO Richard Galanti to consultant Paco Underhill to best-selling author and owner of five elegant clothing stores, Jack Mitchell.

Like me, like this blog, “Malled” pulls no punches. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes dark, always honest.

And, yes, there’s plenty of outrage!

Wal-Mart has so far spent $2 million fighting an OSHA order and $7,000 fine to make their stores safer during sales  — after an associate in their Long Island store was killed when shoppers stampeded over his body.

Is this really what we want for our low-wage workers?

The sad thing is that such treatment is considered normal. In 1892, F.W. Woolworth disdained the notion of paying his workers a living wage — his business model, discount goods, simply didn’t allow for it.

I hope you’ll check it out at malledthebook.com, where you can read the introduction and Chapter One free.

You’ll also find there a listing of my many upcoming readings and events, most in and around New York City and some in Toronto; I’m talking at 10:00 a.m. on May 28 on the downtown campus of my alma mater, The University of Toronto.

The book also has a Facebook fan page; I hope you’ll “like” it and spread the word! If you enjoy “Malled”, I’d love it if you’d write a review at amazon.com

And here’s a funny/spot-on flow chart on what it takes to get a book published…

We Work, Not Just For Cash, But Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, Argues Daniel Pink's New Book

In behavior, business on January 8, 2010 at 9:40 am
Paper money, extreme macro

Image by kevindooley via Flickr

If you’re lucky enough to have a job, or paid work, in this recession — do you enjoy it? Do you jump out of bed each day eager to get to it?

Or is it a means to an end: gas, groceries, clothing, housing?

Daniel Pink’s new book “Drive” has received rapturous reviews. It’s interesting, and largely re-caps and makes more widely accessible the thinking of many academics working on issues of behavior and motivation.

He posits three reasons we really work: autonomy, mastery, purpose. Without these, work is just…drudgery. He offers a number of studies to prove that offering more money or other rewards can actually de-motivate people. We work really hard, if we’re in a job or career that fits us well, if we find these three elements in our work, whether we’re bussing tables or arguing case law.

I wonder how much each of these three matters, or matters most. I worked part-time as a retail sales associate at a clothing store for more than two years, which surprised most people who know me. Wouldn’t I be bored? Hate the lack of power and money?

In fact, the first two factors made the job, initially, appealing. Our boss was hands-off and let us do our jobs as long as we did them well. That mattered a great deal to me. I had never done a job like that and, whether it looks it, selling is difficult! It demands a wide range of skills, even for crap pay. I really enjoyed the challenge of learning and practicing a new skill set.

It was door number three that never worked well for me — purpose. It’s instant gratification to have someone walk up to you, ask for help, give it, make them happy. That’s purpose. But, in the long run, pushing costly nylon didn’t resonate for me in any deeper way. It made a lot of profit for a big corporation far away. Yes, it employs people, here and overseas. It still wasn’t enough for me.

I think this ideal is…idealistic. Many jobs are just plain, hard, boring, repetitive work with almost no way to sex them up into something cool, where AMP show up on a regular basis. So, is his argument an elitist one? Aimed only at people who live to work, instead of those who, more practically if less amusingly, work to live?

In your daily work, do these qualities matter to you? How and where do they manifest?

When Working Retail Resembles Hell

In business on November 30, 2009 at 6:42 pm
Jabba the Hutt

Image via Wikipedia

I left early today. I might even get fired.

This is what today’s Customer From Hell looked and sounded liked as she railed and shrieked at me. This, after I asked her, politely and calmly (and according to company protocol) that deeply provocative question — “What is your zip code?” Yeah. That’s exactly why she decided to start shouting at me: “Don’t you file your taxes? Don’t you know your own zip code?”

Well, hon, I actually don’t live in the store.

If someone decides to start shouting at you at the top of their lungs, would you just stand there and take it? “You’re being hostile,” she screamed. “You’re upsetting me.” Funny thing, I told her, so are you. Then I walked across the room to escape her special brand of insanity.

Freeman Hall’s new book, aptly titled “Retail Hell”, describes his time in the trenches as a sales associate for a major department store. He lasted 15 years. I simply cannot imagine how.

I'm Working Retail Black Friday — Here's Some Shopping Tips

In business on November 24, 2009 at 7:52 am
Facade of Shoppers' Center The Gateway

Image via Wikipedia

Last year, a stampede of crazy people killed a sales associate working on Long Island on Black Friday. This year, fractured foot and all, I’ll be safely stashed behind a heavy, fixed metal sales counter working the register at The North Face, in a fancy White Plains mall called The Westchester. Come say hi!

If you’re heading out this week on a mission, a few things to keep in mind:

1. Pre-shop on-line or using our catalogue first, if possible, to determine the name, size, color and prices on items you want to find fast within a busy and crowded bricks-and-mortar store. If you wander in, as many do, asking for “that jacket, the one with the belt”, we  can’t do much for you. The more detail you can offer, the more quickly and easily we can help.

2. Build in plenty of extra time for finding a parking spot and/or standing in line to pay. Please don’t roll your eyes or sigh or curse or threaten to call corporate if things don’t run perfectly smoothly. We’re dancing as fast as we can.

3. Please, please, please bundle your requests: if you want to see something in black, brown and blue, or two different sizes, ask us once. We’d rather bring them all at once than run and schlep to the stockroom over and over. It’s only once for you, but it’s dozens of times in our long day.

4. Don’t throw tantrums over items we don’t have, whether gift boxes or a certain object you crave. Almost every retailer this year is hedging their bets with much smaller, tighter inventories.

5. Eat, drink, pee. Bring water, energy bars, aspirin, Pepto-Bismol — whatever it takes to keep you relaxed and comfortable. Stay hydrated. Take breaks and sit down. It will significantly improve your stamina and your mood. Ditto for anyone shopping with you.

6. Don’t freak out or take it personally if we’re watching you more closely. Shoplifters love Black Friday and holiday shopping — lots of crowds and, ideally for them, distracted associates. We have to keep a close eye on everyone. It’s our job.

7. Say thank you and please to the people trying to help you. Really. We know you don’t have to, but it makes the day a lot easier and so much more pleasant for everyone.

8. If at all possible, leave the kids at home, especially smaller ones who get bored, noisy and run all over the store, worrying us, if not you.

9. The store is actually not a garbage can. It’s not like going to the movies, no matter how entertaining — so do not dump your half-eaten pretzels and cookies on the floor or your loose-lidded soda cups filled with sticky fluids high on a shelf where someone is going to knock it all over the clothing/items.

10. If you are truly getting nowhere with an associate ask, nicely, to speak to the manager. Don’t abuse the help. In most instances, no matter how bad it can get, many of us are really trying our best to help you.

11. Get off your cellphone/Blackberry while we’re cashing you out or speaking to you. It’s rude, slows everyone down and makes it difficult for us to communicate with you in order to accurately and quickly fill your needs.

12. Have fun! Shopping can indeed be an exhausting and overwhelming ordeal. Remember it’s a great blessing if you still have the health, strength, mobility and income to even head into a store these days.

Women Want More — New Global Survey/Book Finds Many Marketers Clueless

In business, women on November 3, 2009 at 7:46 am
The Proposition or Man Offering a Woman Money

Honey, what can I get you? Image via Wikipedia

There is upheaval in the workplace, radical change in the marketplace and a struggle for influence in govermment and society as a whole. It is a revolution of, by and for women — driven by a desire for more: for ongoing education, better ways to nurture themselves and their families, increased success as executives and entrepreneurs, higher earnings and better ways to manage and leverage their accumulated wealth.

So begins a fascinating new book, “Women Want More: How to Capture Your Share of the World’s Largest, Fastest-Growing Market” by Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, of the Boston Consulting Group.

It is a revolution of dissatisfaction in which women are using their checkbooks to vote no on large sectors of the economy, including financial services, consumer electronics, consumer durables and healthcare…Too many companies continue to make poorly conceived products, offer services that take up way too much of women’s precious time and serve up outdated marketing narratives that portray women as stereotypes.

According to the authors, women control $20 trillion of consumer spending — likely to climb to $28 trillion in the next few years. Yet only a very few companies, some familiar to Americans like Gerber and Banana Republic, really get women, they argue. These companies, they say, follow the four R’s:

They recognize the value of women consumers and research their needs, studying carefully how their product or service is consumed. Whatever feedback they get, they respond, and refine their offerings.

The worst offenders, (not surprisingly to any woman who’s ever used them) in order:

Investments, cars, banking, life insurance, physicians, car insurance, work clothes, hospitals, personal computers and lodging. I can certainly vouch personally for the first two categories. In both instances, ready to hand over significant sums of hard-won, carefully-saved cash, I was treated like a very slow three-year-old, in both instances by male salesmen. The first, trying to sell me investment products, I blew off. The second, a car salesman who started explaining the car’s features to my boyfriend instead of me, didn’t deter me from buying the vehicle, but, really, what a moron. I enjoyed watching his reaction when I paid cash.

Like men, women work hard for their money. Unlike some men, though — often also juggling what sociologist Arlie Hochschild called “the second shift” of childcare, eldercare and/or housework — they face severely limited time and energy.

As a consequence, they’re short of patience and hungry for understanding and respect  for these severe limits on their energies; anyone hoping to part them from their cash needs to get it. But they don’t. Seems pretty basic to me, but apparently few businesses still  understand these essential drivers of female consumption — or resistance to the most seductive and costly of advertising or marketing campaigns — whether in Calcutta, Beijing or Orlando.

I went to Home Depot last weekend, dreading the whole thing. I wanted to get in and out, fast. A lively, fun, super-competent sales associate named Marilyn, a woman my age, sped me through the aisles within minutes, helping me locate and buy hardware, light bulbs, lumber, a saw, hinges. I was delighted. I was also stunned. When was the last time anyone gave you such efficient, knowledgeable and friendly service?

This book, which isn’t a quick read but packed with interesting data for anyone interested in how and where women around the world spend their money,  is based on a survey of 12,000 women in more than 40 geographic areas, who were willing to answer a staggering 120 questions. Women everywhere told the researchers they’re overwhelmed, tired and worried about money; managing household finances was the top challenge for 48 percent of respondents, and not enough time, said 45 percent.

Time is the most important lever that suppliers can use to win women over to their products and services. If they can reduce the time it takes to buy or use a product — while still delivering the other necessary benefits — they can change from being an inflicter of pain and frustration to being a provider of leverage and convenience.

What makes women extremely happy? Pets — 42 percent. Sex — 27 percent. Food — 19 percent.

Check out the survey here.

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