Ladies and gentlemen, today we're going to talk about etiquette. Retail etiquette.
To help you understand the early roots of my interest in this topic, I'd like to start with a song from my childhood. It's by Carol Johnson, a singer who heavily influenced my musical upbringing. I listened to this song from the tape deck of my Chevy Astro van, while my mom drove me to and from gymnastics. And in those formative years, long before the advent of Retail Planning, one song forever altered my perspective on proper in-store behavior. The song was called "Show A Little Care."
(Yes, I still remember the words, twenty years later).
Mrs. Jones hangs up the clothes, in the store where she works each day
Folds and stacks, and straightens the racks, arranging a nice display
But those messy shoppers, they get so sloppy, they leave things in a heap -
And a tangled mess, is all that's left, of the work she did so neat.
Would you do a thing like that? No way!
Would you do a thing like that? No way!
Now who would do a thing like that? No, no, no, not me!
Show a little care for the people out there, who care for you and me.
Oh, that poor, dear Mrs. Jones. My heart went out to her. And as the song clearly stated, I was taught from an early age to not "do a thing like that." I wouldn't be a messy shopper. No way! It was burned in my brain.
But is helping out, really helping out? You be the judge. Test your retail etiquette with this fun quiz.
You're in a clothing store. Sweaters are folded neatly on a table. You start looking for your size. You unfold a medium, then a small. The small looks right, so you decide to take it. Quick: what do you do with the medium?
a) Fold it back up as neatly as you can
b) Leave it unfolded
c) Hide it behind a plant
In this scenario, I tend to go with "a." When I unfold something and decide not to pursue it further, I make my best attempt to recreate the corporate-issued, store-perfect folding protocol. But I fail. I fail every time. I wasn't trained! I don't know the sleeve trick! Try as I might, I simply cannot make the sweater look like all the rest. So am I really helping?
My guess is, I'm not. I feel like the correct answer here is "b." The employees are going to have to re-fold it anyway. Still I wonder, do they appreciate my attempt? Do they come over later and say "Aww, this customer really tried!" Or was my childhood direction misguided? Grounded in an ideal reality that would never come to pass? I want to help Mrs. Jones. I just don't know if I can.
Now you're ready to try on some clothes. A salesperson shows you to a fitting room. You try things on, you shuffle hangers, you toss things in the "yes" pile and the "maybe" pile. You finally decide to buy one thing, and leave the other six. Quick: what do you do with the unwanted items?
a) You hang them up, and bring them around the store, putting them back where they belong
b) You hang them up, and bring them to a reject rack just outside the room
c) You leave with the shirt you are buying. The salesperson can deal with it.*
*It's her job, right?
I face this dilemma on a regular basis, and I must admit, I'm not consistent with my choices. On very rare occasions, when the store and staff are nice, I will actually go with "a," because I actually feel like helping. Typically, though, I'll go with "b" if said rack exists. But if I'm tired, or if the staff aren't around, or if the store's already a mess, I'll just walk out. Sorry, Mrs. Jones. Maybe if your dressing rooms were neater or you were nicer, I'd feel more of an obligation.
Now you're in the grocery store. You pick up a bottle of ketchup, put it in your cart, and continue shopping. Halfway through the store, you remember that you bought ketchup last time, and you totally don't need more. You are now in the paper towel aisle. Quick: what do you do with the ketchup?
a) Bring it back to the ketchup aisle
b) Leave it in your cart
c) Stick it on a shelf next to some Brawny
Come on, people. You know you go with "c." At least, I do.
What if the item had to be refrigerated? Like cheese, or yogurt?
What if you were in Whole Foods?
Basically, I think the question "How polite are your shoppers?" can be easily answered with "Well, how polite are your employees?" Because it's not like I'm univerally kind, or universally careless. I mean, I re-fold sweaters in J. Crew, but I also leave ketchup in Aisle 9. This is partly because the staff at J. Crew give me smiles, and the staff at Jewel give me blank looks. People, respect is a two-way street. I would not hide the ketchup at Whole Foods.
I'd like to think Mrs. Jones is retired by now. Maybe her little boutique lives on, run by her daughter. Or maybe The Gap moved in next door and put her out of business. Either way, I'm glad she showed a little care. If stores would show me a little care, I'd gladly return the favor.