One of my favorite bloggers, Sweet Nothings, posted a fabulous article a couple of weeks ago entitled “What a Good Fitting Experience Should Be Like,” and in the comments section, she mentioned a retailer with the following sign:
If you are caught scanning, you will be thrown out. Shop local!
While the tone of the sign was curt and off-putting, I appreciate the sentiment and wanted to share my perspective. As a retailer, especially a small one, I feel scanners undermine excellent customer service and enable customers to take advantage of local assistance but buy elsewhere cheaper, often at the expense of the store and owner.
Our business is customer service driven, and we aim to provide the absolute best. Bra fittings are regarded as a nerve-wracking and anxiety-inducing process, and finding a bra that fits properly is vital to a woman’s comfort, self-confidence, and breast health. Regardless of whether they can spend $200 or $20, every woman deserves to find the style which works for them. However, please be considerate of the business, particularly with smaller boutiques. The owners often work most days, sacrificing vacations, a personal life, and more lucrative careers to do something they love. Most of us opened our doors because we sincerely and earnestly wanted to help women, and scanners are a tool which allows customers to take advantage of us and our time. To illustrate, I want to share an experience we had at the shop a few months ago.
Saturdays are usually our busiest days, and I am sometimes torn between three fitting rooms plus a checkout counter. Time is always valuable, but on hectic days, it becomes even more so. On one such day, a woman dropped by for a fitting, and she happened to wear what I call a “magic size.” Magic sizes are ones in which we have the most selection of available styles (15+), and since she had no preferences, I pulled a lot of bras. After trying each one, she wanted my opinion on the fit, asked questions about the style, requested to see accompanying catalogs, and then tested out the bra in the store.
I encourage all of these behaviors in my customers because they leave the shop well-informed about what sizes and styles work best for them and are usually happier with what they purchase. However, the process can be time-consuming, and this customer spent nearly two hours in the shop, often pulling me away from other customers because she wanted my attention. Once we had it narrowed down to the seven bras she liked the best, she whipped out her smart phone—quickly scanning and photographing price tags. In the end, she wanted to wait on all of them.
Budgetary concerns plague all of us during this tough economy, but you can still be considerate of the retailer. We have become conditioned to think of all stores as faceless entities with high markups that turn a profit at the expense of others; however, for many small businesses, there is a person behind the company, and she is no different than you. New businesses need help from their customers if they hope to stay in business, and certain stores, such as bra boutiques, provide something more valuable than their merchandise selection. Their fitters are a great resource to you, and when you buy a bra from them, you’re not just paying for the bra itself but for the fitter’s help and time.
If you plan on scanning prices, be upfront that you cannot purchase today and do not monopolize the fitter’s time. Several of our customers have visited the shop to try on every bra in their size without buying, and we have never had any issues. They asked questions when they weren’t sure and explained what they love, but otherwise, they came prepared to scan the prices and leave. If you feel like you need a lot of help, still be honest about your intentions but come on a day when the fitter will not be pulled between you and other customers. We still want to help you even if you can’t buy because we want you to leave with a positive experience of our shop, and all we ask in return is consideration. After all, you wouldn’t visit a restaurant on a Saturday night, ask the waiter or waitress about every item on the menu, and then leave without ordering.
Should a store ban scanning? I honestly cannot answer this because each retailer needs to identify the policies which work best for her, and thus far, we have only had one customer abuse scanning. However, if we were constantly seeing this type of customer (maybe the store above has), then we would need to address the problem.
When you own a store or business, you are forced to make tough decisions all of the time to stay open, and when you are still in the dangerous phase of development, your business and your sanity lives in a precarious state where the slightest setback could dash your dream. Think about how your behavior impacts someone else and whether, in their position, if you would want to someone to behave that way.
Of course, there’s a lesson for the retailer in this discussion too. Don’t let the policies you set to curtail the behaviors of bad customers alienate good or potential customers. Threatening to have people “thrown out” is abrasive and creates a negative image in the customer’s mind before she even enters the front door. As my parents always told me: Respect is a two way street. If you want customers to respect you, then you should return the favor and be respectful of them.