Monday, March 4, 2013

Customer Service, Flea Markets, And You.

Love going to my local antique flea market. It’s once a month, opens later than other flea markets (8 AM!), and you can go through it in about an hour, depending on how many vendors are there. My eyes get a workout as I take in the sights; my brain processes all I see and weigh the odds of purchase on the “want-o-meter”.

My phone, in my right hand, swings upward occasionally when a vendor isn’t looking to sneak a photo of something interesting. If they’re sitting in a chair staring at me, I’ll ask if I can take a pic while pretending I’m very interested (sometimes, I am!).

When shopping at a flea market, “need” is usually not an overwhelming factor when considering a buy. It’s more of a “ooh I like that” or “hey, I had one of those when I was a kid”.

How much does customer service play a role in a purchase?

For me, a lot! I remember shopping in a mall many years ago in December when I was about twenty years old, wearing worn out jeans and overall looking a bit tattered while hiding a thick wad of bills in my pocket, ready to spend. A makeshift holiday store was offering nifty Lucite paperweights with carvings in them. 

The snooty folks working there made me feel smaller than a pea. Though hurting from their attitude, I wanted that paperweight as a gift to a certain someone, so I plunked down my hard earned $40 (just under $150 in buying power today).

Nowadays, I don’t put up with that sort of behavior and I’ll turn around and walk away, no matter how much I want that item.

Recently at the flea market I spied a box filled with Life Magazines from the Sixties. I love old ads; they tell the story of how we lived and what the product, style and color trends were; many of those trends come back! The box clearly said on it in large letters “Mags 50 cents”. I decided to swing back later.

Returning to the magazines I inquired “How much for the box?” The response was “I just sold 3 for 10 dollars.” Then she walked around to them and started counting the magazines.  She said “There’s about 32 of them in here.” I said “It says 50 cents” on the box. “That’s wrong” she quickly replied and added “I sold 3 for 10 dollars. That’s just a box.” 

I then said “It says mags on it.” She restated “That’s just a box.” Then she said “25 dollars.” I said “22”. She said “25. I sold 3 for 10 dollars.” During this conversation I also injected a prime benefit to her: She wouldn’t have to lug a heavy pile of magazines back home.  And then I realized she wasn't going to play fair.

“You know, never mind; that’s okay.” I slowly walked away. She made no attempt to counter my offer. 

What happened here?
  • Lack of concern for the potential buyer. Her surly attitude indicated that she didn’t care whether or not she was going to make a sale. Excuse me for making her get out of the chair!
  • Stubbornness. My offer was fair. Her air of “putting one’s foot down” rubbed off on me and I was annoyed.
  • Improper signage. Technically, based on the price on the box, I should have carried those magazines away for $16. She should have honored the price and if it indeed was incorrect, take away the learning of what NOT to do the next time.
And while this is a flea market situation, it could easily apply to a small business. Customer service can indeed make or break a sale. While being nice and working with the customer to arrive at something they both feel fair about is an obvious action, “yeah, yeah, I know”, why are there so many sellers not doing it?

Where does customer service fit in for you when making a purchase? We promise to treat you real nice at our website, or on TwitterFacebook, or Google+


Shannon Grissom said...

I can have a problem with a purchase but if it's handled well, I'll return. Great customer service is really important to me. Great post Gerry.

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