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Bad Customer Service is the New Black

When did ignoring customers become chic?  Is bad customer service a fashion statement?  I must have been absent during those lessons during college marketing classes.

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I stepped into the store with a mystery shopper’s eye and noted three employees and one customer, all of who were gathered at the cash register.  No one acknowledged my presence… it must have been a very complicated transaction!

As I browsed through the racks I kept thinking that someone would eventually walk over and ask if I needed help.  I looked around and although the customer was gone, the employees were still at the cash wrap, chatting amongst themselves as if they had no clue I was in the room.  I slowly made my way to the back of the store, looking at them from time to time, giving them chances to at least smile or say hello.  It never happened and I left the store in a huff.  I’m not used to being invisible.

images-2Could I have been profiled?  I was wearing jeans (albeit designer,) a “blingy” Harley Davidson t-shirt and sequined flip flops.  Hmmmm.  I was taught to never judge a book by its cover but had these young salespeople learned the same lesson?  Thus a hypothesis was born:  Is the level of customer service directly proportional to the image portrayed by the shopper?  I decided to put my theory to the test.

The following week I returned to the same store, this time armed with high-end clothing and accessories.  My clothing: designed by Michael Kors, shoes: Manalo Blahnik, and my handbag: Prada.  Oh, and the sunglasses were heavily blinged Dulce & Gabbana.  Impeccable hair and make-up completed the ensemble.  I pulled open the door and smiled, full expecting the royal treatment.  Was I in for a surprise!

images-12Once again, the store was empty of customers.  Two employees were working, one male and one female, and they were moving clothing from one rack to another.  I looked at them, they looked at me, and not a word was said.  No wave, no head nod, they didn’t even smile.  Just went back to what they were doing.

I worked my way through the store as I had done before, pulling items off the rack and showing interest.  I was not approached at all.  Had I been asked if I wanted to try something on, I would have done so.  When I found an outfit I liked but my size was not there, I would have asked if there was one in the stockroom.  However, it is not my job to walk through the store and track down a salesperson.  It is their job to see that the needs of the customer are met.  Had an interest been shown in me as a customer, I would have whipped out my Prada wallet and made a significant purchase that day.  Instead, I walked out without ever having spoken to anyone.

My theory was crushed.  It didn’t matter how I presented myself, the employees of this store were not interested in helping customers or building a rapport that could translate to many future sales.  And don’t think I kept this information to myself… I told numerous friends and associates of my experiences with this company.  Undoubtedly they will think twice before shopping there.

Bad customer service is not the new “It” of retail.  It’s just plain stupid.  The days of snobbish, nonchalant clerks are long since over.  Is it no wonder the store was empty of customers?