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Your Front Line Staff is Selling You Short

I got this story from a fellow toy store owner who took her son to a different toy store and gave me permission to share her experience…

“My son had a doctor appointment yesterday that was really hard for him. I told him that we passed a toy store along the way and if he braved it, we would go there afterwards and pick up ANYTHING HE WANTED. Little sister could get a little something too, if she cheered him on and helped make him feel better.

After lots of tears and pain, I took him to the toy store as I promised. The one staff person working was very nice and greeted us. No other shoppers in the store. We had her full attention. I told her why we were there and what I had promised. Anything son wanted and “a little something” for daughter. When little sister kept bouncing a Crocodile Creek small ball, I suggested to her that maybe that could be her little something. The employee kindly interjected that it’s $9, basically wanting me to know that it’s not cheap. I told her that it was just fine. Then little sister went to a Melissa & Doug watering can and the employee said, “That one is 12.99.” The employee kept asking me and my son what we were looking for as well. The thing is we weren’t looking for anything. What we wanted was a magical/nice experience after a traumatic hard event, which is a very common reason for people to come to a toy store. I dropped 60 bucks but I really wasn’t paying attention to money. I would have spent more but I feel like the employee was trying to save me money. That was nice but not so for the storeowner/business — and it also did a disservice to me, in terms of the experience I wanted to provide my child.”

How often do you think your own front line staff is selling from their own pocket book and making decisions about what a customer may or may not be able to afford?

How often do you think your own front line staff is more interested in getting the transaction over instead of making the trip magical and helping it last forever?

Here are some of the lessons in her own words that my friend is taking away for her own staff…

  1. “Little” means a lot of different things to different customers. When unsure, ask the customer what something little means when they say that.
  2. Customers aren’t always “looking for something”. Switch gears when they say they are not and LISTEN to why they are there.
  3. Get down to the level of the child when caregiver says “anything they want” and start showing them some cool stuff. Interact with them. You know what I wanted for my traumatized son? I wanted that experience like Julia Roberts got in “Pretty Woman” when Richard Gere brought her to the clothing store. I wanted to be able to remind him about that time he got to go to the toy store after the Doctor visit for the next time we have to do something really hard. 
  4. Join the team. “Hooray you did that brave thing. I’m so happy for you.” “Wow did you really conquer that potty?”
Those are some mighty powerful lessons. I know her staff is going to rock it! Thanks, Katherine, for sharing.
-Phil Wrzesinski
PS You need to repeat this over and over and over to your front line people… ALWAYS assume your customer can afford anything she wants, until she tells you otherwise. Show her the Filet Mignon first.


  1. Bob Phibbs says:

    Great story Phil…er..great to illustrate the point. How many owners are looking to "attract customers" but don't recognize their own employees are often dumbing down the experience!

  2. As you know all too well, too many owners spend more emphasis on drawing traffic than on maximizing the sales of the traffic they already have. That's a ton of lost dollars left in the wallets of the people in your store.

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