I’ve been settling into my new home. I don’t like moving. One thing I don’t like is the reorganizing of everything, such as my new office where I sit and write this blog. I’ve told you many times about my distaste for filing. One other thing I don’t like is the constant trips to the store to find replacements for items lost in the move, tossed before the move, or simply new items that work better in the new space. I’ve been to several hardware stores in town several times.
Yesterday I wanted to buy a mat to put down under my desk chair. My old office had low-pile carpet that my desk chair moved over easily. This office has a thicker pile. The chair doesn’t roll as easily. This office is also smaller. I am able to reach almost everything with just a few inches of movement in the chair. While handy, that can be frustrating when the chair doesn’t roll. So I went into OfficeMax for a plastic mat to put under my chair. What happened is a lesson we all can learn.
Not knowing exactly where to go, and being a guy (unwilling to ask for help), I headed toward the back of the furniture section. There was a box floor display of rolled up office floor mats—exactly what I thought I wanted. There was no price on the box. No price on the item. No price on a stand nearby. Just two mats rolled up in a displayer that previously held six. I grabbed one to take up front to check the price. (I had in my mind a Perceived Worth of $30-$40.)
On my way up front through the furniture section I came across another box floor display. This one had a different style of mat. No little spikes on the bottom. Again, however, no price anywhere. I grabbed this one, too, and looked around for a helper. All the staff were milling around the registers. I had almost reached them when I finally found the mother lode of floor mats. They had a huge wire rack display with several mats laying flat on different shelves. The signs on the rack told me whether they were for light, moderate, or heavy use, and whether they were for hardwood, light, medium, or thick pile. Exactly what a guy or introvert needs to make a decision. They all were priced, too, so I grabbed one that was $34.99 for moderate use on medium pile and headed up front.
Apparently the signs were a little deceiving. I didn’t realize that they were for the mat above, not the mat below. Yes, I guessed wrong on my first attempt. The mat I assumed was $34.99 rang up at $69.99. So I went back to the display only to find there were no $34.99 mats left. Behind the display I saw another box of the rolled up mats I had seen earlier. This time there was a price on the box. $44.99. I was debating between that one and another one that was $42.99. (The smooth one was $59.99 and designed for hardwood floors so it was out.)
At this point the staff at the register, who had already begun ringing me up, finally walked over to offer assistance in the way of telling me that he thinks “the rolled up mat is on sale for $34.99.” So once again, I hauled one of those mats up to the register. Sure enough, it rang for $34.99. I bought it.
I wish the story ended there. It didn’t. The rest of the story happened when I tried to unroll the mat to lay it on the floor. We wrestled like the Olympic Gold Medal was on the line. Fifteen minutes later I finally had it pinned down with heavy boxes on each corner. Then I attempted to peel off the label.
There is a product called “removable adhesive.” We spent a little extra to buy price tags with that adhesive to make it easier to remove the price tags for giftwrapping. Often I buy items that are plastic or glass with labels using this removable adhesive. The label comes off in one fell swoop, no residue left behind. That makes me happy. I don’t know if the more expensive floor mats that come already flattened have that removable adhesive or not. All I know is that my shiny, new, bending-at-the-corners, see-through floor mat has a swath of cloudy, sticky plastic and I have no idea which moving box contains the WD-40 or Goo Gone.
Low prices isn’t why the Internet keeps growing so much faster than brick & mortar. The real issue is lack of customer service. And when I say “customer service” I’m not just talking about the interaction between me and the staff. Let’s look at all the mistakes made today.
- No price on the box or the product on the floor. Yes that is a Customer Service mistake of a whopping proportions. Many customers, if they can’t easily figure out a price, will simply walk out.
- No signage to lead me to the product display. (No signage on the boxed display to let me know there were more options, either.) If you don’t have the money to invest in a staff to help me, invest in some proper signage. PLEASE.
- No salespeople on the floor to help me with my search, or be able to answer my questions. (See above)
- No help from the salesperson at the register once I finally started the transaction. “I think it’s on sale,” is not Customer Service!
- No empathy.
I told the cashier about the boxes on the floor not having prices, and the boxes at the display stand not showing the sale prices. I said, “There’s your Sunday afternoon project.”
His reply? “Oh we have plenty to keep us busy on Sundays.”
This brick & mortar store exists only because people like me want something today. When they lose that competitive advantage, there will be another round of store closures.
PS Every barrier you put between your customer and buying the product is a lost sale. Prices, signs, and an accessible, available, knowledgeable staff break down those barriers and make people want to visit your store.
PPS Okay, maybe it’s not fair to blame OfficeMax for my struggles with the product after I got it home, but that was part of the “experience”. Fair or not, your customers judge you for the quality of the solution you sold them. The more highly they think of your product selection, the more critical they will be of the products they buy from you. You’re supposed to have the good stuff. Choose your offerings carefully, and when you find out about a bad product, either pull it immediately or, in the case of the inconvenient sticker, let me know in advance that the sticker won’t come off easily and that I might want to soak it in warm water first.