Thursday, March 19, 2009

Silence is a precious metal.

The better part of wisdom is silence.

How does that fit with having a blog?

It doesn't. But then, I never pretended I was particularly wise. Still, I find myself most often reading or hearing something I think is outrageous, opening my mouth to make a nasty comment....and then closing my mouth tightly without saying anything.

Let it go.

Driving home last night, I watched as a huge new pickup, with two new 3-wheelers in back, the driver talking on a cell phone and waving his hands, tailgating a smaller car.

What's to say? It could just as easily be a Bendite as a Californian. Rude, thoughtless, reckless people are everywhere.

I see that Bend's metro area grew by 37.5% from 2000 to 2008, or over 43,000 people, and I'd love to come to the conclusion that we've been overwhelmed by barbarians, but it's just too much a cliche.

I'd love to be able to say this new batch moved here as 'white flight', that they are shallow, materialistic, conservative, status seeking, life-style fashionista's, but I've heard too many natives delighted with the arrival of Trader Joe's to believe it all the newcomer's fault.

I can get a little annoyed by how many people say outloud, "I didn't know you where here!" But there are just as many people who say that who were here pre-2000, as post-2000. And I haven't done any advertising. I've been in the paper a number of times, but many people don't read the papers. Much as I think any newcomer ought to check out downtown, I realize that there are many shopping zones in Bend nowadays.

So I stay silent on the subject.

Much the same is happening in the store. I keep quiet, take a wait and see attitude, bite my tongue when I see product manhandling, or cell phone talkers, or out of control kids, or people who don't have a clue.

If they want something, they'll come to the counter and buy it.

I may be abrogating my duties a little, these days. I'm curious how much the store itself triggers sales. I'm curious to see what happens if I don't try to sway people.

Oh, I still get in there and mix it up if I think it's called for -- but I'm much less interactive than I was when things were booming. Pressure sales -- or anything that can be perceived as pressure -- is counterproductive these days. My behavior is adapting to the 'shopping' mentality I'm selling; newcomers, checking out the stores downtown.

I'm satisfied with the results. There so far has been a base of customers, and enough browser buying, to justify all the diversification efforts I made. It all seems to be falling into place -- reorders, preorders, current inventory, newcomers, regulars -- all are at understandable levels, which can be dealt with.

I think I'm going to continue to need to get used to it, to settle back and accept current conditions, because I don't think the arc is changing direction anytime soon.


Anonymous said...

"Much the same is happening in the store. I keep quiet, take a wait and see attitude"

Seems like a lot of "chain" stores nowadays force their employees to say "hello" to EACH customer that walks in the door.

Apparently there must be some studies suggesting that this increases sales.

Or maybe it's to deter shoplifters, by signalling to a visitor that you're 'aware' of them?

What does your own personal experience say?

Duncan McGeary said...

For all the reasons you mentioned, Jeff.

It's always been a hard rule that any employee at the very least greet every customer with a "Hi!"

Usually accompanied by a "If I can help you find anything, let me know."

With usually a followup a few minutes later of, "Be sure and let me know."

Over the last few years I've added, "Used books are over are half the cover price," to anyone who probably doesn't appear to be a regular customer.

Years ago, I would also make the attempt to engage in conversation just about every customer that walked in the door who wanted to, but that got to be impossible.

We've become more mainstream, and we're getting more and more people in off the street who aren't going to buy anything.

About five or six years ago, I started not engaging the "young families" and "kids" (under 20) unless they ask a specific question, which has saved me no end of wear and tear.

During this slowdown, salesmanship isn't as useful as it's been in the past, and seems to actually work against a sale sometimes. Helpfulness in what they already want, yes, getting them interested in something they didn't know they wanted, not so much.

I'm the lion by the waterhole who doesn't want to spook the antelope by being making any sudden moves....

Anonymous said...

If I go into a small owner-operated store I usually feel compelled to buy something. Don't feel the same way about chain stores.

At local stores I also tend to pay by cash, since I believe that the credit card company gets about 5% of your revenue on a credit card sale, right?

How much does it cost you when buyers use Visa or Mastercard instead of cash?

Does it matter whether it's a debit card vs. credit card?

Duncan McGeary said...

Jeff, I decided that those kinds of charges aren't worth worrying about, though I have on occasion remonstrated with a customer about using a card for a one or two dollar sale.

Anonymous said...

"aren't worth worrying about"

Good answer ... I can see why you wouldn't want to discourage use of credit cards. Customers have an incentive to use them since with rewards cards, they can get cash back.

Unknown said...

Sad commentary on our sense of community but I would hazard a guess that the stranger paid to smile and say hello might be the only person to do so for that customer. How many spontaneous conversations do you start while you wait in line? How many unsolicited hellos and smiles do you hand out to strangers you come in contact with through your day? How much small talk do you make after someone returns your smile or hello?

We all live in an insulated bubble and use the internet and TV to give us a sense of belonging to a community. Real people are unpredictable and in our culture of fear a potential threat. Easier to ignore everyone you are unfamiliar with or briefly sharing space while you wait.

The twist is I expect someone at a store to be polite and say hello. I always just considered it a good business practice to make the customer feel welcome and to reward them for spending money at my establishment. A sincere "how are you today" starts the process that ends with a "thank you" when they pay. The reward from having a spontaneous conversation has always been a pleasure in my life. A hello and a smile seems to be a easy obstacle to overcome to liven up waiting in the bank line...