A Tale of Two Shoe Stores


A couple of weeks ago I was shopping at the mall, which is a rare occurrence for me. I wanted to run to the Athleta store to get some comfy clothes for an upcoming trip to Belgium. I should mention their in-person and phone customer service is excellent, as I've used both. They are a prime example of me being happy to pay more for quality and service. 

But this isn't about them...it's about two different, nearly side-by-side, high-end shoe stores in the same mall. 

As I have gotten older I've come to the realization I can only buy shoes with good support. Yes, this means I pay more per pair, but I buy fewer pairs throughout the year, the ones I get last longer, and my back and feet appreciate me. I tend to shop on Zappos because they are fast and offer free returns. They also have great service. 

I often buy a lot of shoes from Clarks. I'd been browsing online for months looking for a new pair of booties. I decided I'd pop into the Clarks' store to try some on in person. When I went in it was close to closing time, but not so close that I was being the asshole who might keep them there past the end of their shift. I've worked retail long enough to respect people who work those jobs. 

There were two women working, both sitting on their phones behind the counter, which was at the opposite end of the store from the entrance. They sort of looked up and acknowledged me, but seemed kind of annoyed. Neither offered assistance. 

I found a pair I wanted to try on and asked for it in my size. Sadly, I didn't love them.

There were a few other pairs I may have tried on, but I felt unwanted, and kind of annoyed actually, so I grabbed my things and left. Had either of them tried to interact with me, I most likely would've kept trying on shoes. There's a good chance I would've left with a pair too. That's at least an $85 sale they missed out on. 

Oh, I should mention...if you can close and have keys to a store, you are generally some level of management. At the very least you are trusted enough to have unfettered access to your store. So that means at least one of those women has some level of position and authority at that store. Yikes!

I walked a few doors down to The Walking Company. There was only one woman working, she greeted me, let me know what was on sale, and then offered to do a free step scan of my feet. Already this was a completely different experience!

I did the scan, tried on several pairs of booties, some more than once. We chatted about the different brands and she was very polite and friendly the whole time. In the end, I couldn't narrow it down, so she took a card and wrote the info on all three styles down for me. 

Not once did she seem annoyed that she went through that whole process for me to not purchase anything. She seemed genuinely glad to help, and I would absolutely go back to shop there, and I would recommend it to friends. 

Moral of the story: We have to make sure every single customer feels wanted, regardless of how much they might spend in that moment.

One day a customer could spend nothing, or a small amount, but if they feel welcome and wanted they are likely to return to spend more on a future visit. 

Remember that scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts gets treated poorly in the clothing store? She shouts, "Big mistake! Huge mistake!" Those women in the fancy boutique only view her as a sex worker, never considering that she's actually going to purchase something there. Ultimately they lose her business and are made to look like fools in the process. 

We should never want anyone to feel that way. So even when it's almost "quitting time" and it feels like that final sale won't matter that much, remember that it really could, and act accordingly. If you would like some tips on how to make a great first impression with your clients, check out my blog post about it here.

  • Where do you shop that always makes you feel special and wanted?

  • Where do you no longer go because they made you feel the opposite?

Share your experiences with me in the comments below, or in my free private Facebook community, The Sell it, Sisterhood!

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