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Departments: First Word

  

Avoiding the Pain

Our staff offers suggestions for making shopping easier.

by Dirk Dusharme

 

By the time you read this column you will probably have started your Christmas shopping. In the past, I’ve shared my own set of rules on how to make the frenetic mall runs a more pleasurable experience from a customer and retailer point of view. A lot of Christmas shopping nightmares are, in my opinion, the result of frayed nerves. This year, I asked the Quality Digest crew how they make it through the long lines, interminable waits, rude customers, and rude clerks without inflicting bodily harm or going completely insane.

Louise Cragar, our circulation coordinator, avoids the entire issue by not shopping at peak hours. No shopping on weekend afternoons or after work. No mad dash at lunch time. And you certainly won’t find Louise crashing through the mall on Christmas Eve tossing innocent bystanders aside as she searches for that special expensive gift for her sister-in-law. Nope, Louise avoids the whole crush by simply taking a day off during the week. While everyone else is hard at work making money to pay for the Christmas excess, Louise is quietly strolling the nearly empty stores, enjoying the clerks who have yet to acquire the zombie-like stares that are soon to come. Her advice to surviving shopping should you have to shop at peak times: “Just resolve yourself to the fact that you are going to be standing in line. Don’t sweat it.”

Pen in hand, our art director and übergeek, Scott Sleeper, browses the online storefronts of all the brick-and-mortar electronics stores looking for the sales announcements. Armed with his shopping list of sales items, Scott hits the floor of Best Buy running, incurring a bit of whiplash as he whisks past the 60-inch plasma televisions, Sony Playstations, and high-definition DVD players. With an iron will, Scott navigates the aisles with nary a glance (OK, nearly nary) at the latest iPhones, iMacs, and iPods. Sweating profusely from his restraint, Scott whisks his preordained non-iPurchases to the checkout counter and heads home before he does real iDamage to his pocketbook.

Sandra Gonzalez, our production coordinator, along with Scott, agrees that one key method to speeding purchases along is to pay in cash. Visa’s anticash television commercials notwithstanding (the ones where the checkout stand comes to a halt because someone dares to pay with… gasp… money), it is usually much faster to pay with cash than it is to run a credit card. Paying with cash also means that you pay with the money you have, not the money you hope to have--a real stress reliever.

Our graphic designer, Harmony Waschevski, points out that it never hurts to ask a clerk for special help, even during the holidays. When properly trained, clerks exist not only to help the customer but to make the store look good. Going out of the way for a special request brings good will and repeat business. As an example, Harmony once asked a salesperson if she could get the sales price on an item even though the sale hadn’t started yet, because she was from out of town and wouldn’t be back in time for the sale. The clerk gave her the discount.

Avoiding crowds, knowing what you’re going to buy ahead of time, paying in cash, and not being afraid to ask for help are all terrific suggestions for making the holiday shopping season a bit easier. If it’s easier, it’s less stressful and a little less likely to lead to frayed nerves and snippiness.

Enjoy the season and be nice to your customers and salespeople.