Adventures in Retail Sales

When I was sixteen I started working at Hickory Farms — getting a job was a condition of being allowed to officially drop out of high school.

Yes, I did that. Dropped out of high school in the middle of my junior year — but that is a different post.

Do you remember Hickory Farms? Do they even still exist??

I was a top salesperson at the Southland Mall location of Hickory Farms, which did not surprise my mother — I remember her saying that I could sell ice cubes to people who lived in igloos.

I was never actually sure if that was a compliment or not??

My dad says that sales is all about finding out what people need and then helping them understand how what we have to sell will meet that identified need. I am not sure anyone really needed a giant Hickory Farms beef summer sausage but I did sell a lot of them.

Being a professor is a sales job, now that I think of it. I sell ideas, skills, and knowledge to people who often have no idea why they should want those things. I guess I also sell the value of higher education. Luckily, I am selling something that I believe in — see above regarding my lack of a high school diploma and add in teenage parent and a few other risk factors — higher education = life changer.

Huh. Interesting.

Anyway, on Saturday I took my Dishwasher Fiasco Project Notebook and headed out to once again engage in retail sales — as a customer.

This project requires a notebook that constantly reminds me to keep the faith.

This project requires a notebook that constantly reminds me to keep the faith.

I was even dressed reasonably well for my foray into retail sales since I was also going to a wedding reception — I am not known for caring a great deal about what I am wearing, preferring to be something of a surprise.

The first stop was a Flooring Store — the current plywood sub-flooring is not really a good long-term option for our non-existent kitchen.

Oh Dear. How was I supposed to know that the salesperson did not actually want to be bothered at work?! I resisted the urge to apologize.

I explained what I was looking for and why.

She condescended to lead me around the store, balanced precariously on tall platform heels that seemed to help make the short skirt swish to and fro. “Sister!” I wanted to say, “that outfit seriously fails the bend over test — front and rear!”

A puzzling look for a flooring salesperson — or a dog show exhibitor, FYI.

But she lost me completely when she assumed that my desire for a pet friendly floor was due to a lack of house training!!

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Basically, the salesperson made me feel icky. Therefore, I will not be spending the insurance company’s money at their store.

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Salespeople should not insult the personal habits of the customer’s dogs — and should endeavor not to make customers feel icky.

Next stop — appliances.

Thanks to Jake/Megan (one of Dear Sons/Dear Daughter-in-laws) we have an amazingly awesome — and new — refrigerator and since the kitchen is getting a remodel, we might as well upgrade the other appliances. There is a bit of a Snowball Effect associated with this whole giant mess.

I was specifically looking at stove/oven/range stuff.

The salesperson did not seem resentful that I had shown up to bother him at work — that was a good sign. He seemed to know what he was talking about, and I was spared the worry that he might fall off his shoes and break an ankle — I appreciated that.

But he wasn’t listening very well — because he did all the talking.

And by doing all the talking, he failed to ask relevant questions that would have helped him target the sale to my specific needs.

Instead, I received an informative lecture about stoves and ovens. Here are my notes:

  1. Induction stoves are the very best and safest and all the cool kids have induction stoves. Only a loser would not want an induction stove.

  2. Of course I will want a big hood over my (induction) stove to get rid of the grease and smell — do I really want the kitchen filled with the smoke from the roast or have a house that stinks of last week’s fried fish!? (ahem — vegetarian).

  3. My ideas about what I thought wanted are so basic, so average, so loser as to hardly be worth carrying in the store — but will run about $1500.

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Salespeople should try really hard not to cause customers to feel like they should go directly to the local tattoo parlor and get an L for Loser inscribed on their forehead.

Undaunted by these educational experiences in how not to sell stuff, I shall continue my search for the perfect pet-friendly floor and the perfect-for-us stove/oven. Somewhere out there is a salesperson who is good at selling what we need — I just know it!

And now I find myself wanting a good Jarlsberg cheese — like the one I sold at Hickory Farms when I was sixteen.

Happy Monday to you — and good luck if you are selling or buying today.