I don't go shopping in real life very much these days, apart from the food shop. Generally speaking, if I need something specific I'll look it up online first. I don't really do crowds of people, so 21st century shopping suits me.
The other day, however, I went into Newcastle as I had to buy some birthday presents. Newcastle is, after all, a fine city, and I love to have a look round the Grainger Market. There used to be a wonderful book shop in there, which closed recently; I believe business had suffered since people like me started buying cheap Kindle books. It's a shame, but, alas, the world changes on a regular basis.
On this day, though, I went into only four shops, and was reminded why I now prefer to shop from home.
Isn't it just the worst???
In a smarty, arty looking shop selling cards, wrapping paper and small gifty things, I spent no less than £23. While the woman behind the counter was bagging up my purchases, she tried to engage me in chat to the extent that I almost said, "look, I just want to buy the birthday cards, I don't want a freakin' relationship." During this (mostly one-sided) conversation she tried to get me to sign up for a loyalty card. When I said I didn't want one, she insisted on 'just popping' the details into my bag anyway. During the five minutes she took to roll up my wrapping paper, she also pointed out many other attractive items within the shop. Dead chattily, like. Obviously this was company policy; some other person suggested I 'have a nice day' on the way out, too. Doesn't really sit right in Tyne and Wear, somehow.
That's one shop I won't be going back to. Next I went to WH Smiths, where I was accosted by someone trying to sell me something on the way in, offered a bargain on items similar to those I was purchasing whilst at the till, and accosted by someone else trying to sign me up for WH Smith insurance/a monthly subscription to Beekeeping Monthly on the way out.
In Marks and Spencer I was offered some other data mining tool (loyalty card, store card, whatever), whilst in Superdrug I was offered a store card and some facial wipes currently on offer, or it might have been a gift pack of aftershave or buy-one-get-one-free on haemorrhoid cream, I can't remember.
I know that the high street shops are all in trouble since the rise in internet shopping, but surely this isn't the way forward? For every one person who says, "d'you know, Kerry/Gav/Shirl, I reckon I will take that cream. I haven't got piles, but it's best to be prepared!", I bet there are ten more who, like me, have the f*** irritated out of them by this strategy. There is a chemist in my local town centre where I only go if in a tearing hurry, as you can't nip in to buy a 32p packet of paracetomol without being offered at least four more products. The other day I handed my purchase over and just said "please don't try to sell me anything else", but so programmed was the sales lad that he said "no problem," (as is customary with all shop/restaurant assistants under the age of thirty), then put my bottle of Mr Muscle shower spray into a bag and launched into his speech before he even realised what he was doing.
Because food shopping is one thing I don't like to do online (and because I do need to get out of the house sometimes), I put up with the till assistants in Morrissons asking me if I have a Match & More card, are collecting vouchers for the set of knives (don't tempt me), would like any stamps (postage or saving), phone credit, fries with that, a meal deal, or a voucher which will mean that I'll get 6p off per every £657 I spend, and bombarded with junk mail from five hundred different companies for the rest of my life. But aside from that, I won't shop anywhere that practices this ghastly upselling. Fine, advertise your wares all you like, splatter them over every shop window, but don't see every purchase I make as an opportunity to get more money out of me. Just be polite and helpful and I'll come back.
It would be like someone telling me that they liked one of my books, and me saying, "that's great, would you like to buy another?" It would guarantee that person never did ~ and I think this is what upselling must do to thousands of people.
I mentioned the local chemist shop that I avoid - about a year ago, I listened to a girl's sales spiel and then asked her how she felt about having to do it. She said, oh, we all hate it, and lots of customers feel about it like you do. I actually wrote to the customer services department to 'give them feedback' about this strategy; the reply said that they didn't see it as hard selling but as offering the customers information about what was currently on offer.
Yes, that might be the idea, but it doesn't work. If you've got something on offer, stick posters where people can see them, have the item on display at the counter, and at least educate your staff on basic sales/interpersonal skills. The woman who tried to upsell me in that card shop should have spotted my irritation and lack of interest. That as a 'mark', I wasn't going to happen.
I wrote that letter to the chemist's customer services after seeing a seventeen year old lad offering a Nicki Minaj body spray and perfume gift set to an OAP. Poor chap probably felt pressured into buying it, then remembered he hadn't got any grandchildren. But what the hell, eh? It's another sale!