Country vs city

office, building, sky, skyscraper, cityHaving moved from the city to the country four months ago, I have been trying to identify the differences, if any, in retail behaviour by both consumers and sales folk.

One notable difference is that people tend to buy in bulk. If you live half an hour from the nearest town, and if you run out of toilet paper or beer it can have disastrous consequences. Retailers do not seem to be taking advantage of this by offering volume discounts.

Another significant difference is service. This has confused me because it seems to be dichotomous.

On the one hand the folk are very friendly, but the flip side is that service is slow – very slow. Sales assistants will have no urgency in closing a sale while other customers stand by. They will continue to engage in a lengthy conversation with the customer being served. After all, gossip in a small community is about as exciting as it gets.

When you are eventually served, you receive the same friendly service the previous customer enjoyed. Perhaps you can add to the gossip pool?

Trade counters are also different. The sales people are not blessed with social graces. To acknowledge your presence you are lucky to get a raised eyebrow which indicates “what do you want” as opposed to “what can I do for you”?

If by any chance you get a greeting of any kind, count yourself lucky, but be wary – perhaps they are coming on to you.

I have tactics which work extremely well which I will pass on below.

When one enters a retail store, the staff seem to scatter. From engaging in a discussion with one or two colleagues about the previous night’s happenings, they now become frantically busy with anything so as not to have to serve the customer.

This is exacerbated by the telephone. If the staff member is on the phone, you are advised to leave the store and phone rather than stand and wait.

One little trick by the salesperson is to say to his/her telephone friend that a customer has just walked in and he/she should hold on for a couple of minutes.

This sends a strong message to the customer. “You can see I am on the phone. You are interrupting my conversation. Now let’s conclude this sale as quickly as possible so you can push off and I can return to my telephone call”.

We as customers are partly to blame. We enter a store and accept what is dished out to us. We are almost the underdog begging for assistance. We are not king of the castle. And so we are breeding a gaggle of bullies.

And now for my tips (which shouldn’t be necessary).

When you walk into a shop (it works especially well in doctor’s rooms) you will get a biorhythmic vibe. You will sense from the body language whether you are an intruder.

If you get this feeling say in a bold fairly loud but not obnoxious voice “Good morning all, how are you today”?

This can be done regardless of the sales person’s activity. Whether they are on the phone or serving someone else, it is your friendly greeting that sets the tone. The coded message is that you are the customer and you want service.

It reminds me of a deceased uncle of mine who was a vet. People said it was cruel, but when he was dealing with horses, the first thing he did was to give it a knee in the ribcage. Of course this wouldn’t have hurt much, but the horses used to get the message loud and clear – Uncle Alby was the boss and he seldom had issues.

But what is also effective with regard to trade centres is your own body language. You should walk in like John Wayne. A bit of a swagger, arms swinging wide of the body and legs somewhat apart. This shows that you mean business.

Do not greet the sales person as this illustrates weakness.

Put the part down on the counter and describe it. “Right front high beam globe, Mercedes 200SL 2012”.

Again it sends a signal. Don’t mess with me. I know exactly what I want.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at or 0414 631 702.






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