Daily WTF: High Pressure Sales Tactics

b-n-member-card-photoRecently, A. and I were at Barnes & Noble purchasing far too many things as we are wont to do (Seriously, I will never be able to read all the magazines I already own so why do I keep buying them???). As we were checking out, the cashier asked A. if she wanted to sign up for a Barnes & Noble member card – only $25 a year, you’ll get 10% off every purchase, etc. etc. Because she has severe anxiety as well as problems with spending, she looked to me, and I signaled, “No.” The cashier saw and started joking about how she shouldn’t listen to me and she’d totally save like $17.45 on this purchase and it was only $25 a year and it would pay for itself in like two visits. We played along, laughing about having problems spending money, not needing the temptation, oh, I was so mean, ha ha hah.

But then he kept joking about it. Every time he rang up an item, he’d tell her how much more she would save, shouting loud enough for the front half of the store to hear. When I paid for mine, he did the same thing, and dramatically let us know that we would have saved $25 on this very purchase. Why, he had never seen someone refuse the card when they would have saved on the very same purchase! He kept this up even as A. got visibly anxious, her smile dampening, her fingers clutching at her purse. She refused to make eye contact and began to mumble, and I took up position next to her for solidarity, my smile forced and my laughter nonexistent. Both of us were giving clear indications that we no longer found the transaction funny, and it needed to stop. And yet, it didn’t until we left the store – at which point, A. turned to me and anxiously asked if she should have gotten the card. Again, I told her no.

I understand that the guy was just joking and that it was just a joke taken too far. I also understand that he has to make Barnes & Noble card quotas and that at least one manager has reminded him at least once per shift how many he needs to get by the end of his shift. I understand how awkward and anxiety-inducing it is to have your manager badger you about cards. I understand all this because I’ve also worked in retail and had pushy managers and know that jokes can go a step too far without you intending it to. But that still doesn’t excuse him for continuing to push, for ignoring obvious signals to stop, for abandoning basic courtesy in pursuit of a sale, and for giving A. a full-blown anxiety attack on the car ride home. What he should have done when it was obvious that A. wasn’t going to buy the card (or at least when she’d already made her purchase and walked off and thus clearly would not be buying the card) is stop joking about it or, better yet, apologize if he’d made her feel awkward, humanizing himself and the situation. Because that would have been the courteous thing to do. Hell, it would have shown good customer service. But, no, instead we got Pushy McAsshat thinking he could mask manipulation with a smile. Thanks, Douche Caboose, thanks.

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