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How to Speed Up Gift-Wrapping, Conduct Background Searches Legally, and More of Your Questions Answered

Plus, how to make time for creative thinking.

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Any tips on how to speed up the gift-wrapping process or make it more tolerable? I get nervous seeing people wait and worry they will “abandon the shopping cart.”

Four things to do:

1. Check your processes and preparations: Like a French chef, all paper, ribbon, cutters and tape should be “mise en place.” And your crew should be trained and timed beforehand.

2. Get everyone on staff to learn this Japanese style of gift wrapping: instoremag.com/japanesegiftwrapping. The technique uses a pull-and-fold method on each side of the gift, which means that once you’ve mastered one move, you can wrap the entire gift in seconds. It also offers an arguably better look at the end. Yes, we’re getting close to peak holiday season, but there is still time to learn. It takes only an hour or so.

3. If customers are looking restless, be ready to intervene and let them know the process might take a few minutes. Customers are happier when delays are acknowledged: When a supermarket calls “all staff to the checkout,” it’s as much about you hearing it as about staffing. All the better if you can accurately estimate the time (definite waits seem shorter than undefined ones, writes business guru David Maister in The Psychology Of Waiting Lines, which is why Disney theme parks use complex formulas to calculate and display wait-times).

4. Finally, occupied time passes faster than unoccupied time: Mirrored walls are especially effective because most people love looking at themselves. Or perhaps you could provide free wifi.

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Should I ask a customer for a price range when they come in the store?

Never, says Leonard Zell, professional jewelry sales trainer. There are several big reasons, according to Zell. The first, says the sales trainer: “If you are waiting on two customers, you may embarrass them. If it is a husband and wife, you are forcing a commitment from him if he is going to buy her an important piece of jewelry. You could make him feel cheap. A real disaster and the easiest way not to make a sale.”

Secondly, says Zell: “Whenever you ask a customer that question, they are going to do the same thing you would do if a salesperson asked you that question, which is to tell you less than they would actually spend. You are allowing yourself to be low-balled, and for what? All because you are afraid to show them something expensive. That is the only reason salespeople ask customers how much they want to spend.”

Zell’s basic advice? Don’t pre-judge. Don’t think you’ll offend the customer (in fact, they’re more likely to be flattered). And don’t be afraid to go for the biggest sale possible. Says Zell: “I tell my students, ‘The only person who is scared is yourself. Your customer is fine.’”

Is it expensive to hire a service to do a proper background check on a prospective new employee?

For a basic background check that covers possible criminal convictions or other legal issues in a candidate’s past (typically convictions for felonies and misdemeanors in most states), you’re likely looking at price that ranges from $30 to less than $100 from a service provider that is FCRA compliant (a key point to insist on), such as GoodHire, AccurateNow, InfoMart, Sterling, HireRight and Pre-Employ. But this is a potentially tricky legal area, so you want to first draft a policy with your attorney and have it written down in your store policy. For example, in most states you are obliged to declare what checks you are doing, must run the same check on every candidate who reaches a certain stage in the hiring process, keep the documentation for a certain period, and so on. Yes, this will entail an upfront investment, but given the potential for a bad hire to cause ruinous financial damage, create safety situations or other legal problems, it’s one you should be diligent about following through on.

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I never seem to be able to find time for creative thinking. What should I do?

Having uninterrupted time to reflect is the key to creativity. Our brains rarely come up with their best ideas when we’re in meetings or in the store. In the past, businesspeople could expect to get some relief during the commute home, but mobile phones, iPads, and social media alerts can make that difficult today. The trick is to realize the importance of creative thinking and treat it the way you would a business appointment or meeting. That means finding time for it on your weekly schedule. If you can’t build quiet time into your office routine, the only alternative is to actively flee your usual surroundings, which means doing something like a walk in the woods or getting on a train and taking a four-hour round trip somewhere. Or, even better, nowhere. Leave your phone at home, unwrap a sandwich and just enjoy watching the scenery roll by. It’s amazing what a busy brain will come up with when given a break — even a short one — from reacting to the daily pressures of running a business.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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