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Should You Dump Your Checkout Counter, Plus More of Your Questions Answered

And how to convince a browser you really do just want to help.




Should You Dump Your Checkout Counter, Plus More of Your Questions Answered

We’re a 100 percent retail operation and are thinking of just using mobile payments. Can we get rid of our checkout counter?

Don’t be hasty about this: Most checkout counters are actually much more than a place to ring up customers, says Lyn Falk, president of Retailworks, a design, branding and display firm, noting they also have display, merchandising, branding and operational roles. While the checkout process continues to evolve, that doesn’t mean that your store shouldn’t have a checkout counter, as it still serves as a home base for shoppers, she says. “There, they can get information and more easily make returns and exchanges.

Even if you only use mobile devices for checkout, there still should be a ‘service counter’ customers can go to directly and interact with an associate.” If you don’t feel you’re getting much mileage out of your checkout counter, you may actually want to think of ways of upgrading it rather than ditching it. Is it visible when customers enter the store (obviously without sacrificing prime selling space)? Is it well-lit and branded to reflect your store’s color and finish schemes? Does it provide quickly scannable information about the services you provide? Does it pay for itself via impulse items? Does it highlight your packaging? There is so much a good checkout counter does. “Remember, the checkout counter is often the last point of interaction a customer has with your business before leaving the store. So, these counters must not only provide a good first impression, but a strong lasting one,” Falk says.

I have a manager who I think can be demeaning in handing out feedback, but when I bring it up, he says, “I don’t believe in sugarcoating criticism.” How should I deal with him?

It’s a fairly thin line, but “I’m telling it how it is”/“I’m just being honest” are poor excuses for humiliating someone. Yes, candor is a good thing, especially in a performance-driven workplace. But so is respect, which can be demonstrated in how things are said. Being direct with the content of feedback doesn’t prevent someone from being thoughtful about the best way to deliver it. It’s also not effective as a form of communication. If people react emotionally or defensively, the core of the message is lost. All that is left is the memory of how that person felt (badly) from his or her engagement with their supervisor. Sit down with your manager and review the recent work histories of some underperforming staff members. Ask him if he believes this person’s performance has improved as a result? If not, suggest that perhaps he needs to try a softer approach. As he likes to say himself, this is about results.

Too many shoppers these days seem really resistant to any offers to help. How do you break down their defenses? We’re not going to jump them. We sincerely just want to help.

“We’re good, thanks.” “Just looking.” “No, I’m OK, thanks.” Give someone the chance to provide a scripted response in a familiar situation and they surely will — often without even thinking about whether they could indeed do with some help looking at the merchandise in your store.

But the moment you disrupt the automatic reflex by interrupting people with something mildly interesting to think about, all bets are off. This strategy is known as the pique technique, and it works in a surprisingly wide array of situations, from sales to dating to even encounters with criminals (although we don’t suggest you try it with the latter.)


“It’s as if the unusual detail shakes the person out of a slumber, to see the moment as the beginning of an interaction, rather than as environmental noise to tune out,” Alex Fradera wrote recently on the Research Digest blog, reporting on a new meta-analysis that confirms the pique technique works. Derailed from their self-protective scripts, most people turn out to be fairly empathic and generous and willing to engage strangers, even salespeople. The original study supporting the pique technique came from a team of US researchers who posed as panhandlers on the streets of Santa Cruz, CA. As you’d expect, when they asked, “Can you spare any change?” most people ignored them. When they asked, “Can you spare a quarter?” they did better. But when they asked, “Can you spare 37 cents?” an amazing 75 percent of passersby gave money.

Obviously, you need to strike the right balance. You don’t want to come across as kooky. But a request for an opinion on a display, a sincere compliment about her bangle, an offer to try on something can work. Being human begets being human.

What’s the best way to deal with trolls on our social media channels?

Ignore them. Unlike customers with a grievance, to whom you should respond quickly and usually with some humility, trolls are just using verbal aggression to get attention. It’s better to ignore them than feed them. “The internet doesn’t turn people into trolls. It just makes their trolling more visible,” notes behavioral psychologist Adam Grant. “Eight studies of over 8,000 people have shown that if you’re an asshole online, you’re probably an asshole in person too.”

What do you do when you underquote someone when taking in an order because you were harried or busy or just misdiagnosed the job?

Most of the time, you’re just going to have to eat the cost, especially if there’s a written contract that specifies the price, materials and other details of the job. (A verbal agreement will give you some wiggle room.) While the law does make a few exceptions when you can prove fraud was involved or some factor beyond your control (say, the supply of some super-rare gemstone suddenly dries up), most of the time you can’t do anything without breaching the contract. Most customers are reasonable, so contact the person and explain the situation. Perhaps offer to forego some of your profit to show your good faith, but if they insist you abide by the contract, you are legally obliged to. If that turns out to be the case, mark it down as an expensive lesson. Take your time with quotes, put in place a process that limits the mistakes that can be made and include some text in your contracts that allows you to renegotiate the terms or terminate a job if it’s going to cause you a loss.



This Third-Generation Jeweler Was Ready for Retirement. He Called Wilkerson

Retirement is never easy, especially when it means the end to a business that was founded in 1884. But for Laura and Sam Sipe, it was time to put their own needs first. They decided to close J.C. Sipe Jewelers, one of Indianapolis’ most trusted names in fine jewelry, and call Wilkerson. “Laura and I decided the conditions were right,” says Sam. Wilkerson handled every detail in their going-out-of-business sale, from marketing to manning the sales floor. “The main goal was to sell our existing inventory that’s all paid for and turn that into cash for our retirement,” says Sam. “It’s been very, very productive.” Would they recommend Wilkerson to other jewelers who want to enjoy their golden years? Absolutely! “Call Wilkerson,” says Laura. “They can help you achieve your goals so you’ll be able to move into retirement comfortably.”

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