A shirt or flooring: It’s all the same

Home Column A shirt or flooring: It’s all the same

I recently bought a $400 shirt. Seriously, I did. I didn’t plan on it, nor would I ever consider spending that amount on a shirt—unless the shirt miraculously did my laundry and took out the trash and ironed itself. But, admittedly, I was bored, hadn’t spent money on myself in a while and needed a little pick-me-up.

Anyway, you don’t care about that, nor should you. But I was thinking about the entire experience of how I wound up purchasing the shirt and how it relates to the flooring sales process. There are definitely similarities, especially as it relates to the store and salesperson. So I thought I would offer some thoughts on the pluses and minuses of the experience.

  1. I had it in my head that I was going to buy a linen shirt because I was going away on Memorial Day weekend. Didn’t have a store in mind. Was walking around an outdoor mall but was drawn into this particular store because it was well merchandised. Solid brands and clean layout. Conducive to buying. A plus.
  2. Walked around for awhile, then was greeted by a salesperson. Another plus. He struck up a conversation. Asked me if I was from around these parts, if I had been in the store before, etc. When I told him I was not and had not, he gave me a brief history of the store, its reputation, its affiliation to other higher-end clothing stores in the country. He told me a story. He gave me confidence. Told me I wouldn’t need to shop anywhere else. Yet another big plus.
  3. He then began to talk about the suits and sports jackets (the highest-priced items) for which the store was known. This was before asking me if I was looking for something in particular. He did not ask me about my situation/needs. Sorry, that’s a minus.
  4. After I explained that I was looking for a linen shirt, he brought me one. Can’t remember the brand, but it was about $175. Still more than I wanted to spend, but OK. Tried it on and it was a little snug around the gut. (I need to lose weight or get lypo, one or the other.) He then brought me the next size up and while the gut issue was checked, the sides were baggy. No bueno. The salesperson’s response: Linen shirts are meant to be worn baggy, even after I told him it wasn’t a good fit. Not listening to the customer. Another minus.
  5. He said he would call the tailor to alter the shirt. Sounded reasonable. Until the tailor said you could not take in a linen shirt. Again, either unknowledgeable or just looking to make a sale. A minus.
  6. I asked if he had any other brand of linen shirts, and I was shocked by his answer. It is the answer no consumer ever wants to hear: “I don’t know,” he said. The last thing a customer wants is an unknowledgeable salesperson. Definitely a minus.
  7. I said I was going to walk around and see what I could find. With the salesperson in tow, I stumbled on the Peter Millar brand, which is usually too loose. He told me he had forgotten about this, and I should try one on; it was too tight. By this point he was convinced he would not be selling me anything so he floated to another customer. Left to my own devices, I found more linen shirts. This time the brand was Isaia, and let me tell you they were the nicest linen shirts in the store. Why the salesperson didn’t start there breaks the cardinal rule of selling: It’s best/better/good, not the other way around. Minus.
  8. I asked about the shirt. He proceeded to tell me a long story about how Isaia makes the best shirts these days because the person who heads up manufacturing came from some other high-end brand that used to have the reputation of having the best quality men’s shirts on the market. Whatever the case, he had a story for me. And to sell a high-end product you need to give that customer a story. A huge plus.
  9. I tried on the shirt and it fit perfectly. The sleeves were a little long but then again I have short arms. Before I could lament about the additional cost, the salesperson informed me alterations were free. If you offer a value-add at no cost, let that customer know. Better early on in the process. A plus.
  10. As I was paying, I was told the alterations would be done in four days, at which time the shirt would ship. Two weeks later, I had to make a phone call when it had not reached my mailbox. Somehow, I mistook the word “four” for “eleven.” My hearing must be going. Anyway, false promises lead to false expectations and dissatisfaction post-sale. A minus.

Bottom line: Your salespeople are your lifeblood. They must be honest, transparent, knowledgeable, start with a higher-priced product and work down from there and take care of that customer after the sale. After all, not every customer will automatically trade themselves up and spend more than double what he or she was initially planning.

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May 23/30, 2022

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