There are lots of things not ideal to do a certain way. If you are running a retail store, for example, you don’t want to alienate the customers you are trying to sell. That would be dumb. But it’s done with some frequency in the country that, overall, is just learning the value of merchandising and overall customer experience.
My colleague and I joke about the times we are in local apparel chain stores and the sales associates hover with such intensity, persisting that we try things on. Like annoying insects that keep coming at you no matter how much you swat at them, their behavior drives you out of the store — no calm shopping allowed. Where so many outlets acquire the hard-sell technique of being primed to pounce is puzzling. That might explain why the preponderance of stores have so many sales people and so few customers.
Then there is the opposite approach, stores with lots of customers and little-to-no help.
Yesterday in the inclement weather, I decided to don my rain gear and bicycle just outside of town to buy spinach wraps — a type of Indian roti or Spanish tortilla. The thin bread, which I don’t eat much, makes a nice addition to wrapping up certain foods, burrito style. While walking through the warehouse-type hypermarket, like any good consumer, I picked up several unplanned items that I didn’t know I needed. By the time I reached the cash registers my arms had all they could carry as there were no small baskets or handcarts, only mammoth industrial shopping carts large enough to fit a few family members.
There were five registers going, all of them about six customers deep with their immense carts piled high. No problem, I had time and pockets full of patience. After about five minutes in line, the cashier in my line was having register issues. She was loading a box of paper into the dot-matrix printer used for receipts and could not get the paper to feed properly. Scanning the checkout area, even though I wasn’t in a hurry, I decided to shift to an adjacent line for efficiency’s sake. A few minutes later I was glad I did. The new line started moving and the cashier in the original line still hand’t resolved the issue. I felt like I made a smart move.
As I worked my way up to the register, relieving my arms of the goods on the rolling belt, the person in front of me was completing her purchase with a bank card. The process was longer than a card transaction should take. The cashier then called a manager, who after arriving, called another. There was no problem with the customer’s card, but the undertaking, for some reason, rendered the register non-functional. The cashier finally told everyone in our line to go to other registers, including the person in front of me who’s transaction was foiled. Because I didn’t understand the language, my slight hesitation meant that everyone else got the jump on me to queue into the other lines. The cashier, apparently feeling sorry for me and also knowing it wasn’t fair to stick me in the end of another long line, picked up my things and walked around trying to figure out what to do. He surveyed the situation for a while, like the captain of a ship might study the horizon looking for land, steadily gazing back and forth, and back and forth. After a couple of minutes, he started giving me my things back before finally saying, in probably one of the few english words he knew, “sorry.”
By now, the lines were at least eight deep. The original line with the printer problem was moving and the family that had been in front of me had already checked out. Had I waited I would have been checking out. Instead I was looking for another line. It was evident that my first line-switch move was not so smart. Anyway, while I was still packing some patience, I decided that perhaps I wasn’t so hungry for the tortillas so I unloaded the food items I was holding onto the first flat surface I saw (besides the floor), walked out of the store, got back on my bicycle, and considered it another interesting shopping adventure in China. I don’t really like wraps much anyhow.
Bottom line, when opening a retail shop in China, there are lots of opportunities to do things, “not this way.”