Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Shoppers vs. Buyers: A Message From Maternity Leave

For years, I have heard that there is a distinct difference between "buyers" and "shoppers." It is not uncommon for men to fall under the former category.

Often, men are called "buyers" because they enter a store, choose an item, check out and leave. (My husband and I often joke that my father-in-law exemplifies this stereotype.)

Meanwhile, women—or "shoppers"—tend to visit retailers in search of a complete shopping experience. This often includes interacting with a knowledgeable sales staff.

Recently, I got to see this distinction up close and personal.

I am blogging while on maternity leave with my second child, Cristiana. One of the perks of maternity leave (besides bonding with my newest child and family) is that I have the opportunity to take relaxing shopping excursions. Yes, relaxing.

I almost forgot how enjoyable it is to spend a leisurely afternoon strolling through the mall. (However, now I am pushing a stroller with one hand and using the other to hold my 3-year-old daughter Daniella’s hand.)

One Friday afternoon, Daniella, Cristiana, my mother and I took a trip to Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, N.Y. We created two new stuffed “friends” at Build-A-Bear Workshop, visited the Clinique counter at Macy’s and even took a whirl on the merry-go-round. Our last stop was a visit to Banana Republic (one of my favorite retailers), in search of the perfect dress for me to wear to the baby's christening.

A sales associate gave me her undivided attention as I tried on different frocks. She helped me choose a gorgeous black Merino wool dress. (The fact that it is in my pre-pregnancy size was a bonus.)

We waited on line, and finally it was our turn to check out. The cashier was friendly and accommodating.

She asked about my kids, made pleasant conversation and even answered a couple of questions that I had about a merchandise return. I remember thinking, "This is a pleasant shopping experience."

Suddenly, a man waiting on line interrupted our banter. “Can we stop chatting and speed this up? I'm in a hurry,” he sputtered.

After apologizing to the customer, the cashier promised to finish so he could be helped quickly. Then she apologized to me and completed my transaction.

When she invited the man to her station a mere seconds later, he was ornery and less than polite.

As a working mother, I understand what it is like to be in a rush while shopping. However, when visiting a full-service retailer such as Banana Republic, customers, especially those in the "buyer" category, should not expect to make a purchase and get in and out of the store. Banana Republic stakes its reputation on customer service, and that is just what it delivered that day.

Sir, shame on you. You put an educated, amiable sales associate on the spot, and you almost ruined a pleasant experience for other shoppers.

On the other hand, kudos to the store associate. Her assistance was priceless, and I was impressed by how she managed to diffuse an unnecessary, uncomfortable situation.

I urge more “buyers” to stop to smell the roses and actually “shop” for a change. As these individuals are converted to "shoppers," I hope they realize that there is more to a pleasant shopping trip than just making an efficient purchase.

—Deena Amato McCoy

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

good point of view, but in my opinion, we (men) decide when we want to be a shopper or a buyer, depends on the category.

For example, when I go to a music store, I don't know what to buy, I just look to all the albums and in the end I make a choice, even talk with the sellers (that make me a shopper on music category). On the other hand, when I go to buy clothes, I just go to the same group of retails that I know with one thought: I have to pick up quickly the shirt/pants that I need to wear(that make me a buyer on the clothes category).

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