A Ghost of A Host
Jennifer Marks -- Home Textiles Today, October 2, 2006
When guests come to my place, they must wander about the kitchen until they find what they're looking for and bring it to the table themselves. Mine is a self-service household.
When guests come to my place, I make eye contact and say “hello” if I come within five feet of them, but largely ignore them otherwise.
When a guest comes to my place and complains about, let's say, the quality of the salsa, I refuse to take it back into the kitchen. That's because my rule holds that I will only take things back if the guest complains within the first two minutes of tasting, and unfortunately, this guest waited five minutes, so he'll have to seek redress directly from Old El Paso.
The point here is that the practice of speaking of retail shoppers as “guests” (and it's not just Target that does it) is at best silly and at bottom delusional. If real people treated their guests with the notable lack of enthusiasm on display daily at the majority of our retail outlets, real people would have few visitors.
Here's my favorite story on that subject. It was told by the ceo of a major apparel firm at a National Retail Federation panel session a few years ago. One of his employees went to a major department store to sink some serious money into a dress for a special occasion.
There was, of course, no one on duty in the designer dress department to ring up her purchase so, dress in hand, she walked in and out of the department, setting off the security alarm each time she did so. No one came. She put the dress back on the rack and left.
I think a lot of us real people would like to be treated like real customers again. When the people who are supposed to be selling you merchandise are excited about it, you're apt to get excited about it, too. Instead, we are given floor staff consisting of minimally trained, minimum wage workers who know nothing about the product and whose primary responsibility appears to be stocking shelves.
Would it be asking too much to have at least one person assigned to each department who is the official expert on the merchandise therein? Who can speak to the attributes of the goods on display?
Dinner parties have guests. Hotels have guests. Retail stores have customers, and it's a pity more of them don't treat them as such.
Celebrity Branding at NY Home Fashions Market