Most Naggerly Retail Chain?

Excuse me sir, can I help you? Can I help you? ExcusemesircanIhelpyou?

Shopping in real life can be a chore, especially with super duper helpful clerks coming up every five seconds to unzip your pants for you and collect your chin dribble.

One of our readers was in Aldos, browsing for shoes. He was annoyed to be asked if needed help five times. He says, “And then the pitch for special polish, and those devices to maintain the shape of shoes. They said the sales assistants get 3% of purchase price. And stores have to meet certain quotas for shoe accessories.”

Ah yes, the well-documented collision between commissions and customer annoyance.

So then, what do you think is the worst store chain for customer harassment?


Edit Your Comment

  1. I vote for Macy’s.

    Sure as hell isn’t Fry’s.

  2. Fancy Pants says:

    Victoria’s Secret, hands-down.

  3. AcilletaM says:

    Kohl’s department stores. Last time I was there they had a person in each section (men’s casual, men’s dress, men’s shoes, etc.) and at the cash registers asking people if they wanted to sign up for their store charge card. Ask the person a question like ‘Do you carry so-and-so?’ and he/she was no help.

  4. Detective Bunk says:

    Best Buy. . .HAHAHAHAHA. . .snort. . no, sorry.

    H.H. Gregg – vultures.

  5. sam says:

    Circuit City (at least the one on Union Square). I actually had to yell at a sales clerk once to leave me alone. Then the bastard tried to take credit for my “sale” at the register, at which point I threatened to walk out and go to another store if this guy got credit.

  6. castlecraver says:

    Two words: Radio. Shack.

    Even if the sales staff didn’t creep me out there, it wouldn’t even be worth the hassle trying to explain what I came in for. Its one of the few stores when a completely unindoctrinated customer has a greater chance of locating their desired item than the salesman. As if the persistent “howmayihelpyou” isn’t bad enough there, their associates know NOTHING about anything unless it involves selling you mobile phones or sattelite TV. And you always get pitches for both to accompany your horribly overpriced audio plug adapter.

  7. dustboo says:

    i think buckle can be pretty bad sometimes… they all work on commission so they follow you around like flies…

  8. Morton Fox says:

    On the flip side, I can never get anyone to help me at CompUSA.

  9. kerry says:

    Damn, I’m like poison to the Victoria’s Secret SA’s. They ignore me whenever I go in there, and won’t help me unless I hound them.
    Coach has some pretty naggy SAs in their stores, but they tend to be so friendly about it (“Oh, look! Isn’t this bag great? I love what you’re wearing! That wallet is so cute, isn’t it?”) that I can’t really hold it against them.
    The salesladies at Express are a pain in my butt, though. I never heard the question “can I get a dressing room started for you?” before I shopped there. Is it an oven or something? A grill? Why does it need to be started in advance?

  10. Ben Popken says:

    Ron writes:

    “Lenscrafters. Hands down. Worse than visiting a car dealership during Toyotathon. Employee to customer ratio of at least 3:1. Way intrusive greetings. (I got a “Hi my name is Steve! What’s your name?” the other day.)

    When I’m buying glasses, I need me some quiet introspection time. I’m shopping for what is essentially a piece of clothing I will wear every day. Let me try on a few frames — hell let me try on a LOT of frames — without all the yap yap yapping. I’ll love you forever. “

  11. etinterrapax says:

    No particular chain, but I hate jewelry stores more than I hate Wal-Mart. It was worst when we were shopping for an engagement ring, or when I went alone (there was this one time that I thought I’d have to hack off my own foot to escape this Zales SA who kept showing me the ugliest diamond rings known to man), but I generally hate how if you even want to know what something costs, you have to attract someone’s attention and have them unlock the case, and then they’ve got you. The upsell pressure is usually enormous, and they really capitalize on the fact that unless you’re getting into the most robotically mercenary marriage ever, the situation with the money is a little delicate and even if you like the bigger one, you don’t want to subject your paramour to sales pressure from anyone, you or the SA.

    Chicken or egg, I have no idea, but since I’ve been married, I’ve avoided jewelry stores even when I wanted something for myself. The merchandise is not worth the hassle. Perhaps someday when I have all the money in the world, I can afford to go to one where I’m not treated like my purchase is all that’s standing between the SA and a dinner of dog food.

  12. craniumania says:

    I’ve had problems at Express, too, kerry. Last time some sales associate practically knocked me over trying “help” me find my size on a rack, a task I was managing just fine, without having to openly announce my pants size to the world. And then I’m always asked some sort of asinine question/upsell at checkout, where they want to make sure I’ve seen all their “cute tops” or something. I always forget to take off my blinders before going in there, silly me!

  13. Triteon says:

    I’d say Grace Bros. Department Store in London!
    Seriously, castlecraver is right– Radio Shack SA’s are all over you until you ask for a component of an electronic device instead of the device itself.

  14. Ben Popken says:

    Soraya writes:

    “Victoria’s Secret is awful. Granted, they’ve already alienated my demographic as they REFUSE to feature a moderately small-busted woman in any of their catalogs, but they have reached out to the El Cheapo set by luring me in with Free Panty coupons. I had no idea so many people were interested in showing me my real bra size. No thanks, I’d rather stay in the dark about that one. And sorry, 34A women just don’t buy $48 bras. I will take one of your poorly manufactured cotton panties for free-99, however.

    And Chilis/Bennigans/Applebees/Chotchky’s/Whatthefuckever with their wound-up highlighted waitstaff, always trying to upsell me on Chimichanga Cheesecake and 48oz blue margaritas under the guise of asking me if I’m “doing all right” every 30 seconds while I’m egregiously stuffing my face.”

  15. kerry –

    As someone who has worked retail (during the summers) for the past several years, I can tell you that starting fitting rooms is a pretty standard courtesy. Perhaps you are a Miss-Comes-For-One-Pair-of-Jeans, but many shoppers, particularly women, want to try on lots of clothing, whether they’re going to buy it all or not. Carrying clothes around as you browse racks can be pretty cumbersome, especially if you want to try on a lot of stuff.

    Additionally, in a commission-based environment (my last job was pure commission) starting fitting rooms is a way of ensuring that your clients don’t get “stolen” by other associates.

    It is, of course, also a way to maximize sales: you get your client’s clothing, put it in a room, and start adding other items that will coordinate with what they have already picked out.

  16. iameleveneight says:

    Not sure if this relates, but I’m dead sick of getting asked if I want to buy subscriptions to crappy magazines at the register at Best Buy. Its to the point that I cant tell them no within two words of their sales spiel.

  17. Hawkins says:

    Yeah, Radio Shack is pretty bad. Agressively helpful… until you actually ask them about an electronic component. Like a wire, or a plug, or something.

    You could call them Naggers With Attitude.

  18. Whenever I’m asked at the register if “someone helped me today,” I always respond with my name and ask for the commission. I guess I’m just a smartass.

  19. meandertail says:

    Oh, Express/Victoria’s Secret for sure! They’re owned by the same company, so same difference. I worked at Express many years ago. You’re not on commission per se, but they keep track of your sales and you’re expected to reach certain levels. Fortunately I mostly worked at the counter… er, excuse me, the “wrap desk”… where my main job as far as pushiness was concerned was to hawk socks and jewelry (to up the units per transaction) and try to open credit card accounts.

    Though I’m a little bummed that I stopped working there before everyone on the floor got those fancy headsets. Ooh!

  20. mechanismatic says:

    A few stores come to mind. I’ve experienced this problem in Best Buy, where you get nagged by 3 employees per department you’re in, but when they’re busy, they’re busy. I’ve actually called the 1-800 number to get the store’s phone number and called the number for the store I was standing in to get some help because the local person was selling a phone services to someone. In the end, someone came over to help me buy an mp3 player but had to get a key from the busy salesperson to get into the locked case, so I had to wait until the end of their sale anyway. I shouldn’t have even bought that mp3 player from them in the first place.

    When I worked at Barnes and Noble, the manager always told us to upsell. “If they’re buying a fictional novel that takes place in Ireland, suggest a book about the history of Ireland!” I don’t know how many times I argued with him that you can’t artificially increase demand and if you could because people are sheep and suseptible to suggestion then it’s not ethical to do so if they don’t frickin need it! We didn’t get commission so who the heck cared anyway? Hehe. No wonder I got fired…

  21. Klitaka says:

    Best Buy, mainly because I know more about what I want than the “helpful staff”; usually, the trips to Best Buy are for one or two things, and the staff gets in the way.

  22. etinterrapax says:

    Mechanismatic reminds me of something that happened to me at our local Barnes & Noble last week. I was looking for a book a friend recommended to me, but couldn’t remember the exact title. There is no self-service at BN, so I had to, sigh, wait and approach someone at the customer service desk to ask her to look it up for me. And when we couldn’t locate the book, I had to tell the SA about six times that it was okay, I’d look it up at home and come back. She kept pushing and pushing, and finally gave me a business card for the location so they could order it for me. I’m especially irritated that this would go on in a bookstore. It’s one place that I usually prefer to relax–and be as antisocial as I normally am. I wish they’d provide kiosks like Borders does. Borders has both kiosks and a customer service desk. I’m not sure BN knows anything about book lovers, except that they like comfortable chairs.

  23. Bauer says:

    EB Games is a complete nightmare. They can’t allow you to just buy a single 50 dollar video game. You can’t escape until they cashier offers you the extended warranty, EB’s own special protection, the membership card, the strategy guide, the option pre order games, and whatever else they are trying to hock. Since the stores are small the brass know that all roads lead to the register and that makes everyone a captive audience. I used to love to shop there, but now it’s too much of a strain on my patience to suffer through all that when I just want to buy my game and go home to play it.

  24. mechanismatic says:

    etinterrapax – yeah. I enjoyed B&N because I like books, but now that I don’t work there, I don’t go in there if I’m looking for a book. Heck, I don’t buy books anymore. The local library is great about getting new books and having them available soon enough after being published. Of course you can just read a book and return it as long as it’s in good condition and you keep the receipt.

    I was in Bums & Nipple a few weeks ago looking at some magazines and a customer was looking for the book Who Moved My Cheese, which is about the most popular book in the business section. The Bookseller he asked about it had never heard of it and went to the computer to look it up. I overheard and told the customer right where it would be. He told the Bookseller they should hire me. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’m no longer hirable at B&N. And they pay their employees crap anyway.

  25. Demingite says:

    From mechanismatic, referring to working at Barnes & Noble and pressured into upselling:
    I don’t know how many times I argued with him that you can’t artificially increase demand and if you could because people are sheep and suseptible to suggestion then it’s not ethical to do so if they don’t frickin need it!

    AMEN! The irony, which businesses fail to consider at their peril, is that more customers may be TURNED OFF by these tactics than inspired to make a purchase. In other words, upselling can easily hurt your business. Customers are less likely to want to set foot inside your store if they are treated as walking immediate-profit centers.

    Some major chains seem to have some very ill-considered policies — or formulas — with which employees are forced to comply. Walking through a section of a Jones Store (which is transitioning into a Macy’s) I was approached by 3 different employees uttering some stock phrase — I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I felt like I was being approached by a programmed robot vs. someone who might actually be interested in my needs as a consumer. I mentioned this to a relatively human-acting cashier and she said, “We HAVE to ask you that” and apparently within a certain measured time limit! Apparently the employees hate those practices as much as customers do.

    Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. Sorry — but good customer service, good customer-vendor relationships are not going to be so mechanical or formulaic. Good customer service requires sensitivity…it requires listening…and being respectful…and paying attention. There are ways for an SA to offer her or his availability without being intrusive, and then escalate the amount of assistance as appropriate for the customer’s needs.

    The Jones Store employee told me also that they get “mystery shopped” to confirm that they make the robot statement within a certain period of time. Here’s a good example of why mystery shopping is usually NOT a consumer’s friend (and why I would never vote for “Mystery Shopper” as a consumerist t-shirt message). The mystery shopper is told to look for the employee’s compliance to whatever it is that management wants the employee to do — which quite possibly has to do with upselling and immediate profit and selling extended service plans or magazine subscriptions or Lord knows what other bullshit. Companies that use mystery shoppers usually have a threat-based culture for employees. The threat-based culture and the upselling culture are of the same piece of cloth. (Ditto re quotas.)

    The other side is that if you don’t have a threat-based culture, you don’t need mystery shoppers. I am confident that Trader Joe’s, for one, never uses mystery shoppers. Trader Joe’s, at the register, asks the reasonable question “Where you able to find everything you were looking for?,” but they never, ever upsell. While Trader Joe’s appears to be hugely profitable. Think about it.

    I wish clothing stores, book stores, Radio Shack, etc. would be run like Trader Joe’s.

    I find it irritating how Borders asks if you’d like to be on their email list at every purchase. Yeah, like I want spam. Of course, if you give them your email address, not only will you get spam, you will get *customized* spam because your email address gets tied to a computerized record of whatever it was that you just purchased. A kinder, gentler, less obnoxious approach would be to print on the bags, “If you love the book you bought, call or email us to interact with a professional bibliophile to help you find other books that you are likely to love.” Instead they burden employees and each and every customer with an intrusive request for an email address. How many potential customers tense up in thinking about the mini-gauntlet of checking out at Borders — and are less likely to return?

    Customers don’t like mini-, medium- or full-sized gauntlets. Practices that are thought to increase profits may actually be doing the opposite, at least relative to what could be. W. Edwards Deming provocatively said that western management “doesn’t give a hoot about profit” because of their short-sighted, short-term and superficial thinking, and a general lack of knowledge. I’d say that at least managers that encourage or incentivize customer nagging aren’t giving a hoot about profit — ironically.

  26. mechanismatic says:

    Demingite – Don’t get me started on Mystery Shoppers. Before B&N I worked at a stationery store that used mystery shoppers. The management criticized you didn’t get at least a 90 out of 100 points on it. The store managers were so paranoid about it. To get 90, much less 100, points, you’d have to know the person was a mystery shopper. They graded you on greeting the customer within 15 seconds of them entering the store (which is difficult if you’re doing a custom order of wedding invitations for a picky bride-to-be and her mother who want every second of your attention). They graded you on whether or not you tried to upsell, on whether or not you suggested greeting cards for the next upcoming holiday (I’m not going to ask a person who I don’t know is Jewish if they need a Passover card…). And the list of expectations just goes on. Meanwhile if they staffed the store with more people, they could have provided better customer service. If it was busy (i.e. customers spending lots of money in the store), then the mystery shop would go poorly and on paper it would look like we provided bad customer service despite the store having a good business day. I eventually left the stationery store because once I was promoted to assistant manager, I was making less per hour with my salary at nearly 80 hour weeks than I was working 40 hours for a few bucks less.

    Actually that brings back memories. This is entirely unrelated, but that’s where I was 5 years ago today, on September 11th, 2001. I heard the news about the WTC towers while driving to work. I lived in Northern Virginia at the time. What few people who showed up to the mall that morning just watched tv for a little while and left when the stores all closed early if they’d even opened. I had to coach a hysterical girl at another store over the phone on closing the store before she went to find out if her Marine boyfriend was at the Pentagon that morning like he was supposed to be.

  27. amazon says:

    It’s gotta be the Body Shop. Every one of those stores is the size of a thimble, yet there is never less than four employees lurking around. Every time you turn around there is some black-clad piranha trying to slather you with some smelly lotion.

    It’s even worse around xmas; you have too many staff in a store when you don’t have enough room to browse the single aisle. Especially if you are the only customer. (Seriously, no store needs a 7:1 staff to customer ratio)

  28. x23 says:

    i went to a “Buckle” before. sweet feathery christ. they successfully sold me on something all right : NEVER WALKING INTO THE STORE EVER AGAIN. IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

    if the continuance of the human race in its entirety involved me having to go into a “Buckle” … i would literally shrug and say ‘fuck it. we had a good run on this planet. i’m not going in there. sorry.’

  29. UASteph says:

    I think a big part of the problem is that the policies are set by upper management, who rarely (if ever) set foot in the stores and don’t understand the realities of everyday customer interaction. It’s just something they think will increase the bottom line – “advertising works, and this is sorta like advertising, right?” and setting those policies makes them look like they’re responsible for any increase in sales.

    Still, you have to wonder – do they ever actually shop themselves?

  30. Ben Popken says:

    Anon writes:

    “I’ve been on both sides of the mystery shopping coin. I’ve worked as a mystery shopper, and I’ve also worked at national chains that were shopped (both retail and casual dining).

    The main point I want to make is that the type of mystery shopping used is reflective of corporate culture. So the Jones Store mystery shop reports demand that a shopper observe if a sales associate makes a certain statement, and how long it takes a customer to be approached in that way by an associate. That’s because the corporate higher-ups decided at some point that this particular statement was a priority for them, and their mystery shopping program was developed with that in mind. At other stores where pushing in-store credit cards is a priority, for example, you can bet that that’s central to the report. Store managers have no say over the design of the reports, and a series of bad reports bodes more poorly for them than any single associate.

    The fact that a company uses mystery shoppers is in no way indicative of a threat culture. It’s not uncommon for companies to reward their employees for a good score on a shop. At the retail chain where I worked, for example, we received a $10 gift certificate for scoring 100% on a mystery shop. If the threat implicit in “threat-based culture” is that the employee will be fired for getting a single low score, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that that’s unlikely. More likely is that a poor mystery shop report will confirm what management already suspected about an employee, but from the point of view of an unbiased observer. (Many people think, mistakenly, that shoppers are on the lookout for “bad” service; the real goal is to “catch” employees doing things right as much as it is to catch them doing things wrong.) To be fired on the basis of one report (and I say this not as a shopper but as an ex-worker), you’d have to do something egregiously wrong, like proposition the shopper.

    As for confidence that Trader Joe’s is not mystery shopped, I would say that that confidence is mislaid. While I can’t confirm that Trader Joe’s is or is not mystery shopped, consensus among shoppers is that nearly every company you can think of uses a mystery shopping program. Some use it constructively; others don’t. But almost all do. “

  31. Ben Popken says:

    Carbunkle writes:

    “My vote would have to be for Talbots. I don’t really mind them ‘starting’ a dressing room, so that I don’t have to carry the things I want to try on all over the store while I continue to look, but it just creeps me out when the little old ladies working there peek their heads over the dressing room door while I’m changing and ask if I need any help. Help with what, getting dressed? They also tend to be the type who will go around calling you ‘honey’ or ‘sweety’. Blech!

    If there’s a runner up, it would have to be Banana Republic. They always ask who was helping you at the register, but what do you say when five different people came up and introduced themselves before you went to the rack and got what you were looking for on your own? Plus they always look at my credit card when I check out and then insincerely call me by my first name, even though I’m obviously older than any of the clerks.

    This is why I prefer to shop online as much as possible, even if there’s a store nearby, but quality varies so much even within the same store that sometimes you have to see items in person just to avoid getting completely ripped off.”

  32. Anonymous says:

    damn, reading these comments I wonder what dark cloud follows me? Believe it or not Best Buy, Rat Shack, and the rest I always have to fight for service. I can count on one hand the one time I’ve ever been offered help.

    As for the upsell at the end, dont get that either. But then again when asked “did you find everything okay?” I response with “Yes, I’ve found all Im going to purchase”.

  33. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    The trick is, do you look like a shoplifter or not?

    I can’t get service to save me in Best Buy, Circuit City, Meijer’s, and a host of other places if I’m by myself, but I’m a geeky-looking white girl often travelling in business attire. Send my dreadlocked husband in, though, and nobody will leave him/us alone. You’re getting approached about “help” every five seconds, obvious plainclothes security is around every corner, and the people at the door are guaranteed to try the “search your bags” gambit. Nothing says “customer service” like the silently screamed accusation that you must be there to steal something. None of them will actually help you with anything, of course, but it IS amusing to ask the plainclothes workers to help you find an item. ;)

    (Confession: I’ve never shoplifted in my life, but these people make me want to something *fierce*.)

  34. etinterrapax says:

    I’m not sure I get the point of a cashier asking if you found everything you were looking for. If you didn’t, are they going to go and get it for you? Hold up the line while you go and get it yourself? People would riot, and they’d have every right!

  35. Jesse Lee says:

    I have to vote for RadioShack/The Source too – there is something distinctly predatory and creepy about the way they approach you, and as someone pointed out above, on the rare occasion that you actually do want help finding something, or need advice on what product will fix your issue, they have no idea. But they really, really want you to have a useless warranty and plenty of batteries whenever you do figure it out.

  36. I’m not sure I get the point of a cashier asking if you found everything you were looking for.

    etinterrapax, I’d always assumed that they would either just tell me where it is and I could come back in for it if I really needed it or they were really looking to hear about items the don’t, but should, stock.

  37. Schmanz says:

    Chico’s is the worst.
    There are hoards of sales people following throught the story. If you try on something, you’ll notice that there are no mirrors in the dressing rooms.
    So you will have to go on to the sales floor to look at the clothes -=- and be attacked by associates wielding false comments and accessories.

  38. And sorry, 34A women just don’t buy $48 bras.

    That is nucking futs. Glamorise has large sized bras (50I) for less than that. Those better be specialty bras.

    EB Games is a complete nightmare. They can’t allow you to just buy a single 50 dollar video game.

    I went in there to by the GameCube and a used game a (long) while back. The guy at the counter says the used copy they have is scratched and would I rather buy a new copy. It seems strange to me that they would buy a game from someone that they consider too damaged to sell.

    But what really pissed me off was that he DIDN’T tell me the system didn’t come with a controller. I get home, ready to play the thing, and it turns out I have to go back out to buy a controller. So long as he was trying to get me to spend more money he could have told me about the one item I HAD to buy to play anything at all.

    Generally, though, I don’t have much trouble with nagging since the only place I shop at regularly is Publix.