Let’s face it: we do not tolerate pushy clerks that “ beset us” since we enter a shop, that chase us among the shelves nonstop. Shopping while someone’s breathing down our neck is terrible, and wandering because a bored and unmotivated clerk doesn’t care about us is terrible too.

The character of this clip the movie “ Clerks” Randal, is that kind of clerk. A woman enters his video store, and seeks advice about two movies she’s undecided about. The boy, lying on the counter, will not help the woman, and he lets her clearly understand that. And when she tries to trick him to check if he was paying attention, things get worse:

  • “ I don’t think your manager would appreciate –“
  • “ I don’t appreciate your  ruse, ma’am”
  • “ I was only pointing out that you weren’t paying any attention to what I was saying!”
  • “I hope it feels so good to be right. There’s nothing more exhilarating than pointing out the shortcomings of others, is there?”

The customer shows her disappointment and indignation because Randal not only wasn’t “paying any attention”, but was also mocking her. At the end the hopeless woman tells Randal to go to hell, and that she will never enter that shop again.

-“You’ll be missed.

Randal is consistent with his customer care line, he looks like he wasn’t interested in losing a potential costumer , he thinks that woman overreacted.

Of course this clip is an exasperation of a negative experience of customer service, I hope no one have ever met such a clerk, but the clip makes us understand how not to treat a customer, if we don’t want to instantly lose it.

Here is some advice to welcome and help customers in our own store and make them leave satisfied:

  1. Warm welcome and a smile are the foundation of a satisfying shopping experience. The first time you meet a surly and bored clerk is a “moment of truth” that will put the customer on the defensive and make him/her think that buying experience was “negative”, even if he bought something.
  2. Dress for success, and be adequate and professional. Lying cross-legged on the counter while reading a newspaper is obviously not the best way to welcome a new buyer. Of course that’s a parody, but don’t forget that the first impression is the one that counts, so “posture”, “clothing”, “facial expression”, and everything about nonverbal communication, aren’t optional, but real “assets” in the retail world.
  3. Make feel your presence, without being intrusive. The “proxemics”, the space between ourselves and another person, must be respected, maintaining a discreet Just offer your help and go away, so the customer can make an independent choice: “Call me if you need help”, or simply, “May I help you?”.
  4. Show items, and give advice on them. Answering “I find it’s best to stay out of other people’s affairs” to a customer distress signal is not great. The buyer will appreciate the time you spend to help him/her choosing the right item/service, even more if accompanied by honest and free
  5. Thank and say goodbye with the same initial enthusiasm. Even if the customer didn’t buy anything, it’s always important to thank customers for visiting the shop and say a warm and kind goodbye. The final goodbye is just as important as the first hello; the customer will notice if you look “angry” because he/she bought nothing, or because something went wrong!

Knowing how to welcome a customer in the right way is fundamental, not only to sell more, but also to build a trust relationship with the customers. Furthermore, we have to keep in mind that if a customer gets ignored and left alone, he/she will lose interest in our shop, and he will be tend to badmouth it, and we all know the price of a bad reputation!

To sum up in short, look at Randal … and do exactly the opposite.

Buy the film


“Clerks“ A film by Kevin Smith, Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti USA 1994

Buy the recommended book


“Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience” by Joseph Michelli


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