The Joys of Black Friday

Posted on November 29, 2013 by Robert Ringer


Well, here we are again — Black Friday — the official start of the Christmas shopping season.  But, unfortunately, Christmas shopping is no longer the joyful and relaxing experience it once was.

How can you be joyful and relaxed when a teenaged sales clerk, with an earring in his nose and a tattoo on his forehead, acts as though you’re bothering him when you ask a question?  The last time I was at Best Buy, I asked four different kids to please find me a certain type of USB cord.  The standard response was, “It’s six aisles down.”

When a fifth kid told me the same thing, I said to him, “Don’t tell me where it is.  I want you to find it for me.”  Perplexed, he shrugged his shoulders and mumbled for me to follow him.

After quickly perusing the cords on display, he proudly announced that Best Buy doesn’t carry the USB cord I was looking for.  And with that, he departed for another kibitzing session with his fellow Best Buy buddies.

Persistent, I looked carefully through the USB cords on display and — Voila! — sure enough, I found the exact one I needed.  I could have rubbed it in by interrupting the all-important jam session two aisles over and showing the cord to the kid who said they didn’t carry it, but I resisted the temptation.  Bright fellow that I am, I assumed he would have little interest in hearing about my success.

The sad reality is that this “the customer is a nuisance” attitude is now widespread among retailers.  Which is why, as the decades have passed, my enthusiasm for Christmas shopping has approached zero.  It’s simply no fun when you have to beg retail employees to help you.

Every company has a certain mind-set toward its customers, and in the new millennium the mind-set of all too many businesses is:  “This is our policy.  Take it or leave it.”  Speaking for myself, unless there’s a compelling reason to do otherwise, I almost always opt to leave it.  And if you’re in business for yourself, you would do well to assume that your customers — and potential customers — will choose to do the same.

Having said all this, as I prepare to venture out into the Christmas shopping season, I’ve come up with a plan to help get me through it.  I’ve decided to make it an educational experience by using it as an opportunity to study the personality of every store I visit.

By personality, I’m talking about the company’s attitude toward its most important asset — its customers.  You may want to try it yourself.  By paying close attention, I think you’ll be surprised by what you can learn about both the right and wrong ways to handle customers.

I am convinced that the mind-set that wins the hearts and minds of both old and new customers over the long term is:  “This is our normal policy, but we’ll do whatever is necessary to find a way to work around it so we can satisfy your needs.  Satisfying you is our number-one priority.”

It’s amazing to me that so many companies still don’t get it.  They simply don’t understand that customer satisfaction should be their number-one priority.  Which means that the field is wide open for anyone who does understand it — and acts accordingly.

That said, if you’re venturing out to shop today, best of luck.  And please do tell all the kids at Best Buy that I’m thinking (and writing) about them.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

27 responses to “The Joys of Black Friday”

  1. Matt Clark says:

    Robert, I am in total agreement with you. In reference to employee level of quality and service, the original cause lies in what Best Buy offers them and sets them up for. A garbage level wage and no commission as far as I know. If they can make even a crappy wage as teenagers and not have to answer for anything but being there when scheduled, why would they go out of their way or even put forth a minimal effort. This also becomes the only employees they can attract and hire. Circuit City did two things that were their demise: took away salesperson commission, and stopped selling appliances. My company, hh gregg, has our associates on straight commission, we sell things that have to be delivered (appliances), and currently occupy former Circuit City locations. We didn't buy the company. It didn't exist. We compete on price (match in nearly every case) and succeed on service. We know the products and go to any length to get you what you want. Our associates (not me) are just about all relatively young and are doing just fine. Best Buy is not the best buy. It's a cheap price that many of us will match. Otherwise, the Best Buy is online. Any retailer with employees like that needs to change its structure, pay its people, and up its standards. Your experience started way before the kid lied and said "may I help you" if he asked at all.

    • Scott Elder says:

      Hey Matt, glad to hear someone still cares and is doing retailing right. I started in retail sales in the 70s and put myself through college working retail sales. I was very good at selling and when graduated from college in communications I produced a retail sales training video, "The Six Steps to Successful Retail Selling." I was able to sell it through several retail selling associations and customized the script for a large retail chain. What made my approach work wasn't the "six steps" as they're the basic selling process. What set it apart was the mental mindset that I taught at the beginning of the training. When I first started out I too thought customers were an annoyance. I knew I had to change that attitude so I created a script that I would say to myself as I approached a customer: "You're somebody special and I want to be your friend." My objective was to make a friend before helping them make a buying decision. I got very good at it. It made selling, cross-selling, up-selling, and building the sell almost effortless once I we were friends. I later learned that there is a lot of psychology in this approach that is very effective that was just common sense for me at the time. Now after more than 30 years of developing training programs I still think this is the most valuable insight I ever learned and still incorporate it in my training.Teach your salespeople this principle and you will see amazing things happen. Sales will increase and your salespeople will enjoy their jobs. For me it no longer was "going to work" it was "making new friends everyday." I thoroughly loved being on the retail floor.

  2. Will Ezell says:

    I'm of an age that my thinking is starting to scare me… And the more I sound like my parents, the more scared I get!! :-)

    You're dead-on Robert. Thank you.

    I prefer to think of it as customer excellence, client excellence, guest excellence and patient excellence. And please – don't confuse excellence with perfection. At our offices, we are constantly in pursuit of client excellence! Most times we hit the mark. Sometimes we fail…

  3. Mark Mills says:

    I agree, there are many stores out there that have workers that have no pride in doing their jobs in a helpful manner and then there are some that do. I have bought many items at the Best Buy in St Petersburg florida over the years including a computer, tv, phones etc and someone always came up to me to help and many times on the same trip, but that might be the management of the store accepting no less. Another one that was top notch is the sports authority store here in St Pete. Looking at pop up tents the kid salesman was very helpful and ask me at the begining if I needed help. These are maybe 2 rare cases but the 2 managers of these stores are creating top quality salesmen unlike the norn.

  4. unique says:

    The same things happen in restaurants, doctor and dentist offices.
    The employees are too busy socializing with their fellow employees
    and do not even look up at you. When you say something like "Am I
    invisible," they tell me I am rude. I am 70 years old and expect to be
    respected as a customer or patient. If I and others go somewhere else,
    you may not have a job or business.

  5. greg says:

    Robert, it is an opportunity for you to talk to management of Best Buy to train its employees on customer service i.e. service excellence. They are kids from different backgrounds and maybe be without any formal training on customer service and salesmanship. So what do you expect? Lousy service of course.

    • Carol says:

      I would agree that our youth has very little training in social skills. Every aspect of life requires the ability to communicate well with others.

  6. William says:

    @ Mr. Ringer: Why are you patronizing a Big Box store on Black Friday. Why not patronize a Mom-And-Pop everyday?

    • imgettingdizzy says:

      I don't know about Mr. Ringer but there are certainly no mom-and-pop electronics stores around where I live… they must have been overtaken by the big box stores some time before I was old enough to care.

  7. This is WHY (how) Mom-n-Pops CAN succeed.. they can offer the very thing their customer is looking for: SERVICE. I'm willing to make an extra stop if I know the business can actually help me.

  8. Marte Cliff says:

    Best Buy and Home Depot are notorious around here for giving as little service as they can get away with.

    On the other hand, Staples, Petsmart, and Big R always impress us with the number of employees who stop to ask if we need help, then lead us to any product we're looking for.

    I expect part of it is company policy, and part of it comes down to the managers, the example they set, and what they clearly expect from their employees.

  9. Kevin Jack Gryphon says:

    There's three things not mentioned in the article (purposely) that need to be mentioned. First off, the kids at Best Buy and any other retailer, are paid junk wages without commission, so they have no motivation to do anything other than what they do. Secondly, these companies (and unfortunately, they are legion), have no reason to operate any other way than what they do because the American sheep consumer allows themselves to be dictated to, and continuously bleat their weak-minded acceptance by participating in the shearing forced upon them by these companies. And thirdly, just like many other aspects of our society, wages in this country are in polarization – with inflation continually pushing prices up; while wages stay stagnant, or go down. People stuck in this situation have no choice but to go where they have to go just to survive financially. (And I might add that our society's generally accepted idea that giving presents at Christmas to supposedly show their love towards one another, has gone from a once correct priority of service and caring first, to not caring and taking the easy way out by buying a present instead. Similar to sending an email Christmas card instead of taking the time and spending the money to buy the real McCoy, and send it.) And lastly to you Robert – you are a part of the problem yourself by participating – even worse so because you should know better.
    There is a small but vocal movement going on in our country, to shop small, and local. I am neither a small businessman, nor looking to gather some local customers through this post, so don't bother trying to do damage control. Instead, talk to your friends and neighbors about doing their shopping small and local. It's the only way you are ever going to get the big boys to at least do a little damage control to save themselves. Better yet, I suggest that if the small/local movement can gain big traction, you might actually see some of the big boys go the way of Circuit City, Fretter, and others. We really do have the control to shape the way our society sees, and puts into action how we want to live. We have the numbers on our side. Occasionally you can still see an outraged public get up in arms about something, and the jaded mess in Washington D.C. does respond. Apathy is the great enemy; and it has done immense damage to our once great country.

  10. byHisgrace says:

    Must be the area, Robert. The BestBuys I have shopped in Chicago have had great knowledgeable college aged, one worked there while finishing his Masters degree. They walked me over to each section to find what I needed and were patient, more than patient, with my questions. Same with the Verizon corporate store. There are plenty of bad service stores, but Best Buy hasn’t been one of them.

  11. Mt Davis says:

    Hi Robert
    I must say I have to agree, not to be slamming on Best Buy but…. (The last time i was there, an irate customer walked out of the store after making quite seen and blasted his purchase all over the parking lot into tiny pieces.) My point is.. it should have not gone down like that! What ever the circumstances were it could have been handle in a better way IN THE STORE! I agree that first impressions when I go there for something which is rare I'm not impressed with the knowledge, people skills (or lack there of) of their employees so my guess is BEST BUY is trying the "Hip" progressive approach. Yeah that works!

    So many companies today have the attitude, if I don't buy it someone will. Is there where retail has gone?
    Notice the CS the next time your buying in your favorite (pick one) Mega home supply chain, I've actually made eye contact with employees as if I were going to ask a question and get that oh! All of sudden they forgot something on the next Isle and turn around and run! Its sad that companies are so desperate that they will hire what ever walks through the door. I have no allegiance or loyalty to any company that is doing me a favor by taking my money today.

  12. John Van Epps says:

    And while we're on the topic of customer service, is anyone else as galled as I over the self-checkout lines? I wander the store to find what I need, and then am expected to interact with a computerized terminal, and bag my purchases myself?

    For my trouble, I receive no discount, either.

    Guess my generation – and the service that that went with us – are simply antiquated…

    As always, Robert – thanks for stirring the pot a bit!

  13. Linda C Ridenour says:

    Love the comments here!

    I haven't shopped at Best Buy for several years. Most of the employees, if you could find one when you needed one, were knowledgeable but quite condescending. It was the snarky remarks and snide laughter that offended me the most.

    I don't think this is peculiar to Best Buy in my area, as much as it is the attitude of some young folk (under 20) who have grown up with technology and don't have the patience for those of us who didn't. I routinely get incredulous looks from them when I ask a question that seems legitimate to me and request more than a millisecond response. My brain was not trained to respond as quickly to input as theirs might have been by repeated exposure.So I'm expected to "get it!" when in fact I need more information.

    I have chosen instead to either do business online or do business with local owners who still value the customer and train their employees to offer assistance that will ensure customer satisfaction.

    No loss of options for either in my area and I'm persistent, so I'm eventually a happy camper!

  14. Froy says:

    Hi Robert,
    Totally agree. But I want to share the other side of the coin … I know someone very close that makes sports uniforms specially designed for clients of schools … Well, this person confuses customer satisfaction … and when he gives them his order, many of them do not pay you the full order, they are left owing money … and this person gives them uniforms and wait for him to pay the rest, one, two or three weeks, even months … arguing that he does this to avoid losing the customer … but I tell him he is confused, that what he is doing is NOT VALUING HIS WORK and so that's why he allows his customers to do that …

    I hope you can reply my comment.

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      It's a totally different subject. If he doesn't mind waiting for his money, that's up to him. Losing a customer because your payment terms are not acceptable to him has nothing to do with bad customer service. Payment terms is a business decision. The marketplace decides whether or not those terms are acceptable.

  15. Richard Lee Van says:

    In the Philippines where I am an American Ex-pat and geezer, the young store clerk usually do not know what they have and what they do not. If they do not know, they assure the customer that they DO NOT HAVE IT. Or, they start searching the aisles in case they can find the item by accident. That suggests to me poor or no training by their employers. Richard in the PI

  16. Phil says:

    The more a business can count on government protection via lobbying, rent seeking, etc., the more likely they are to disregard consumer interests. Fascism. Gotta love it.

  17. Brad says:

    All these comments are very interesting. I also have had experience in all the areas that you people have talked about. I think what Mr. Ringer is talking about is…service is important in everything! This country has lost that. You don't get that hardly anywhere. I'm sorry, yes pay is important. But integrity is more important. You shouldn't have to pay somebody more money not to lie. You take care of people no matter what the job is or pays. The customer has a responsibility also, VOTE with your $$$! If you don't like the service at Best Buy, or Wal Mart, or the GMO food at McDonalds, then quit spending your $$$ there. That is the only thing I would have have done differently then Mr. Ringer I would have asked for the Manager and handed him the cord, and said… here is the USB that your 5 employees didn't want to find…then I would have left.

  18. laleydelexito says:

    Thank you, very interesting post Robert!!!

  19. wade says:

    you did not address the issue of cashiers, but I will comment. Most of those working the cash registers cannot, for the love of money, count money. Have you ever tried to check out and the cash register not be working, or try to give them change in order to get paper money back. The other day i made a purchase for $9.08. After the clerk rang up the $10.00 bill I gave her, I tried to give her $0.08 and asked for a dollar bill back. She said she could not do that the register said to give me $0.92 back. I tried to explain to her that I would give her back the $0.92 and $0.08 and she could give me a dollar. She was unable to comprehend so I took the change and let jingle in my pocket. In retrorespect I should have tossed it in the Salvation Army bucket.

  20. Robby Bonter says:

    Well, it's that time of year when Christmas is ignored by retailers, as though this is not the Christmas season, this is just "The Shopping Season."

    Last year at this time I was disgusted to find, when I went grocery shopping, that one week before Christmas, the (national chain) store where I was shopping was not playing music, of any kind, not even the "Jingle Bells," etc. cop-out alternative to the "Silent Night, "The First Noel," and "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" carols we used to openly share before real Americans lost the war on our culture, by default, to the heathens who have redefined everything we once stood for and believed in, as "evil and discriminatory."

    There was no "Merry Christmas" banner in the store, not even a "Happy Holidays" banner. No festive store decorations of any kind. And I live in the sticks, sometimes called the foothills of The Adirondack Mountains, where political correctness is not quite in full bore, just yet. We have a local caroling group, in fact, that makes the rounds and spreads the cheer of the season, this time every year.

    How I wish I had been born 150 years ago, when good people were free to worship our Lord and Creator, without apology, and without their beliefs being constantly trampled upon by the control-freak Anti-Christ element now in out midst which gives lip service to "diversity," and then, hypocritically and crassly denies the right of expression to those who walk a different pathway through life. We come in the name of The Lord, and in the name of universal love, they come in the name of hatred for those who hold fast to traditional family and church values. So why is it that we who walk in the faith, are made to grovel in the shadows now, when we used to proudly walk in the light and the charity of brotherly love?

  21. Cathy G. says:

    I totally agree, Robert. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I thought poor customer service is only happening in the Philippines. You're article made me realize the its a worldwide trend. Perhaps most businesses, in their pursuit for more profit, have forgotten that "customer satisfaction should be their number-one priority."

  22. Anon says:

    "The only easy job is one you've never done"

    Ever hear this old saying?

    Robert, I suspect you have never worked in retail. You attitude comes off as arrogant and entitled. Why would you expect such a high level of service from a bargain-price store like Best Buy?