Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Value-Sized Aggressiveness

As the five of you who normally read this blog are aware, I have an intense hatred of high-pressure suggestive sales techniques at retail outlets. With a little strategy and a lot of luck I have been able to avoid such unpleasant encounters, but a few weeks ago my streak came to an abrupt end.

As I walked into the economy-sized utopia that is Sam’s Club, I was greeted by an employee armed with a black and white brochure outlining the store’s new “E-savings” plan. I listened politely and informed her that I was not interested in participating. Foolishly believing that our interaction was the last time I would hear of “E-savings” that trip, I cheerfully continued toward the pasta aisle in order to acquire a case of Mac & Cheese the size of a suitcase.

Having completed the objective of my outing, I made my way to the checkout line and was greeted by a cheerful cashier who looked to be in her mid-thirties. After scanning my membership card, she looked up and asked if anyone had mentioned the “E-savings” plan to me yet. I quickly informed her that the woman at the door had told me about it and I wasn’t really interested in participating.

She contemplated this for a moment, and apparently decided that I had no idea what the hell I was talking about and needed to hear about “E-savings” again. Using exaggerated hand gestures and what appeared to be a chart made for a 10 year-old, she explained that for only $39 I could save $7 of that day’s purchase and continue to save on future purchases while “pro-rating” the cost of my savings.

After finishing her soliloquy, she stared at me expectantly until I replied that “I was unable to afford any more savings at this time.” Having apparently convinced herself that my reluctance to participate was the result of diminished mental capacity and not a logical decision making process, she insisted that I “didn’t understand” and re-explained the program to me once by leaning more heavily on the picture chart.

Eventually, she accepted defeat and I was able to complete the transaction without further incident but the damage was done. Another pressure-free retail haven had been infiltrated and I knew that before long an employee would follow me around asking “Are you sure you don’t need 2 gallons of picante sauce?”

I try and remember that the employees are forced to deliver these sales pitches and their pushiness often directly correlates to the amount of pressure placed upon them by management, (judging by the experiences I have had a Books-A-Million, they must threaten their associates with public genital mutilation) but there has to be more diplomatic way to approach the situation.

If the lady who checked me out was following her approved script, which is certainly possible, I would like to have some words with the corporate brain-trust that fashioned it. First of all, what exactly does “E-savings” mean? Normally the prefix “E-“ identifies an object as electronic in nature thereby differentiating it from its’ analog counterpart, (for instance, e-mail is the electronic version of regular mail) but what exactly do analog savings look like? Aren’t all savings applied electronically regardless of nomenclature?

And while I am at it, if the customer indicates that they are not interested perhaps you shouldn’t have your sales associates imply that the customer lacks the cognitive ability to understand a financial misstep when they hear one. I haven’t heard the terms “deferred costs” and “pro-rated fees” that much since the Bernie Madoff press conference. It sounding like the “E-savings” plan had only one of two possible outcomes:

1. Pay $39 above and beyond the existing membership fee in order to create the possibility of saving money on a future purchase you have no way of being certain that you will ever need.

2. Pay $39 above and beyond the existing membership fee only to realize you may not utilize it and compensate by purchasing participating items and brands you do not need in order to implement your savings on items that you cannot afford.


  1. I am one of your faithful readers!! I had some guy at Sam's Club try his best to sell me cable services several weeks ago.

  2. Exceptional MediocrityMarch 16, 2011 at 9:08 PM

    Thanks Rena! I feel that if there is anywhere that should be pressure free it is a place I pay for the privilege to shop.

  3. Hey! Now theres an idea! Pay a membership to avoid sales pitches :) We could do the same thing with TV commercials, pay $1 per channel for the benefit of watching sans commercials. I record EVERYTHING I watch just so I can fast forward through them all.

  4. Exceptional MediocrityMarch 17, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    @ Vickie98531,

    I would happily pay to avoid sales pitches. Which is, ironically, the most effective sales pitch of all.....


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