Retail Managers - Wake The Hell Up

I've worked retail (with disasterous results, which I'm sure you've already read about, but I linked it anyway because that's how Google and SEO and Web 2.0 work). One thing about retail that made me not work retail anymore: the goddamn rules.

I'm not talking about rules designed to keep things organized or prevent theft or other, arguably necessary, rules. Take this for instance that, if you've read my tweety whatever, you probably remember:

I bought a Nintendo DSi on a trip to Columbus, OH for Notacon earlier this year. The entire point of the purchase was to use the WiFi to bomb around the con and check things out with this nifty new gaming device. Ten seconds after powering up, I discovered it will only work on unsecured or WEP-encrypted networks, no WPA or WPA2.

This makes it useless to me. So I pop it back in the box, enjoy the con sans-DSi, and come home. I visit my local Gamestop (the one right up the road from me, the one that flat-out lied to me about the release date of Oblivion because the then-manager was almost as much of a cock as the now-manager). I give him the DSi, a receipt, and a kind smile.

Now, before I get to the punchline, I need to tell you a little about this guy. He came on board last year, after the pedophile that was before him got fired for... Well, being a pedophile (this was the guy after the liar who lied about the release date for Oblivion, for those of you keeping score). He's a mid-20's, who very obviously has never faced any real challenges in his life, and is 100% about the rules and keeping them, so that he can keep his job. I knew going into the store that there was a less than likely chance that he'd approve such a return... But because I drop easily $100 a week in that store, I figured maybe he'd bend the rules for me.

Nope. There was absolutely zero flex in that four-inch stiffy he got from telling a regular customer he couldn't return it due to some arbitrary rule. And then, he went out of his way to explain to me that he actually COULD do it, but he's not supposed to.

Now, here's the math behind all of this:

This is a store that needs customers to thrive. In order to continue to thrive, the the store needs to keep the customers happy. Every so often, a customer might ask you to break a rule in order to show that you truly appreciate that customer. The rule that he's asking you to break may have some great background and foundation, but ultimately, this guy is handing you a practically brand new item that even Wal-mart would return without question.

Do you a) enforce the rule, upsetting the customer who then moves his business elsewhere but ensuring there's not an item someone can bring up so you lose your job, or b) break that rule, effectively making that customer a customer for life?

If you do a) enough times, you will lose your regular customers. Your store will grow increasingly dependent on new faces. As the new faces become old faces, they'll receive equal treatment and go elsewhere. Eventually your store fails due to lack of revenue, and you lose your job.

If you do b) enough times, you lock down your supply chain of cash for goods. Upper management evaluates your store and sees increasing revenue from increasing traffic, who stay loyal. They may take exception with the fact that you've broken store policy, but given that the policy itself is contrary to most other store's policies, and the fact that you've increased revenue, they're not going to fire you. And if they do, that's not the kind of place you want to work anyway.

This guy chose a). So I drove to the Gamestop down the road from my gym. Those guys looked the DSi over, returned it, and said have a nice day. Not even one question asked. Ever since April, I've gone to that store instead. Four and a half years of loyalty flushed with one decision.

The other Gamestop thanks you, Keith.