Recently I was in a retail store, not pet-related but the lesson is the same. It was major chain crafts store. 

I was looking for something when I stumbled upon a display of notebooks that would be perfect for girlfriend gifts this holiday. I decided to buy the whole box.

After that find, I was in a buying mood. I ended up getting nearly another full box of gift items for clients and family.

As I wheeled my cart to the front and the girl checking me out began to unload my things, I asked her if we could just keep all the notebooks in the display box they were already sitting in. It was a simple white box, had a little tear in the corner, and the items fit, of course.

Here’s where things went sour and the lesson for your pet store.

Instead of simply looking at all my purchases and making a call right then to please me and make it easier for me, she said, “I’ll have to call my manager.”

Really? You can’t please a customer who is making a hefty purchase? She had in her power a way to make the experience of shopping there good, and instead she had to get permission.

Think about this for your pet store. Does your team have the attitude of “Let’s make this person and pet happy”? Or do they have the restriction that they have to ask someone — you perhaps — if a customer asks for anything out of the ordinary?

Now, before you dismiss this and think, “My team would have given her the cardboard box,” think how this situation must have come about. What decisions did someone make earlier that made it “policy” that they now needed to ask? 

This young woman was making a mistake with me because she had to call her manager (making me wait and treating me like asking for a box to carry my 40 items was over the top), but it gets better.

The manager said no.

Really? You can’t give a customer the broken box the notebooks came in?

And here’s the real kicker: She didn’t offer me a different box! This is a huge store, with hundreds of items, and instead of making it easy and good, I was going to haul out notebooks in lightweight plastic bags.

Lesson: Besides not doing this, here is what she could have done:

  • Agree with me that a box would be great.
  • Give me the box (the simplest and fastest decision).
  • Tell me she would find out about that box but regardless assure me that she would help me.
  • Offer to run back and get me another box. 

Instead, I was irritated. My mood shifted, and I didn’t want to purchase anything. I grumbled and I actually told the young woman that her manager was short-sighted and because of a box I would not be back.

In hindsight I wished I had not gotten irritated with this young woman who had no power to help me. I wish I hadn’t been so put off that I said I would not return, and yet I feel that way.

If by reading this you take some time and discuss this with your team, and come up with a clear goal as to how you want your customers, both — two- and four-legged — to feel, then the whole experience was worth it.


This article originally appeared in the November-December 2017 edition of PETS+.