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Shoppers Keep Using a Local Pet Shop to Browse … and Then Buy Online. What’s a Store Owner to Do?

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Lara unlocked the door to her pet store and stepped inside just as she’d done every Saturday for the last 10 years. Everything looked perfect for the weekend shoppers: The shelves were restocked, the floor cleaned, and the fish tanks were full of happy, healthy fish.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

“Let’s hope sales are better this weekend,” she thought and turned on the cash register. She felt the knot in the pit of her stomach tighten when she remembered it was time to do her books later today.

The doorbell interrupted her thoughts, and she smiled at the young couple and their young son walking through the door.

“Mommy, Mommy, look!” the boy laughed and ran straight over to the fish tanks. “They have sharks and piranhas and everything here!”

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Lara giggled and turned to his parents.

“Jax here wants a pet, and we thought a fish tank might be a good start,” the mom began. “We want something that’s easy to clean, and that doesn’t need too much equipment.”

“I have just the thing,” Lara beamed and walked over to the beginner tanks. “This one’s got all the pumps and filters built in. All you need to do is add some water, and the fish of course.”

Then she crouched down and winked at the boy.

“It’s even got a glow-in-the-dark pirate ship inside!”

The boy’s eyes grew wide as he peered inside the fish tank. The boy’s mom asked a couple of questions about what fish would be suitable for the tank, and while they were talking, Lara could see the dad lean down to look at the tank’s packaging and tapping on his smartphone. As he put his phone down, she saw a flash of a popular price-busting website on the screen. She groaned inwardly as the man leaned in to whisper something in his wife’s ear.

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“I’m sorry, but it looks like we can get this a whole lot cheaper online,” the woman said sheepishly and reached for her son. “We’ll just wait for the tank to be delivered and then come and get some fish from you next weekend.”

Lara was tempted to say she’d price-match whatever offer they’d just seen online, but then she remembered how ridiculously small her margins were already. If she lowered her price, she’d practically be giving the fish tank away for free. Lara kept quiet and struggled to keep smiling as she waved the little boy and his parents goodbye.

Saturdays used to be Lara’s favorite day of the week, with families coming in to buy food and toys for their pets and chatting about their animals.

“It’s just not the same anymore,” she thought with a sigh. “It’s like my store has turned into an expensive showroom for the internet stores, but I don’t get any of the sales!”

She brought up a spreadsheet showing this year’s revenue on her computer, and it didn’t look good. No matter how she stacked the numbers, the truth was staring her in the face: Sales were down, the internet giants were taking over, and she had no idea what to do about it.

The Big Questions

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  • How can Lara incentivize customers to buy her products when they’re in her store, instead of going online later?
  • How can Lara’s small store compete with the online pet retailers low prices and fierce promotions?
  • What products, services or events could Lara consider introducing to distinguish her store from the online competition?

Real Deal Responses

Jennipher S. Norwich, CT

Customer interaction is huge! We drive home to our team that we are the place people want to go for pet supplies … but why? We are friendly, helpful, trustworthy and happy in our environment! Way better than poking on a cellphone alone!

Janet M. Rockledge, FL

We deal with this daily when it comes to food. My argument is that when buying online you never know how the food is stored. Is it in an air-conditioned facility? Then when it ships to you, it’s in hot trucks and then delivered to your door, where it bakes in the sun if you’re not home. What do you think happens to it?

Jane B.  Los Angeles, CA

Perhaps she could reinforce the “get it now” instinct most buyers have and narrow the gap between her price and the online price by throwing in some high-margin freebies at zero or discounted pricing.

Elvis J. San Rafael, CA

We’ve been dealing with price gouging since before the internet. So, the answer is to do what we’ve been doing for 20 years: Sometimes you have to give the tank away at wholesale. It can serve as an act of goodwill that the customer will remember. Also, many times the kits come with stuff many people don’t want, so don’t stock the kits that are sold cheaply online. Make some custom kits that are exclusive to your store. There will be no way for a shopper to quickly check the internet.

Charlotte S. Issaquah, WA

We have the same thing. All we can do is price-match, offer superior service and convenience, and then hope we make up the margin elsewhere.

Thomas N. Merrillville, IN

We brick-and-mortar stores need to wake up. The blame for this problem lies squarely on the shoulders of the manufacturers. They are the ones that created this problem! They pretend to support the independents, but their actions of selling to the internet giants again and again at way below our cost betrays us. Stop supporting those companies immediately and tell them why. Second, compare the online guys’ price before you buy some of these promotional items like aquarium kits and filter. Don’t buy if going in you can’t compete. Third, find a rep from these companies and ask them for some additional help if you purchase some given quantity. Last, especially in aquatics, look for manufactures who recognize this problem and actually do something to help you compete, and then stop supporting those that don’t.

Maggie V. Fort Smith, AR

I believe our best chance to compete is to keep our inventory lean, carrying what actually sells and skipping what doesn’t.

Sal S. Webster, NY

If I were in Laura’s shoes I would approach this from a display approach. I would have all equipment out on the floor with no marketing boxes out. All boxes in the back stock room. I would price the system to include two fish and some gravel. You can’t price-match a package as easily as you can a individual item.

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Real Deal

A Regular Customer of Snowy Paws Is Also One Who Returns Her Purchases Regularly. What’s a Store Owner to Do?

Read the case of the frequent returner.

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SWEEPING THE DUSTING of powdery snow away from the storefront and putting down pet-safe salt, Taylor was looking forward to the Winterfest Weekend in the beautiful mountain resort town where Snowy Paws is located.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

During the bustling ski season, the store is quite busy from November through April, and this weekend was one of the busiest in February. The boutique caters to both high-end clientele who come into town to ski, with touristy, kitschy items and regular pet supplies for local year-round residents. To cater to all clientele can be a challenge.

As Taylor sprinkled the salt, one of her top costumers was walking her year-old Golden Doodle across the street and waved, “Hi Taylor! We’ll be in later today!”

“Looking forward to seeing you both!” Taylor replied, waving back. “I have some new treats for Oliver to try!”

Sharon smiled, waved and continued her walk. Taylor went into the shop to open up and said to Kurt her store assistant, “Sharon just said she will be in later,” smirking to him. “I wonder what she is going to try to return today. Actually, can you look up and see what she did purchase the last time she was in?”

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“Sure,” Kurt said walking over to the computer that was also the register. “She just bought dog food, so I don’t think she will be bringing that back,” he chuckled. “Although, nothing would surprise me with her.”

As the day went on, Taylor forgot about Sharon and Oliver, until the jingle of the front door rang as the door opened. Turning to see it was Sharon and Oliver rushing in from the snow, Taylor noticed Sharon had a Snowy Paws store bag in hand.

Smiling at them and grabbing some treats, Taylor walked over and said, “How are you both doing today? Ready for this weekend?”

“Well, almost. We have friends and family coming in tonight — and wanted to make sure I got here before the festivities begin!” Sharon said, smiling. “So you know how much I loved this dog harness when I got it for Ollie, but it seems to be fraying a bit.”

Taylor examined the harness, seeing that Oliver had clearly chewed on it. “Hmm, do you remember when you bought this?”

“Well I am not sure exactly, but probably within the last month.”

“OK, let’s check to see if we can pull up when you purchased it,” Taylor said, looking at the computer. “It looks like you purchased this about 8 months ago …. I am not sure if the manufacturer will take it back after all these months and replace it —”

“Well you know I am in here weekly,” Sharon said. “I am sure you can do something for me. Perhaps another, better harness would work for Oliver?”

Taylor spotted Kurt over Sharon’s shoulder making a face.

Sharon was a local well-to-do resident who was a frequent shopper, but she was also someone who was always bringing product back to return long past Snowy Paw’s return policy.

Taylor would normally take a product back that wasn’t so obviously chewed up by the dog, but this was really damaged. “Well, it does look like Oliver may have gotten a hold of this harness and damaged it,” she said.

Sharon looked at her blankly and then down to Oliver and said, “You didn’t do that did you? The harness must not be high quality. What do you think, Ollie?”

The Big Questions

  • How should Taylor handle a frequent customer who seemingly takes advantage of what she spends versus adhere to the store’s return policy?
  • What kind of return policy can Taylor put into place and be better about enforcing at her store?
  • Is it even viable to have a return policy in this day and age competing with online e-commerce sites?

Expanded Real Deal Responses

Elvis J.
San Rafael, CA

This customer is what my friend calls a “taker.” Takers do not realize what they are doing because they can’t see beyond there own actions. As a store owner, it is difficult to tell them what they are doing is wrong, because the taker will not understand. Each time they try to return something you have to evaluate whether you want this customer to continue buying from you. If they are returning 80 percent of what they are purchasing, it would be smart to “shut off the spigot,” so to speak. Having strong policies about returns is an option, but generally most manufacturers have a no-questions-asked return policy, so a store owner should pass that along. At my store, we take all returns. All dog and cat food is guaranteed, and we extend that to all merch. And a good way to prevent abuse of a liberal, no-questions return policy is to encourage with a very strong voice that an exchange for more merchandise is really more beneficial for all parties involved.

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Mary Beth K.
Kennebunkport, ME

It sounds like Taylor and her staff are already accustomed to stroking this customer’s ego, so Taylor should start out by thanking Sharon for being such a loyal customer and let her know how much she values her business, enjoys her visits with her and Oliver, etc. Then Taylor needs to remind Sharon all puppies, no matter how cute and well behaved, will chew given the opportunity. If the harness is 8 months old, chances are Oliver needs a “big boy” harness anyway and Taylor should suggest a more size-appropriate option, and maybe some new chew toys. Perhaps Taylor could offer up a new toy for Oliver to “test” and ask Sharon to give her feedback, reinforcing Sharon’s importance and value (i.e., her ego).

Greg F.
Scottsdale, AZ

I would politely remind Sharon of the return policy but offer her a good discount on a replacement harness. She will probably accept that offer as she knows what really happened. You need to take care of your good customers, while trying not to break the bank. Service with a smile. Remember that a satisfied customer will only tell three or four others about the experience, while a dissatisfied customer will tell two to four times as many people about their poor experience. Play the odds and send them away happy.

Jim L.
PembroKe, MA

Tell Sharon that it’s obvious that the dog has chewed the halter and that is no fault of the manufacturer. You can offer her a 10 percent discount, or a number of your choosing, to console her on her new purchase.

Carla C.
Upland, CA

The store should exchange the harness. Her business is worth more than the wholesale price of a harness.

CJ
Tom’s River, NJ

Swallow the loss. But be sure to say that the return value should be in exchange and not cash, plus that you are doing a favor by allowing it. Last, smile and give her a charm or some other inexpensive but really nice product for free. I promise the returns will stop. For more information, read Influence by Robert Cialdini for social/group dynamic tricks to contain bad behaviors in humans. I used Influence to grow my business, which was purchased in bankruptcy four years ago, from about 25 clients per month to over 150.

Ramie G.
Evanston, IL

We try to prevent returns in the first place. We give out food and treat samples, we have toy demos, and we fit dogs for harnesses and coats, boots, costumes like Nordstrom’s shoe department. Good service can prevent some returns. If your customer returns everything she buys, how valuable is she? The time you spend with her is time you are not spending with someone else. But does she bring in business, friends, family, neighbors, etc.? Where will she shop, if not with you? Be nice and polite, but you can say no with a smile and hopefully not lose her forever.

Frank F.
Farmingdale NJ

Take it back … no questions asked! 100 percent guaranteed! And thank her for letting you know. Yes, return policies are necessary, mostly to give our customers a guideline as well as to provide our sales team with an additional tool to demonstrate to our customers that we are willing to break the rules for them, either “this one time” or “since they are such a good customer.”

Audree B.
Fort Lauderdale, FL

You could have been talking about my customer. Our return policy is clearly printed at the register and on the receipts. However, we do make exceptions depending on the situation. In this case, if the harness is being returned due to a manufacturer’s defect, we’d take it back. Or if they manufacturer had a policy that they’d replace a chewed harness. If it’s being returned just do to normal wear and tear, we’d have to enforce the policy. We explain that our vendor restricts our ability to submit returns after 90 days (or what ever time frame we state on our return policy). We have done this, but we do explain that we’re itty bitty and try really hard to keep our prices fair.

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Stacy D.
Providence, RI

Have a 30-day return policy for everyone. If she can’t enforce it, say it is a state policy. The store isn’t making money if a customer returns everything they buy.

Danielle F.
Datyon, OH

As the owner of a retail business, every once in a while you’ve just had enough. We can do the math and understand the lifetime value of a customer. But when the customer’s value goes negative, it’s time to fire them. First, don’t fire the customer in the heat of the moment. It’s not the way you should do business. If you find yourself in that place, take a deep breath, and finish the transaction in front of you. Acknowledge that you’re angry. In the calm moments decide if the lifetime value is worth what you’re going through. Next, make a decision if the negative feedback is worth the hassle of having that person as a customer. Once you’ve made the decision to let them go, happily send them to your competitor. The next time the customer comes in, have a calm conversation. Explain that your ultimate goal is to make them happy and hand them off to a competitor. There is no reason to make an unfriendly return policy based on one bad customer.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

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Real Deal

When One Dog Scuffles With Another While Being Trained By Your Staff, What Do You Need to Do?

A new dog-training service at a pet boutique gets off to a bad start.

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SHAWN ALWAYS WANTED TO add dog-training services to his small pet retail store in SoHo in New York City, but he has limited space inside to host classes. After three years in business, he finally partnered with a good friend and seasoned dog trainer, Cory, to start offering individual dog-training services.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

NANCY E. HASSEL is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

Saturday mornings are always the busiest at Shawn’s store, with pet parents out and about with their pups in this dog-friendly and popular area of the city. While checking out a customer’s purchase, Shawn’s cellphone was ringing. Looking down at the phone he saw it was Cory, who had left with a new client’s dog a half hour before. Shawn picked up, “Hey, hold on. I’m ringing up a customer.”

“OK, there you go, have a great day, and we will see you and Max soon!” Shawn said, handing a bag of dog treats to his customer, and then returned to his cellphone.

“Hey, how’s your session going?” he asked. “What? Wait, slow down, I can’t understand … what? How did that happen?” Shawn could feel his heart beating in his chest. Realizing that another customer was in the pet toy aisle right across from him, Shawn turned, walked a few feet away and quietly said, “Is anyone hurt? Is the dog OK?”

“Um … well, uh, I was evaluating the dog as we were walking, doing simple training along the way,” Cory said. “Remember his owner said he is sometimes leash-aggressive? But he was doing great with me … until someone walked by with their small dog on a retractable leash. The small dog rushed over right into Duke’s face, and that’s when Duke went a ballistic and tried to get the little dog.”

“Oh no!” Shawn exclaimed. “Where are you now? Is the owner still there?”

“The owner left with the dog, said they were to the vet around the corner,” Cory said. “I think that his dog will be OK. It seemed like more growling than anything else from Duke. He wouldn’t show me if the dog was actually injured, or they were just both startled. It didn’t look like Duke put his mouth on the little dog, but he was growling and the little dog screamed. I had Duke back into a sit stay very quickly.”

“Did he take your information, or did you get his information?” Shawn asked.

“Well he took my card, but I was not able to get his info because he was so upset and wanted to go the vet right away. I told him to contact me to let me know how the dog is.”

Shawn let out a big sigh. “Man, I hope the dog is OK, and they contact you, well, contact us, to let us know how the dog is …”

“Yeah, me too. I am heading back now with Duke,” Cory said. “We will see you in a bit and figure out what to do, and we have to call his owner,” Cory said.

“OK, see you soon,” replied Shawn. Shaking his head, Shawn was now worried what would happen next.

The Big Questions

  • How should Shawn handle this when the small dog owner calls?
  • If your store offered a training service like this, how do you deal with the legalities of a situation like this?
  • Shawn is nervous now about continuing offering this service, what should he do?

Real Deal Responses

Iva K. Stow, MA

The business owner must show genuine concern for the small dog and its owner. This will go a long way. I would suggest a policy about retractable leads on visitors as well. In the least, insist on them being locked as soon as you see one in your store. After the situation has calmed down, someone should try to talk to the small dog owner about their personal responsibility in this event. 

Dawn T. Vero Beach, FL

First of all, to evaluate a dog it should be in a controlled circumstance, not out in the public area. Second, once you are out in the public, there should be two trainers as to have protection if a small dog such as this came running up to a leash-aggressive dog in training. Third, have the business as well as the trainer insured for cases like this. 

Karen C. Delavan, WI

We have offered training for over 20 years. There really is no way to avoid what happened in the story if you are out in public training. The key is to know what to do when it does! Our training takes place inside until the dogs have good skills and the owners are confident in their handling skills. A dog going after another dog is real life and what we train for! We cover what to do if this scenario happens, and frankly it has happened in class with student dogs. To protect yourself as an owner is important. Have a policy in place and be prepared to pay some vet bills if there is an injury. The trainer should carry insurance as well. Luckily, these skirmishes aren’t usually serious but are a great learning experience.

Carolyn B. McHenry, IL

Personally, I would have immediately gone to the vet’s office. I would want to be present to see for myself what the injuries are or are not, so that I can better understand how to handle the situation. When/if the owner calls, Shawn’s first reaction should be, “How is the dog?” Shawn should then apologize for the situation and listen to the owner. Establish whether there was damage and to what extent. If there was, he should offer to pay the vet bill. If there was no damage, Shawn should offer a free service of some sort; assure the owner that he is handling the matter and reviewing protocol with his trainer. Review what happened to determine whether the trainer is competent and whether he could have prevented the incident. Review protocol with the trainer and discuss how to handle situations before they occur to avoid the current incident.

Bob W. Colorado Springs, CO

Since this did not happen at the store, why is the store even involved? If Shawn’s insurance does not include liability ($2 million/$4 million), he should make sure his policy does, should the incident happen at his store. His trainer is an independent contractor and needs his own insurance listing Shawn’s place as co-insured.

Marcia C. Springfield, VA

If your insurance pays a claim, have the injured party sign a non-disclosure agreement that prevents them from further claims from this injury as well as from making slanderous/libelous comments about your business in person or in social media.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

Continue Reading

Real Deal

When A Store Owner Politely Admonishes A Boy Wreaking Havoc, the Mother Threatens to Retaliate by Writing Negative Reviews

Here’s how members of our Brain Squad responded.

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DIANA ALWAYS LIKED to take part in her local Chamber of Commerce meetings to network with other store owners. At this event, the topic of out-of-control kids came up, and stories started flowing across the table of business owners.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

“It’s not surprising how kids coming into our pet store can really think it is a toy store for humans,” Diana said during the meeting. She was seated next to the local hardware store owner, Tom. “The bright colors, toys modeled after cartoon characters, different types of balls — I can see how they may be confused by this. But you would think that their parents would pay attention to their behavior in any store.”

“Oh you are preaching to the choir, Diana,” Tom said. “We had two pricy items broken recently by a young girl who just knocked them off the shelf. Her parents acted like it was our fault!”

“Wow!” Diana said. “That is terrible. What did she break?”

“We sell handpainted ceramic accents in our garden section — and if I didn’t know any better I would swear this kid just smashed them on the ground to get her parents’ attention,” Tom said.

“I just don’t get it. If dog owners let their dogs act crazy everywhere they went, people would say something or call them out on social media about it!” Diana said. “The other day, one of our good customers, who usually shops alone, came in with her young son and her friend. Her son was completely out of control while there.”
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“What happened?” Tom asked.

“Her son, who was probably 8 years old, was bouncing one of the larger Kong squeaky tennis balls, and his mother was not even trying to stop him. Shocker, right? Then he started throwing it around the store. It bounced off of several displays and knocked over some merchandise and almost broke some of our ceramic dog bowls,” Diana said with a look of disbelief on her face.

“So I said to him, ‘OK, Steven, please stop throwing the ball — you are going to break something — and can you please give me the ball?’ This kid looked at me and threw the ball at me with a loud grunt! He missed me and hit one of our treat displays, knocking a couple bags onto the ground.”

Tom was shaking his head listening.

“And then his mother, who was talking to her friend and not paying attention to Steven, said, all while giving me a nasty look, ‘Let’s go! Steven, come on — time to go.’ And she and her friend and her son left the store. I couldn’t get over why she looked so mad at me. I didn’t do anything wrong, and I even said ‘please’ two times! But later that night I got the most passive-aggressive email from her,” Diana said.

“Really? Wow! What did it say?”

“She basically said how she loves our store, but it was unacceptable the way I spoke to her son,” Diana said.

“What?” Tom said. “No …”

“Yup, and went on to say that if I didn’t apologize to her and her son, she would give us bad reviews on Google and Facebook and tell everyone how rude I was to her and her son,” Diana said shaking her head.

“That is unbelievable — I hope they never come into my store!” Tom said, “But seriously, what are you going to do? What did you reply with?”

“I don’t know,” Diana said. “I haven’t replied to her yet. What would you do?”

The Big Questions

  • How should Diana reply to the mother?
  • What can a business do to keep kids under control
  • If the customer does begin bashing Diana’s store online, how should she respond?

Real Deal Responses

Marvin S.

Grand Junction, CO

I think she handled it correctly. I would have acted in the same way, only sooner and more firmly. As far as the reviews, I would respond and suggest that she pay attention to her son’s actions when they are out shopping. I would guess he acts this way wherever they are. If a review is written, she can do two things: Ignore it or respond with the facts. Customers will see all the good reviews and see the one bad and realize that there is something wrong with that review.

Terri E.

Salem, OR

I would apologize to the mother and explain that you were concerned about her son breaking something and accumulating a bill for her to pay. It’s not worth the fight to be right. When children come in with their parents, as soon as I can, I reach for the stickers and ask them to choose two to put on the back of their hands. The parents appreciate the attention we pay to their child. It takes the child’s attention off our inventory. I’ve also been known to pull a toy off the shelf, hand it to the child and ask them to find where it belongs and put it away for me. I tell them I need help. Recently, we had an anniversary party with a Hairy Potter theme. We gave the leftover glasses to kids who came in. Find a way to distract them. Talk to them. Ask them questions. Pay attention to them. Parents will appreciate it too.
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Chip B.

Black Mountain, NC

Directly, there is very little you can do. I try to address misbehaving kids with “Be careful, sweetie,” so that it comes from a place of concern rather than judgment. Indirectly, there are a number of things. I closed my fish room largely because of misbehaving or unattended children. Any pet beds, cat trees, etc. are put up really high where kids can’t reach them. I wouldn’t reply to a review at all. Perhaps the customer will either move on or share her story with someone and hopefully have her perspective changed. And if she is that unreasonable, there’s not much that can be said to her that will have a productive outcome.

Lisa G.

Millville, NJ

Here’s how she might respond: “I didn’t mean to make anyone feel unwelcome. I try to take care of my store, the same way that you take care of your home. Do you normally throw tennis balls in your living room, kitchen or dining room? I have a lot of merchandise for sale, and I like to keep everything in good condition. Unfortunately it’s not designed like a playroom. Some of the merchandise is fragile. Even if the stuff doesn’t break, people like to purchase new things that appear to be in excellent condition. If I offended you or your son, I’m sorry. Please accept my apology. I simply asked him to refrain from playing with a ball while inside of my store. A display was knocked over and it took some time to fix. Thankfully nothing was damaged. Please feel free to visit whenever you want something new for your pet.

Nancy G.

Fredericksburg, VA

First, she should respond to the customer within the first 24 hours. The longer people wait for a response, the worse it gets. I have had this exact scenario, and I responded immediately by calling the customer personally. I apologized to the customer and explained that I was sorry she felt that my employee was rude to her and her children, but I also explained that sometimes we have to ask children to not throw things or pull on items because we don’t want them or other people in the store to get hurt. If I were in this exact situation, I would have also pointed out that she may not have seen that he threw a ball directly at me. This is where cameras come in handy because I’ve also sent a video clip to a customer to let them see what actually happened in our store. Usually an apology for them being upset and explaining your side solves the issue.

Trace M.

Houston, TX

We provide a little free library, and I invite energetic kids to help me put things away or do a quick section of inventory. In this case, the online response should be the same or similar to the personal response: “Thank you so much for your feedback. I can tell how much this means to you, and I’m sorry I upset you with a tone that was unintentional. We operate with a grade-school philosophy when it comes to kids: I don’t go to your house and break your toys; please don’t break mine. When it happens, just as I would expect my child or your child to feel upset, we get upset. Our customers are like family, and so we address and move through an upset and then hopefully past it. Please come back and enjoy alternative activities to keep your child busy while you shop stress-free.”

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

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