Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e at 90
As I said in last week's article, if you don't enjoy the challenge of people it's impossible to enjoy retail. And if you don't enjoy retail no way can you be successful at it.
B—U—T when you learn to enjoy retail there's nothing that can beat it, because retail is not just a way of life, but life itself... your whole life.
And when I say "your life" I really mean your life. Every day real-breathng life with all its ups and downs... good and bad... enjoyable and tough. People get to identify you with your store and the goodwill or anxiety you create in your store wth your employees, suppliers and customers will follow you around in your local community. A-n-d that reminds me of a story! Yes, another story from Grandpa Mike-e-e! at ninety with all the trimmings.
Quite some time ago, I was invited to a cousin's kid's wedding on Long Island. It was an outstanding, laid out catering rigmarole with, literally, all the soup-to-nuts. Wow-e-e-e! It was a winner! But it could have been a loser for me and my 108 pounds. Because right there in front of me were three of my customers: the maître d; the orchestra leader and the female soloist... all dressed to kill and waving to me as my Bubbila and I danced by. Oy! Vey!
It could have been an uncomfortable situation. Luckily though, retail business people who do the right thing, who are honest, carry products they can be proud of and treat everyone with respect, have a lot less to worry about. At the end of the first musical number I stopped at the stand and I was hugged and kissed. It could have been a disaster scene, a discussion of how a drawer bottom in a dresser I sold them fell out, or how my delivery guy ran over their mailbox and soiled their carpets.
But the soloist started it all by telling the other two what I did for her. One day she turned up at the shoppe in tears after she had ordered (against my advice) a king-size comforter/bedspread in chocolate brown velvet. It was a monster that she could barely lift. I told her not to worry, took it back and ordered her a fresh king-size comforter in a linen cotton beige with lots of fluff. She loved it.
The orchestra leader then told her about his purchase experience at our family shoppe. He, his wife and their sixteen year old daughter purchased a grouping for the young lady including a queen size bed, bedding and headboard, with a double dresser, vertical mirror, night table, desk, chair and matching armoire.
I followed up with a house visit to make sure that the grouping I had suggested fit the teenage room. After checking out the measurements I suggested that they hold off with the armoire because I felt it crowded the layout. Mom and daughter were delighted. However, the father pulled me aside as I was leaving and said: "Mr. Greene, I work as a salesperson during the rest of the week and I can't believe that you tossed out an extra commission by cancelling the armoire."
"You're right. But I think the armoire would overpower your daughter's layout. I'm glad you're concerned but after delivery if you still think that the armoire will function and fit properly, we'll ship one. Remember, I'm still the commissioned salesperson." The father then turned to his wife and said: "Gee! How come you and our daughter listen to this guy and never to me?" We never shipped an armoire but we did finally add an airy, upholstered reading chair.
Bubbila and I enjoyed all the dancing and singing that afternoon. Wow-e-e! It was a lucky afternoon.
I've decided to finish up this article by giving you five retail life tips to build good will.
Tip One: Some consumers cop-out on making buying decisions. They do this by bringing along a crew of family and friends for decision security. In the melee it's not unusual for the salesperson to lose track of who is the real buyer. Once I heard a grown, seemingly intelligent consumer tell a salesperson that she has to come back with her 3 year old daughter to help make a decision because "She has a mind of her own." A wise salesperson grins and bears it while quickly getting off the subject.
Tip Two: Use Arithmetic. If you have to sell paint, curtains, carpeting or furniture, to name a very few, get to know your square feet and square inches.
Tip Three: Spelling. There's nothing that impresses a consumer so much as when you know that Smythe has a "Y" in it and Petrocelli has 2 "L"s in it.
Tip Four: Languages. Way back in the 19th century the French philosopher De Toqueville pointed out that this country is not a melting pot but rather a fruit salad wherein Americans retain their heritage identity through the centuries. Knock your customers for a loop by recognizing origins of family names.
Tip Five: If you want to enjoy your suppliers, your employees and especially your customers, you need to always recognize their anxieties, uncertanties, difficulties and suffering. Keep their best interest in your heart and act accordingly. A-n-d finally, make sure that you don't give up long term profit and goodwill for short term gain because the retail life is your life!
Thanks, again, for listening.
Grandpa Mike-e-e! at 90
Got a question? Got a comment? Great!! E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
PS. See the new YouTube music video staring me, Grandpa Mike-e-e! with my granddaughter Becca in a supporting role at http://bitly.com/qALkrX
About Michael Greene (Grandpa Mike-e-e!)
Retailer, author, columnist, lecturer, composer and lyricist.
Came to US with immigrant parents in 1924 at the age of three.
Graduated high school at 16.
Managed a small bedding retail and manufacturing company at 18 in 1939.
Hired as Assistant to the VP of Purchasing (Sweets Corp. of America... approximately 500 employees) in 1940 at 19.
Drafted into US Army Signal Corp - Communications Personnel Div., Fort Monmouth.Tested and selected for Army Specialized Training Program, Rutgers University. Qualified for O.C.S. - Officer Candidate School and graduated as Second Lieutenant, Inventory/ Personnel Division in 1944 at 23.
Married his sweetheart, Anita, and he gives thanks to the Almighty that they are still sweethearts... after 73 years.
Rejoined Sweets Corp as Director of Personnel in 1945 at 24.
Joined his suddenly widowed sister as President of a small retail/ manufacturing company in 1946. Stayed on for 46 years managing the custom designing of over 20,000 childrens rooms and master bedroom beds.
Attended Hofstra University (evening program), and graduated in 1968 at age 47. Two of his kids followed right along at two other college campuses.
Applied for 30 day temporary columnist opening offered by the Reed Business Newspapers in NC and stayed on for 27 years. His retail columns were distributed everywhere from Brooklyn to Bangladesh, to Belgium to Beijing.
Traveled the US and visited with 3rd/ 4th generation retail owners.
He was admitted to the Writers Hall of Fame for, "Conspicuous Excellence In reports and appraisals of the furniture industry."
Retired from retail management at age 70.
BOOKS: (1) At age 72: published first book "Where's The Green Pea?" vegetable character stories including his original music and CD.
Designed programs for primary and pre-K schools and presented them with his Anita. (2) At age 76: Gee! I Wish I Had A Bedroom All My Own," lectured in middle schools (teenage), with tech info for parents, teachers and students in Home
Science. (3) At age 80: Tzedakah - Caring And Sharing classic book with original music CD and illustrations for high school chorales and drama groups.
At 89 -- published Retail Life: How To Get In, Stay Alive a-n-d Love It! in online and printed version for business schools, industry, and entrepreneurs. Includes how-to educational section for "Wise Women Who Love A Challenge" and "Oldtimer Retailers Who've Missed Some Basic Goodies In Business Promotion. Also provides business professors and career students seeking everyday practical trade experiences and business thinking.
Invited to address Levitz Furniture retail salespersons, Furniture Designer Associate members,
IHFRA sales associations, High Point University students and F.I.T. retailer evening sessions. Also accepted as an ASID associate member.
At 90 plus... is a musical playwright, composer and lyricist with original music and thinking for very young and very old America.